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Monday, January 15, 2007

The Obesity Epidemic

posted by on January 15 at 10:06 AM

It’s genetic—or, hey, maybe it’s all the soda pop we’re guzzling at breakfast.

It’s not unusual for Dee McKinsey to have three cans of Coke before she leaves the house each morning for her job as the regional director of boards and volunteerism at the American Cancer Society in Chicago.

“There is nothing better than the feel of Coke on the back of your throat in the morning,” said McKinsey, a morning pop drinker since the 1970s, savoring the cold, stinging sensation that coffee drinkers just don’t get.

But these days, more people are enjoying that chilled morning jolt as they increasingly turn to soft drinks instead of coffee, flaunting mom’s no-pop-for-breakfast rule many had in their youth.

Consumption of soft drinks at breakfast eaten outside the home has nearly doubled in the past 15 years, while coffee consumption with breakfast outside the home has fallen nearly 25 percent, according to data compiled by New-York based consumer research firm NPD Group, which has offices in Rosemont.

Two questions…

Coffee consumption has fallen 25 percent in the past 15 years? What? Is Starbucks selling coffee? Or is it a money-laundering operation for the mob?


I don’t wanna be a scold—hey, I don’t care if people want to shoot heroin in the morning—but it’s nuts that the obesity epidemic isn’t mentioned anywhere in this story from today’s Chicago Tribune. If folks want to pour Coke down their throats in the early morning and have diabetes by late afternoon, that’s fine with me. Whatever. But shouldn’t a little bit of the bad news about soda have made it into the piece? The story in the Trib reads like it was drafted by the Carbonated Beverage Council.

For the record: Soda makes you fat, fat makes you sick, sick makes you die. If you’re going to chug soda for breakfast, that’s cool. It’s a personal choice and unlike, say, cigarette smoke, Coke doesn’t float through the air and down other peoples’ throats. But four Cokes at breakfast is about as good for you as four cigarettes before breakfast. That belonged in the story.

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Re: Your first question: "Is Starbucks selling coffee?"

The study says, "The data is specific to drinks with meals and does not, for example, address the Starbucks phenomenon."

Posted by David Schmader | January 15, 2007 10:10 AM


Posted by Dan Savage | January 15, 2007 10:14 AM

I wonder how much of this could be helped with better labels on the drinks. Yes, it's right there on the label in numbers, but most people respond better to graphics.

A little pie chart showing that a can of coke is something like 1/10 of all the calories one should have in a day (and gives you no nutrition otherwise) might do more to let people know how bad soda is. You'd be far better eating a doughnut, that at least gives some nutrition.

Posted by golob | January 15, 2007 10:28 AM

"Soda makes you fat, fat makes you sick, sick makes you die."

I want that on a t-shirt.

Posted by Soupytwist | January 15, 2007 10:28 AM

Plus, Starbucks doesn't sell coffee. They sell milk.

Posted by Dr. Pepper | January 15, 2007 10:29 AM

Yeah, that was my first thought: most Starbucks drinks aren't consumed with breakfast (and many of them aren't consumed first thing in the morning).

That said, the "Triple Caramel Mochachino" caffeinated heart-attacks that some people buy at Starbucks are no better than a cola -- in fact, considering those things have as much fat as a cheeseburger, they may actually be worse for the obesity epidemic than 3 cans of cola. At least they could be diet cola...

Posted by Joe | January 15, 2007 10:29 AM

On another depressing note, it appears that people who spent quite a lot of time and money getting MDs spend other people's time and money learning that high-caloric, high-carbohydrate drinks are linked to type 2 diabetes, which is linked to....obesity! My god! Who would have thought!

I wonder what they really bought with their grant money, and how many constant blood glucose montior systems (not covered by any insurance) it could have paid for.

I hate the world! Time to watch Jake Gyllanhall sing and make it better.

Posted by Off topic | January 15, 2007 10:32 AM

Interestingly, it also points out that women who increased their DIET soda intake gained significantly less weight (3.5 lbs over 4yrs) compared with those who decreased consumption (9.4 lbs).

Take that, anti-aspartame lobby.

Posted by pony | January 15, 2007 10:34 AM

I had to go get a (sugarless) soda after reading that, because cold soda really does feel good in the back of my throat in the morning.

Posted by pox | January 15, 2007 10:36 AM

Hey, Off Topic...

If they didn't do the studies, the soda makers would run around insisting that "no link has been established" between soda consumption, obesity, and diabetes. It may seem "obvious" to you, as it does to me. But it had to be done.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 15, 2007 10:43 AM

Soda makes you fat, fat makes you sick, sick makes you die.

well said. i am nodding in between gulps of crisp mountain dew. a (humbled?) hypocrite in full view, i feel so satisfied pushing in the tab of a soda can in a busy newsroom.

good article, nonetheless.

