Follow by Email

Thursday, January 10, 2013

46: Stop the Pop

There is a class of beverage that has been with us for enough decades that most people seem not to question whether it belongs in our lives. I’m talking about soda pop. These soft drinks have a long history, going back to Paris in the 1600s when street vendors carried on their backs tanks of lemon and water sweetened with honey, dispensing cupfuls to thirsty passersby. A lot has changed since then, and the changes have not all been good.

It was in the 1830s that the concept of soda fountains began to take hold in American pharmacies. Carbonated water had caught on as a “health drink,” and druggists began adding medicinal herbs and fruit extracts to the previously unflavoured mineral water. In the 1890s, a pharmacist developed a special flavour by adding sugar, vanilla, rare oils, pepsin, and cola nuts. If you're really sharp, you may guess that this was the first version of Pepsi Cola.

Sugar then reigned supreme in soft drinks all the way to the 1970s. At this time, a cheaper, sweeter solution, manufactured from corn, burst upon the industry. Several articles ago, I made a comment about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), saying that it had turned the health of a generation upside down. My statement demands some clarification.

I first had cause to seriously zero in on the subject of HFCS several months ago, when my sister Pauline, who has lived in England for many years, sent me a link to a documentary that was produced over there. It is a series totalling about three hours, called “The Men Who Made Us Fat.”

We’re hearing all the time in Canada and the US about the obesity epidemic. It’s a serious problem, and experts are vague about the exact cause and what to do about it. But the British documentary had plenty to say about HFCS and its link to obesity—and a host of other related health problems.

Back to the soft drink industry: when they recognized that this corn syrup was sweeter and cheaper than sugar, and that it didn’t compromise their brand-name flavours, it caught hold like an old wooden house on fire. Cheaper was great, and sweeter should have meant that they could use even less of it than of sugar, resulting in cheaper yet. But they found that the sweeter they made it, the more of it people drank, so it was well worth their while to use even more of the HFCS than they had of sugar.

Up until that point in time, the national (US) average had reached about 365 servings of pop per year per person. Since then, consumption has increased to 600 cans. I find this hard to fathom. When there are people like me who average zero cans per year, it means theoretically there are those who are tossing back 1200 servings annually.

I had a conversation recently with a dear friend in his mid-thirties, who has some problems with hypoglycemia.

“Do you eat a lot of sugar?” I asked him.

“Not really,” came the answer, “but I drink two cans of pop a day, so, I don’t know, would you consider that a lot of sugar?”

Bingo, I thought, there it is, the North American average. Most people are more like him than like me, and it pains me deeply that multitudes are unwittingly sabotaging their health. I am especially grieved at watching children guzzling the stuff down, even at an age when they’ve barely learned to walk.

Dietary habits are established young, and they run deep. The pop habit is, I believe, truly an addiction in many cases. Society may look down its nose at alcoholics, yet it is blasé about a super-sized soft drink. But ironically, a devastation is slowly taking place in the body of the chronic pop drinker that is almost identical to that in the alcoholic. It’s called non-alcoholic liver disease, and it leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Soda pop made from sugar was bad enough—we’re beginning to understand that large amounts of sugar help to fuel our diabetes epidemic. But the use of high-fructose corn syrup is much more destructive to our bodies. It will take at least another article to explain a little more about its effects. While I’m working on that, why don’t you stop and assess how much pop you’re drinking, bearing in mind that even a little bit does you absolutely no good with its nutritively void calories? Could you consider just walking away from the stuff for the rest of your life? Just say no? Boycott this wealthy, unhealthy industry? Or are you too addicted?

No comments:

Post a Comment