© copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert
Former President Bill Clinton is out on the stump, speaking of soft drinks and how they adversely affect the body. He is concerned with the rise in childhood obesity, adult on-set diabetes, and osteoporosis. Mr. Clinton wants to do something to prevent these.
Mr. Clinton realizes conditions such as theses are more prevalent in today’s society because people are drinking more soda. Scientifically there is connection between our sweet sodas and our failing health. I offer much of this research at the conclusion of this treatise. However, my concern goes beyond what I believe is a superficial solution to the problem. Having been a person saturated in soda water, I think removing the culprit from our schools, may not alter the effects.
The Former President, along with the American Heart Association, negotiated an agreement with the three largest soft-drink manufacturers. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Cadbury Schweppes, will willingly stop selling fattening sodas and sugary drinks in American elementary and middle schools. The companies will no longer offer the larger sized sweet beverages in the high schools. The elder students will be able to buy diet drinks, sports beverages, and brews that are lower in calories. The President and the producers propose, if young people have less access to the high caloric carbonated beverages, they will drink less and be healthier. Possibly that is true; perhaps, it is not.
The hazards soft-drink consumption is a subject I have thought of for decades. I, as Mr. Clinton did imbibe great quantities of soda. I knew as the President discovered, this action had its effects. I am famous among hundreds of students for my “Mountain Dew Story.” For close to a decade students have asked me to write and publish the tale. This week as Former President Bill Clinton and soft drink manufacturers get much press for the simplistic solution they are presenting I feel compelled. I will share the oft-told tale in writing.
For me this story is not about soda, though superficially some may see it as that. It is about choices, habits, and the decision to be healthier. I offer this narrative to classes at the beginning of each term. Students call it the “Mountain Dew Story.” However, they know that is not the lesson of this tale. They can quote the real reason for this narrative. The lesson it teaches is, “The manner in which we think, say, do, feel, and are is a choice.”
We often think that who we are and what we think, say, do, and feel is our nature; we were born this way. We are not. We learn these habits at a very young age; so young we do not recognize that we are learning. We do not know we have other options. Therefore, we choose what we know, what is familiar, and what our families teach us, knowingly or not. We adopt habits and assume these are personifications of us. They are our nature; they are not.
I offer this my own story in an attempt to illustrate that we can choose to change. We can choose wisely; we can become healthier and happier. Your habit may be one of zillions. When I offer this thought to students I relate their possible habits to classroom conduct or aspects of life that relate to school. I might suggest procrastination as a habit. Nervous energy may be the practice I mention. For those of us older; yet barely wiser our conventions may be different. Whatever your custom may be the correlation is clear, if we decide to consider these.
I grew up in a family that did not drink milk. We had milk in the house; it was only for cooking and baking. The first time I ever ran away from home was when my Dad decided I needed to drink the milk remaining at the bottom of the cereal bowl. I did not want to do that. I did not like milk. I used it only as a conduit to moisten my cereal and to soak up the sugar. After the cereal was gone and I had slurped up all the sugar, I was done. My Dad thought not; he said so. I fled from home with him hot on my tail. However, that was only a moment, it occurred later in my life. I was eight years of age at that time.
When I was younger, very young, I began walking, talking, and I toilet trained my self. I did all this by the age of eight months. Therefore, I could be easily left with a babysitter. The sitter my family and I preferred was my Grandfather. My Grandpop owned a pharmacy and in those days, pharmacies had what were called soda fountains. These were counters with stools in front of them. Behind the counters were grills for short order cooking. Soda was on tap. I could have all that I wanted. Happily, I would sit all day. I read comic books, ate candy, and drank a lot of soda.
I suspect my sisters did similar in their youth. I am uncertain. However, I have reason to believe that my eldest sister might still be drinking soda for breakfast. I can relate.
My grandfather did not like the way Coca-cola did business. He worked with and sold only Pepsi products, and yes, I knew the difference. In discussing this, my Mom shared, he had posters hanging in the back of the store. They were pro-Pepsi and anti-coke banners. I got the message.
Years later, my family moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Lexington, Kentucky, Bluegrass Country. This was the same year Pepsi introduced Mountain Dew. Though I was a loyal cola drinker, I was interested in the new product, as was my Dad. The company began advertising eight weeks before they brought the merchandise to the shelves. I was anxiously awaiting it.
My Mom theorized I was hooked on the advertisements; I was not. I hated these, thinking them silly. Originally, the soda was promoted as one bottled by “hillbillies” Patsy and Bill. The slogan was, “Yahoo, Mountain Dew.” Now, living in hillbilly country, I thought I must be meant to try this.
Finally, the drink hit the shelves and soon appeared at our dinner table. It was bright yellow. Yes, I heard the chuckles and the words comparing it to urine. These had no effect on me. I indulged and indulged and indulged. I changed my preference, my “poison,” I switched from cola to Mountain Dew.