Posted by kim | January 15, 2007 10:48 AM

My son and I got out a mail scale and weighed the amount of sugar in an average soda. Try it. It will amaze you how much sugar by volume is in 28 grams. After seeing that, I hardly hassle him at all about how much sugar he puts on his oatmeal, just as long as he isn't drinking sodas.

Posted by mirror | January 15, 2007 10:51 AM

I gave up coffee in the morning and instead have a diet Rockstar. It has way more caffeine than coffee, and I'm far less likely to spill it on my bumpy bus ride to work. It also has only 10 calories and no sugar.

Posted by Tiffany | January 15, 2007 11:22 AM

Mirror@12. What a great idea!

Posted by golob | January 15, 2007 11:30 AM

I read one article that called soda nothing other than liquid candy. But I am of the opinion that people can drink and eat their way to being fat and blinding themselves with type 2 diabetees. Just as long as THEIR insurance rates go up and not mine. BTW to all you fatties out there, if guys (or gals) do not want to sleep with you because you are fat, that was our choice not to sleep with a human pig and YOUR choice to be a tub of lard. And the genetic argument has only been a DISPOSITION towards easy weight gain. NEVER has it been used as an excuse for obesity.

Posted by Andrew | January 15, 2007 11:31 AM

A delicious Diet Coke is the best way to start the day. No sugar; no problems.

Posted by J.R. | January 15, 2007 11:38 AM

that "feel of Coke on the back of your throat" ultimately leaches calcium from your bones, too.

Posted by Andy | January 15, 2007 11:41 AM

Andrew, was someone a chunky kid?

We still love you if you were! :-)

Posted by Soupytwist | January 15, 2007 11:42 AM

Jeez. I myself am a morning-cola drinker. I generally have one when I get into work. Then I have one in the afternoon, SOMETIMES having one with lunch. Plus a tonne of water.

4 before you go to WORK? Whatever happened to 'moderation in all things'? I'm trying to keep my cola consumption to 2 cans/day, but I sometimes fail and do 3. Over the day.

And you guys with your American (corn-sweetened) pop have it easy, it doesn't have that nice sharp taste to it...

Posted by Cola Chris | January 15, 2007 11:46 AM

Nope, was never chunky fat or otherwise as a child or adult :)

Posted by soupytwist | January 15, 2007 11:57 AM

I'll have to find this... my brother in law told me about this. Apparently there was a man who drank tons of Coke every day for decades, something like a 6- or 12-pack... He apparently died after his colon got blocked up and that was related to all the corn starch in the soda. If I find it I'll post it. But first I'll check at Snopes to make sure it's not an urban legend.

Posted by Matt from Denver | January 15, 2007 12:18 PM

If Americans would only replace their four cans of Coke with an hour of rigorous sex, the obesity epidemic would be a thing of the past.

Rigorous Sex: It's What's For Breakfast.

Posted by Boomer | January 15, 2007 12:48 PM

Don't forget about your teeth -- soda rots your teeth, kids. Coffee just turns them brown.

And Pony@8: it probably isn't the aspartame. It's probably the caffeine in the diet coke that suppresses their appetites and increase metabolism. All other things being equal, that's enough to help you lose weight.

Posted by Frank Bruno | January 15, 2007 12:52 PM

I, for one, care if other people get type 2 diabetes because diabetes is a ticket to an entire list of very bad medical conditions. These conditions cost money to treat and I don't want to pay to treat your perfectly preventable health condition. I don't want to pay in the form of higher insurance premiums, higher taxes and lost productivity from coworkers. (@15, the way the insurance laws in Washington work, all of our rates would go up, not just the sick.)

It matters to everyone that society is getting fat and sick...even if you as an individual are fit and well.

Eat less, move more, stop smoking.

Posted by PA Native | January 15, 2007 12:54 PM

Dan, if you're going to go around spreading Internet conspiracy theories about smoking tobacco causing cancer and drinking cola causing obesity and diabetes, you may as well mention that most big soft drink manufacturers switched years ago from using cane sugar (i.e., "sugar", a.k.a. sucrose) to the cheaper, sweeter-tasting, harder-to-digest, sweetener manufactured from government-subsidized corn: high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is probably safer than aspartame (a.k.a., Nutrasweet), but people drink it not because of its safety, but because of its effect on soft drink manufacturers' profits.

Just think of the economic devastation that might ensue if the FDA focused on public safety without regard for its effect on the beverage industry!

Posted by Phil | January 15, 2007 1:16 PM

You can always subvert The Man's evil plans by smuggling old school sucrose coke back from the great white north. Mmmmmm, real sugar.

