One soda a day can significantly increase your chance of getting diabetes. The greater your sugar sweetened soft drink consumption the greater your risk of getting type II diabetes-the most common form of diabetes. In fact one soda a day could add up to 15lbs weight gain in one year according to an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).Weight gain, one risk factor, along with the damage done by large amounts of sweeteners can lead to diabetes.

Soda represents the largest single food source of calories in the US diet. In other words of the amount of calories we eat soda provides the largest percentage. Overconsumption of sugar sweetened soft drinks obviously increases the risk of obesity and sodas contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is used as the sweetener. This was discussed in the same article in JAMA

The link between HFCS and diabetes is becoming clearer, last year researchers found evidence that HFCS may contribute to the development of diabetes. Children are in particular more vulnerable. High fructose corn syrup has high levels of reactive compounds which can cause tissue damage which in turn can lead to diabetes.

Soft drinks sweetened with HFCS have "astonishingly high levels of reactive carbonyls" or reactive compounds according to a lead researcher from Rutgers University NJ. "These undesirable and highly-reactive compounds associated with "unbound" fructose and glucose molecules are believed to cause tissue damage… By contrast, reactive carbonyls are not present in table sugar, whose fructose and glucose components are "bound" and chemically stable." This was reported on by the Science Daily in 2007.

It is no coincidence that the prevalence of type II diabetes and obesity parallel the rise in consumption of soft drinks or carbonated beverages. This has been stated by among others the American Medical Association (JAMA) in recently published studies. In fact the figures quoted are sobering.

The energy intake from soft drink consumption has increased by 135% between 1977 and 2001. Over the same span of time the energy intake from milk has decreased by 38%. Which provides the greater nutritional value?-Milk is a far more nutritious beverage.-this was outlined by the American Journal of Preventive Health.

The average number of soft drinks consumed in 1977 was 1.96 which in itself is a sad indictment of how long ago this destructive trend began. By 2001 the average servings of soft drink per day has climbed to 2.39, which in itself may not seem like much but consider that fact that the average serving size has increase to supersize proportions from 13.6 ounces to a whopping 21 ounces. Among the young the portion sizes are even bigger, increasing from 15.3 ounces in 1977 to 25.5 ounces in 2001. Again this was discussed by the American Journal of Preventive Health.

High fructose corn syrup is the all pervasive sweetener. The many common foods that we eat all contain high fructose corn syrup; "… baking and cooking ingredients, beverages, soft drinks, breads, breakfast cereals, breakfast pastries, candy bars, condiments, cookies and cakes, cough syrups, crackers, dairy, drink mixers, frozen foods, gummi bears, ice creams, infant formula, jams and jellies, syrups, meats, pastries, salad dressings, sauces, snacks, soda, and microwavable soup,"-according to the Nutrition Research Center.

The World Health Organization (WHO)has criticized the food industry for "heavy practices of marketing… nutrient poor food" and recommended restricting intake of sugar sweetened (HFCS) soft drinks to no more than 10% of a healthful diet. It is no surprise that the food industry denounced the recommendations and so did the US Department of Health and Human Services back in 2004 when the report was released and consequently reported on in JAMA.

The US Department of Health and Human Services only agreed to the recommendations if they could eliminate the specific limits imposed by the World Health Organization. This is exactly what they did according to JAMA in 2004. The US Department of Health and Human Services agreed to limitations without limits. If you think that doesn't make sense you would be right. "Experts in the field of obesity reported feeling a sense of déjà vu with the tobacco industry's tactics to thwart the rising public health campaign against smoking".

$492 million dollars were spent in 2006 advertising sodas the American public and of that amount 96% was directed to adolescents. This is in conjunction with the very heavy marketing of sodas in schools and the "complicity of many public school systems with companies' sales efforts" according to American Journal of Public Health in 2008.

Why? When something as nutritionally poor and damaging to our health is relentlessly marketed, the question begs to be asked, why? There are many reasons but one is that it is cheaper and more profitable to use high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar.

The Corn Refiners Association is one of the most powerful in the country with money and lobbyists, and has been subsidized by the US government for many years. One of the many evidences of support is the recent announcement this year by the FDA of the go ahead to label HFCS as 'natural' on product ingredient lists, even though the corn used in HFCS is genetically engineered to begin with, not to mention the absence of any nutritional value.

There seems to be a contradiction here as sales of carbonated beverages (containing 'natural' HFCS) during breakfast and lunch periods were banned in harmony with federal law enacted in 2006. This was due to among other things a lack of any nutritional value.

Not all the States agree with the FDA's idea of what is 'natural'

For example New Jersey leads the way to enact additional laws in this regard for example as of September 2007 NJ has added the following laws;

  • Prohibit carbonated soft drinks at all grade levels during the school day
  • Limit beverage choices in elementary schools to 100% juice, water and milk
  • Limit the serving sizes of beverages sold to 12 ounces
  • Limit beverage choices in middle and high schools requiring that at least 60% of all beverages offered should be 100% fruit or vegetable juices.- NJ Department of Agriculture

Many States recognize the dangerous link between how much is consumed and the nutritional value of what is consumed. Industry giants don't want to see the link, but we must see it if we are concerned about our health prospects. The complete absence of any nutritional value in soda along with the incessant advertising to the most vulnerable, our adolescents, we see the results; increase in consumption of empty calories and the increase in obesity and ultimately diabetes.

'Cadbury Schweppes "invests" in Hispanics

The Latino population forms a core consumer base for the drinks giant …they are confident that this segment will drive growth amidst a general environment of declining soft drink sales…"They (Hispanics) are low hanging fruit for us (Cadbury Schweppes) if you take into account how well our brands match their taste profile."'-US Food Navigator quoting Hispanic Marketing Brand Manager from Cadbury Schweppes 2007. So it looks like Latinos are fair game when it comes to advertising 'nutrient poor food or soda'.

What are some of the results of this type of 'investment' by the food industry? 10.4% of Hispanics have diabetes that has been diagnosed; the rates are 8.2 percent for Cubans, 11.9 percent for Mexican Americans, and 12.6 percent for Puerto Ricans. Those aged 50 or older the rate is 25-30%-as noted by the National Institutes for Health.

The message is clear, this 'investment' in advertising junk along with lack of awareness about the dangers of a poor diet and lack of exercise among other things, is killing Latinos. About 65% of people with diabetes will die of a heart attack or stroke according to the National Institutes of Health.

So how do we fight back? Knowledge is the key, educate yourself about the immediate benefits of a healthy diet, and exercise, beware of the ploys of advertising, and remember traditional drinks such as batidos and natural juices are healthier than sodas. Read the ingredient list, a good guideline is the purer it is the better it is. Ultimately it is up to you to make an informed choice.

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented

Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented in overweight adults with pre-diabetes, including Hispanics/Latinos. Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.

To prevent diabetes

  • Loose 5 to 7 percent of your body weight (that is 10 to 14 pounds for a person who weighs 200 pounds).
  • Be physically active for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. For example brisk walking.
  • Make healthier food choices and limited the amount of calories and fat in their diet.

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), an important trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health,

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Donna Maldonado-Schullo / Especial para AL DÍA