JOHNNY FLORES JR./Coachella Uninc
The current generation of children might be the first in the history to live shorter lives than their parents.
I was shocked when I heard these words during a recent webinar by The California Endowment. As the webinar went on I learned that, while we can’t blame them entirely, sugary beverages are a big reason why this may be the case.
The purpose of the webinar was to go over the findings of Still Bubbling Over: California Adolescents Drinking More Soda and Other Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, produced by California Center for Public Health Advocacy and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research on soda consumption among California youth.
I learned there are many reasons why kids choose sugary drinks over water, such as economics, location, and lack of awareness. I believe many youth drink sweetened beverages in our community because it’s so accessible. The stores are well stocked with sweetened beverages, and they are sold at schools. And everywhere you look there are billboards for fast food and soft drinks.
According to Smedley and Syme Institute of Medicine, “It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior easily when so many forces in the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change.”
However, the beverage industry must be held at least partially accountable. The most iconic brands, Pepsi and Coca Cola, are the worst for our health. These beverage giants have engineered the most popular products, while finding a “bliss point” and increasing portion sizes over time. The “bliss point” is the most desirable, perfect, and sellable product.
What was once a 6.5-ounce bottle of cola in the 1920s has evolved into a two-liter bottle. Beverage makers have also increased product variety; endless variations of Gatorade or Pepsi line the beverage aisles. What was once a black and white industry has become a multi-colored industry in order to appeal to everyone.
During the webinar, I also learned Americans now drink 278 calories each day, with over 120 calories coming from sweetened beverages — the single largest contributor to obesity. This is a rising problem in the Latino community. From 2005-2007, 69 percent Latinos drank one or more sweetened beverages every day.
Today, 73 percent of Latinos drink three or more sugary beverages each day. The average 12-ounce can of Coca Cola contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. Multiply this by three, and you can see why these beverages are causing us so much harm.
The increased sugar intake is resulting in more diabetes among youth. Research tells us that 23 percent of adolescents in the years 2007-2008 were diabetic or pre-diabetic.
How can we make a change?
Some schools have been banning these beverages and instilling healthier alternatives. Just recently, local high school Olive Crest Academy instituted the “Rethink Your Drink” program. This program, funded by the The California Endowment and RAP Foundation, consists of a water bottle refill station on campus and provided students with a reusable water bottle.
Some legislators have been trying to pass a soda tax intended to make Americans rethink their beverage choice. Instead of buying the 12-pack of Cherry Pepsi, maybe they’ll consider water instead.
Let’s advocate! Let’s push our local lawmakers to institute this tax or reduce accessibility, and let’s change our lives. We can take action in our daily lives by choosing water over sweetened beverages. We can start exercise groups with friends or challenge each other. And perhaps most importantly, we can stop buying the products that are making us sick.
Change starts small and little by little grows. We cannot expect drastic results without doing our part. We have to work hard.
Earlier this year, Coachella council member Steven Hernandez imparted some words that have stayed with me.
“When we start becoming responsible for our future, we get things done. We have the ability to change our community,” Hernandez said.
These words definitely apply to this situation. We all have the ability to change our diets and stand up to the beverage industry.