Posted by Some Jerk | January 15, 2007 1:23 PM

I don't think that smuggling in Coke from foreign lands would help subvert any big plans, but a similar tactic would be to support your sweetened-carbonated-water habit by doing business with Jones Soda instead of Coca-Cola, Pepsico, et. al. . As of January 1, 2007, Jones Soda switched to using cane sugar.

Posted by Phil | January 15, 2007 1:34 PM

Tiffany (#13):

Rockstar Energy Drink was created by Russell Goldencloud Weiner, son of Michael "Savage" Weiner and co-founder of the creepy, ultraconservative and tax-exempt Paul Revere Society.

Feel that on the back of your throat?

Posted by Peter | January 15, 2007 1:52 PM

I love the feel of Weiner on the back of my throat.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 15, 2007 2:44 PM

I often wonder why we tend to drink caffeine in this way anyway. Aside from the fact that real soda packs on the calories, why do we really need a constant dosing of a stimulant all throughout the day?

Posted by bma | January 15, 2007 3:44 PM

We don't need to, we want to. Caffeine is a socially-acceptable and United-States-government-approved drug. People really like the effect of caffeine and are not embarrassed about flaunting their use of it.

Posted by Phil | January 15, 2007 4:04 PM

Gee, Andrew, what universe do you live in? Does "diabetes" always translate to "disgusting fatties want to rape me"?

Posted by JenK | January 15, 2007 4:12 PM

Frank Bruno @ 23, I'm aware of the benefits of caffeine without a sugar sidecar. I was referring to the anti-aspartamites' frequent sky-is-falling claim that aspartame causes weigh gain.

Posted by pony | January 15, 2007 4:26 PM

"Sex: It's what's for breakfast"

That would be a LOT better for everyone.

I drink all-natural tea that's fairly low in caffeine, contains no calories, sugar, aspartame or other undesirable substances. I haven't had soda in ages. Maybe that's why I'm a size 2. My calcified bones are grateful, at least.

I think that the only reason anyone drinks soda is because it's habit. That's why I brought one every day for lunch until it occurred to me a few years ago that it has no nutritional value and doesn't taste particularly good. I quit drinking it and haven't looked back. If I want something sweet and flavored, I drink all-natural real-fruit fruit juice. It fills the same void as soda. Try it, pop fiends!

Posted by Westenera | January 15, 2007 6:03 PM

I much prefer to wake up to a nice big glass of water myself... always feel very dry in the morning.

Posted by Silvertail | January 15, 2007 6:25 PM

OK Peter, is there any evidence that Russell Goldencloud Weiner has the similar views as his father? I listen to Ron Reagan's radio show every day, and his politics are quite different than that of his father.

Posted by Tiffany | January 15, 2007 7:02 PM

Tiffany: Russell and his father Michael are co-founders of the Paul Revere Society. Explore that route and I bet you'll find your answer.

Posted by Phil | January 15, 2007 7:31 PM

After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes I gave up sugared soft drinks along with a few other things. I'm 90 pounds lighter now and pretty much have my blood sugar levels under control.

Mirror is right. 28 grams of sugar is an awfully large amount.

Per Starbucks I don't patronize them. The coffee's cheaper plus the gals are a lot cuter at the independent stands.

Oh and I hear after fucking up as an NBA franchise owner Howard Schultz wants to get into the alternative newspaper business.

Posted by MarkS | January 15, 2007 8:14 PM

I don't drink much soda anymore, but I do love me a Pepsi from time to time - although the HFCS Pepsi is not that good.

I don't know why the "big soda" people don't launch a real sugar, "classic" soda. They could probably make it a status symbol and charge a lot more. I'd be sucker enough to buy it.

As for Starbucks: yuck. They've dumbed everything down in the last ten years or so. Their mochas are like something you used go find in General Foods International Coffees.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 15, 2007 8:49 PM

keerist, forget the calories, do these people have any TEETH left??? Citric acid + Phosphoric acid + corn syrup + years = dentures.

Also its well-known among coffee-industry insiders that Starbucks all told sells far more milk than coffee.

Posted by MarkyMark | January 15, 2007 10:20 PM

Some Jerk at 26 and Phil @ 27:

Or you can go to certain grocery stores (I've heard QFC carries it) around Passover and buy Kosher Coke that doesn't contain HFCS.

Posted by Sha | January 15, 2007 11:25 PM

Every creature needs to rest. Giraffes, little babies, elephants, dogs, cats, kids, koala bears, grandparents, moms, dads, and hippos in the jungle - they all sleep! Just like eating, sleep is necessary for survival. WBR LeoP

Posted by Leo | January 19, 2007 8:22 AM

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