Soda has become a pariah in the national health debate. That view led to a controversial (and later shot down) proposal in New York City, to limit the size of sodas sold in some businesses.
Like soda, other sugar-heavy beverages have been linked to the possibility of an increased risk of heart diseases, cancer and Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Several hospitals have banned the sale of all sugary beverages on their campuses as a result.
The study from UC Berkeley's Atkins Center for Weight and Health (PDF) focused on 21 “popular sugary drinks” that are considered alternatives to soda to include sports, energy and fruit drinks. Brands that were examined include Gatorade, Powerade, Monster Energy, RockStar Energy, Sobe, Kool-Aid, Vitamin Water and Capri Sun.
Researchers found that those beverages were major sources of sugar, caffeine and sodium and had little or no positive health effects. Patricia Crawford, director of UC Berkeley's Atkins Center for Weight and Health and lead author of the study, said in a news release that they really aren't much different from soda.
“Rather than promote health as claimed in advertising, these drinks are putting our children's health at risk.” Crawford said.
The beverage industry didn't take kindly to the study. The American Beverage Association, the lobbying arm of big soda producers such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, defended industry marketing and said the study had political roots. PepsiCo owns Gatorade and Sobe, among a stable of brands, while Coca-Cola owns Powerade and Vitamin Water, among other brands.
“This is more spin from a group that is aggressively advocating to impose taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages in California,” said ABA spokesman Chris Gindlesperger in an e-mail. “Our members are completely transparent about what's in the beverages we make.”
The California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which helped support the study, has pushed for a statewide tax on sugary beverages, though legislation has not yet passed.
Kraft Foods Group, which owns Kool-Aid and distributes Capri Sun, issued a statement via e-mail: “We offer a variety of food and beverage choices for our consumers based on their varied nutritional needs and preferences. Our products are clearly and accurately labeled with information that is both truthful and helpful for consumers. At Kraft, we take great pride in making quality products and marketing them responsibly.”
The study is the latest salvo between public health advocates and beverage makers—in a fight that has become much more drawn out than any Michael Jordan jingle.
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