By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist | 2:15PM PDT - Monday, August 10, 2015
Ah, the all-American myth of skinny, happy, healthy people drinking Coke. It's like smart, educated people who love watching Fox News. Or a really happy Catholic woman. Fundamental oxymoron.
IT'S A pertinent question, sadly: Just how dumb are you, average American? How gullible, how blindly trusting of corporate double-speak, of murky science, the idea that companies famous for making drinks that burn rust off your car really care about your health?
If you're the Coca-Cola company (or the NRA, or Monsanto, or RJ Reynolds, or Taco Bell, et al), the answer is: Very. You are very stupid. Still. Now and forever. They are counting on it.
Here's a big story from the New York Times not long back, re-confirming a whole raft of studies that point to one rather significant truth, one known to nutritionists and educated fitness gurus for years: While exercise — regular, vigorous, addictive, sweaty, heart-racing, OMG take an Instagram of me exercise — is wildly essential for a whole range of human happy, it's not actually the key to weight loss.
For that, it's all about the food. Portion control, better choices, minimal processing, real ingredients. It's about dramatically reducing the garbage, the chemicals, the excess sugar, the oversized portions, the eating until you're “stuffed”.
Did you know the all-American “three square meals a day” eating plan is a myth? That eating yourself into a “food coma” is disastrous for your body? That there's a good reason why one of the Internet's first smash-hit viral photosets, “This is Why You're Fat” was made into a book, and into a cultural phenom? It's common sense made… pornographic. Our dietary choices are killing us.
Don't misunderstand. Vigorous exercise is still incalculably wonderful. It makes you feel great, builds strength and tone, cranks serotonin, alleviates depression, improves everything from sex to sleep. Few things better for you in the world than moving your body, preferably around some trees, preferably partially naked. I mean, obviously.
As bad as cigarettes? Nah. Probably worse. Due to, you know, all the flagrant lying!
But if it's weight loss you're after — and more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and one-third are clinically obese — it's mostly about food choices. Less of it, more plants, grazing lightly only when truly hungry, cutting way back on sugar, salt, excess fats, the usual. Simple, right?
Can you guess what their reputable, totally honest, not-at-all-on-Coke's-payroll scientists discovered?
That's right! To paraphrase: “There's virtually no compelling evidence that eating too much fast food or drinking a billion tons of sugary crap causes obesity, depression, or ill health overall. Poisonous, heavily processed junk food is not the enemy it's been made out to be. What Americans really need is more exercise.”
Amazing, no? All those other studies are false! Your common sense is flawed! Coke loves kids and families! Also, guns have been great for America, climate change is God's will and it's just so great how there's no more racism.
It's no wonder Coke is on the defensive. Sodas are finally getting their comeuppance as a destroyer of children, a bringer of obesity and diabetes. And not just sodas; pretty much all of Coke's product family is grossly unhealthy, from Powerade to Sprite, Vitamin Water to “sugar free Full Throttle” (ugh), Barq's to Fruitopia. All horrible, all the time.
Whatever do you mean by gross, obvious, heavy-handed marketing to kids?
Coke loves fit families! But, of course, truly fit families never come anywhere near Coke.
This went viral recently. Coke, so far, hasn't tried to debunk it. Thank goodness for all that phosphoric acid, or you'd surely vomit from all that sugar.
One of the better scams of the last decade. Tons of sugar (32 grams per bottle), a few cents worth of vitamin additives, and water. Three dollars, please.
This just in: Juice boxes are terrible for kids. Snapple is utter crap. Energy drinks are revolting. Vitamin Water is a total scam, has nearly as much sugar (32 grams per bottle!) as a can of Dr. Pepper. If they didn't add phosphoric acid to soda, you'd instantly vomit from all the sugar. Also: You're a sucker for paying more for the same Coke in smaller, cuter cans. Also: This is the way it's always been. They're counting on it.