When I was living with my grandparents for a summer, in Florida, my grandmother became quite concerned. She called my parents and said, “Betsy seems to be drinking an awful lot of soda.” My father and mother did not share her apprehension. They assured her, it was all right. She relented, allowed me to, and I continued to drink. In my mid-to late teenage years, I began freezing the liquid ambrosia. I would pour the fluid into plastic cups. I prepared five to eight of these nightly. The next day, I would then eat them.
Once frozen, the Dew developed a layer of syrup on the top. The carbonation kept it from freezing as a hard as a rock; there were air pockets. It was a delicacy. I would run home at lunch, during breaks, and after school to grab a frozen “Dew.” I was in a hurry as I dashed for my delight. On these occasions, I could not be stopped. I was on a mission.
By the time I reached adulthood, I was an addict, a devotee, and an aficionado. Those in the grocery store would insist, ??You should do ads for the company or buy stock in it.’ They knew, as did I, I could sell Mountain Dew to anyone. I could profit from my own purchases. We would laugh.
Later in life, I hurt my back, then my arm. I could no longer lift large bottles from the grocer’s shelves. Nor could I push shopping carts loaded down with the quantities I drank daily. Thus, I would call ahead to the request that these bottles be made ready for my arrival. I would say “this is Betsy.” and the voice on the other end of the telephone would reply saying, “How many?” I would answer twenty-four.
That meant, “Please put twenty-four two liter bottles in a cart.” Place these in the front of the store, I would be right over to pick them up. I back-stocked. The stores knew me so well that they gave me my own blue crates. Typically, there is a deposit on these; yet, for me, there was none. I would store three crates in the trunk of my car and more in my pantry. I worried; I did not want to run out.
I realized this was ridiculous, as was my consumption. I read and read of the effects of soda, what the caffeine, sugar, phosphates and more were doing to my body. I knew and I was scared. I wanted to end this cycle; I wished for the cascade of effects to be eliminated, or at least reduced. With time and age, these were increasingly apparent. My teeth alone were evidence. There were other maladies. I suspect these too were related to my consumption. However, I did not think I could stop. I did love the drink.
I would think of what I was doing and justify. At least I had never had a drink of alcohol; I did not gamble or do “drugs.” Though I wondered, what were sugar, caffeine, and phosphates for me? Were these not my trappings? Corn syrup and high fructose were other topics I could discuss. However, I will leave these for another investigation. I told myself Mountain Dew was a health drink. Among its main ingredients was orange juice. A friend that traveled to China said in that country, it was advertised as such. That worked well for me. Rationalizations, are they not quaint?
More than seven years ago, closer to eight, which seems a significant number in my life, I began saying aloud, “I need to quit.”
Each day I would go to the store to retrieve my drug of choice and instead of simply laughing with the cashers of my habits, I would say aloud, “One day I will give this up.” The question was would I or could I? A year and one half went by, and for no specific reason of note, I decided to stop consuming caffeine. I would switch to a soda without that. It was April 30, 1999. It was a challenge. I really did not enjoy the other options; nevertheless, it was important that I do this. I needed to try to stop the flow of caffeine.
I continued to read of the effects of soda. Instantly, I realized eliminating Mountain Dew would not improve my worn tooth enamel. The calcium was still being leeched from my bones. Soda was the source of much of my concerns. It was not merely the ingredients in the Dew.
By May 25, 1999, I was done. I stopped drinking all soda. I digested no more empty calories. I thought I would go through withdrawal. I expected the sight of soda to stimulate salivation. I though I would be as Pavlov’s dogs. Surprisingly, I was not. None of what I was told would happen occurred. I did have an eyeball headache for a few hours; that was all.
Actually, I began slowly, to eat better, to improve my habits in other avenues of my life. I felt empowered. I had made a choice and followed through. Imagine that.
More interesting to me was that I did not white knuckle this. I never went back to soda. I did not substitute another addiction for this one. The years of thinking of this habit, telling the story had helped. Working on me was the wonder. The reflection was the labor; the change was my love. I gave up nothing. I gained so much. Words will never accurately describe this. It must be felt from within.
Therefore, I have a sneaking suspicion that I could share more statistics, offer more facts, promote greater fear, and still do nothing to help those of you with a craving. I believe that facts are futile, interesting, and possibly might stimulate thought and a decision. However, only you can cast your habits aside. I will not remove distractions, soda, or the source of your addiction. Bill Clinton may have the power to do this; I do not.
I only ask you to think of yourself. Please do so before you do much more damage. I know the process is slow and you can and will progress at your own pace. Please do not be discouraged; do not rely on the government or manufacturers to help you work through your habits. They may offer a quick fix, a simple solution; however, typically, these are short-lived. While I appreciate Mr. Clinton’s attempts and I am awestruck by the soft-drink companies willingness to reduce soda sales in the schools, I do not think in the end, this plan is a solution.
We are familiar with the process. Persons on diets empty their homes of the foods they fear eating. They find these same sweets elsewhere, or purchase them again later. Individuals that want to quit smoking do, some do this time Habits are a challenge; change is not a whim. Much conscious thought goes into altering who you are, or who you thought you were. You have long believed what you think, say, do, feel, and are is your nature.
I offer this. A thought stimulates action. Without our thoughts, we remain as we are, as we were before we knew more. Think through your habits and chose those that are healthy.
Maybe the research will be your motivation, thus I share some of this.
The sugar from soda takes a great toll.
James A Howenstine M.D. writes in A Physician’s Guide to Natural Health Products That Work
“In an interesting experiment the sugar from one soft drink was able to damage the white blood cells’ ability to ingest and kill gonococcal bacteria for seven hours.”
“Soft drinks also contain large quantities of phosphorus, which when excreted pulls calcium out of the bones. Heavy users of soft drinks will have osteoporosis along with their damaged arteries.”
Caffeine has replaced calcium in America diets. The effects of this are documented.
Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influenced Nutrition and Health (California Studies in Food and Culture) offers, “caffeine has replaced calcium in American diets.” She believes there is cause to worry. In her text, she continues . . .
“Soft drinks have replaced milk in the diets of many American children as well as adults. School purchases reflect such trends. From 1985 to 1997, school districts decreased the amounts of milk they bought by nearly 30% and increased their purchases of carbonated sodas.”
“The relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.”
“Adolescents who consume soft drinks display a risk of bone fractures three to four-fold higher than those who do not.”
“Sugar and acid in soft drinks so easily dissolve tooth enamel.”
“Americans drink 13.15 billion gallons of carbonated drinks every year.”
“Soft drink consumption in children poses a significant risk factor for impaired calcification of growing bones.”
Soft-drink consumption leads to calcium loss via the kidneys.
Dr. Neal Barnard, MD reinforces the earlier stated sentiments in Foods That Cause You to Lose Weight: The Negative Calorie Effect
“Another advantage of avoiding sodas is that you will avoid the caffeine that is in many of them. Caffeine is a weak diuretic that causes calcium loss via the kidneys.”
Soft drinks lower calcium and raise the phosphate level in the blood.
Michael Murray ND and Joseph Pizzorno ND, write in the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised Second Edition
“Soft drinks have long been suspected of leading to lower calcium levels and higher phosphate levels in the blood. When phosphate levels are high and calcium levels are low, calcium is pulled out of the bones. The phosphate content of soft drinks like Coca -Cola and Pepsi is very high, and they contain virtually no calcium.”
“Many general dietary factors have been suggested as a cause of osteoporosis, including: low calcium-high phosphorus intake, high-protein diet, high-acid-ash diet, high salt intake, and trace mineral deficiencies. It appears that increased soft drink consumption is a major factor that contributes to osteoporosis. A deficiency of vitamin K leads to impaired mineralization of bone. Boron deficiency may contribute greatly to osteoporosis as well as to menopausal symptoms.”
Diet soda drinkers do not escape harm as they too consume empty calories.
According to Carol Simontacchi, author of The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children presents this.
Weight Gain Occurs, with or without exercise. Reduced caloric intake does not change this.
Greg Critser, penned, Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World.
He offers . . .
“A joint study by Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital researchers in February 2001 concluded that such excess liquid calories inhibited the ability of older children to compensate at mealtime, leading to caloric imbalance and, in time, obesity.”
“One extra soft drink a day gave a child a 60 percent greater chance of becoming obese. One could even link specific amounts of soda to specific amounts of weight gain. Each daily drink added .18 points to a child’s body mass index (BMI). This, the researchers noted, was regardless of what else they ate or how much they exercised. “Consumption of sugar [high fructose corn syrup]-sweetened drinks,” they concluded, “is associated with obesity in children.”
There is much to consider, more to reason to choose wisely. Please, be happy and healthy.
References for your reveiew . . .
Soda Ban Means Change at Schools By Mary Otto and Lori Aratani. Washington Post Thursday, May 4, 2006
School’s Out for Soda By Sora Song. Time Magazine. May 4, 2006
Expelling Pop From School: Sugary soda could vanish by 2009, By Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki and Chastity Pratt. Detroit Free Press. May 4, 2006
Soda?”A Look at the Effects It Has on the Human Body By Erin Sanders. Missouri Baptist University. October 28, 2003
Soda Consumption Puts Children at Risk For Obesity, Diabetes, Osteoporosis, and Cavities Northern and Southern California Public Health Associations. August 2005
The Real Dangers of Soda to You and Your Children, By Dr. Joseph Mercola with Rachael Droege
The health effects of drinking soda – quotes from the experts By Mike Adams. NewsTarget Network. Saturday, January 08, 2005
“A Physician’s Guide to Natural Health Products That Work” By James A Howenstine M.D.
“Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influenced Nutrition and Health” By Marion Nestle
Foods That Cause You to Lose Weight: The Negative Calorie Effect
Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised Second Edition Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno
The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children By Carol Simontacchi
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World By Greg Critser