Coca-Cola knows something. They know just how ignorant most Americans are. They know he who has the biggest marketing budget, wins. And they know exactly how much they can get away with, that SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) has made it easier than any time in history for billionaires and corporations to own all sides of an argument (hi, Monsanto!)
Let's not get too lopsided. It's possible to get overly fanatical about the anti-sugar thing, too, to get sucked in to the pseudo-scientific bullshit being touted in something like the popular Australian documentary “Sugar”, another of those “Supersize Me”-style stunt movies which, according to Slate's ‘Medical Examiner’ columnist Daniel Engber anyway, races right past sugar's obvious deleterious effects, to claim it's the root cause of every human calamity you can name, from liver disease to to genitals warts, depression to who killed JFK. Or something. (And you thought gluten was the cause of all human suffering — you're so 2011). “Sugar” is apparently full of bogus, New Age science, wild exaggerations, experts who aren’t really experts.
Too bad. Coke (and PepsiCo, and fast food titans, the makers of HFCS, and the rest) deserve much condemnation for their ruthless marketing to children and to the lesser-educated, to forcing their way into schools, to manipulating the message however they like. They do not make tasty, all-American happiness. They made junk. Always have, always will.
But they do not seem to care. Why should they? The FDA isn't nearly nimble enough to keep up (though some progressive cities, increasingly, are). No one stops them from marketing their swill however they want, or from buying their own studies to “prove”, well, whatever calculated deflection of truth they like.
This is the American way, no? Get some exercise! Have a Coke and a smile! Sorry about the obesity and diabetes (but not really).
The larger Coke family of ruthlessly unhealthy junk liquids. Even Dasani bottled water is just filtered tap water, with a 1000% markup!
You always have to indulge in overkill with the spam, don't you. You can't help yourself.
For a more subtle but devastating demolition job on the sugar industry SBS last year broadcast a doco exposing Big Sugar. It's still on their website of old programmes. Throughout the doco they played a soft tinkly rendition of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I'll never again hear that piece of music without thinking of that doco. The title of the doco is The Sugar Conspiracy and you need the SBS On Demand app to access it. Here's a BBC doco on the same topic. It's good, but I think the SBS doco is better.
Australians are not experiencing this public health emergency as politics as usual. Political leaders that try to make it about the politics — Trump in the US and, increasingly, Morrison here in Australia — pay a price.
The ABC ran a series of three programs on this subject, last year I think, it was excellent. it was called "The men who made us fat".
"Around the world, obesity levels are rising – more people are now overweight than undernourished. In this fascinating and thought-provoking series, Jacques Peretti explores the profitable ways eating habits have been revolutionised over the last 40 years. Travelling to the USA, he learns about a sweetener championed in the 1970s to make use of the excess corn grown by farmers but now known to interfere with the hormone that controls appetite.
He reveals the history of ‘supersizing’, a concept that boosted both food consumption and profits, and speaks with industry professionals about the introduction of value meals, king-size snacks and multi-buy promotions.
In episode one, Jacques Peretti traces those responsible for revolutionising our eating habits to find out how decisions made in America 40 years ago influence the way we eat now. Peretti travels to America to investigate the story of high-fructose corn syrup. The sweetener was championed in the US in the 1970s by Richard Nixon’s agriculture secretary Earl Butz to make use of the excess corn grown by farmers. Cheaper and sweeter than sugar, it soon found its way into almost all processed foods and soft drinks. HFCS is not only sweeter than sugar, it also interferes with leptin, the hormone that controls appetite, so once you start eating or drinking it, you don’t know when to stop. Meanwhile, in 1970s Britain, food manufacturers used advertising campaigns to promote the idea of snacking between meals. Outside the home, fast food chains offered clean, bright premises with tempting burgers cooked and served with a very un-British zeal and efficiency. Twenty years after the arrival of McDonalds, the number of fast food outlets in Britain had quadrupled."