Yet, with summer coming, many of us will, no doubt, consume more soft drinks than usual to stay cool during the heat. That’s not always the wisest decision.
New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has warned us about the negative impact of sugary soft drinks on our health and has withstood a lot of grief for telling us about it and suggesting we drink smaller portions. He didn’t even ask us to give up drinking them altogether! I applaud the mayor for his efforts to make us a healthier nation.
I also applaud First Lady Michelle Obama for her efforts to make us healthier through not just recommending that we reduce our consumption of sugary sodas, but by giving attention to the food we eat and encouraging regular exercise.
In a recent discussion with Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania who has been involved in numerous national and international public health-related activities, I learned that sugary drinks are one of the biggest contributors to obesity and the resulting high price tag on long-term health.
Drinks lead to obesity
Just the health care cost related to obesity (See www.aacorn.org) totals 150 billion dollars per year! An astounding 90 million people are considered obese according to the Centers for Disease Control. Among the sugary drinks contributing to this epidemic of obesity to which Dr. Kumanyika refers are sweetened tea, non-diet carbonated beverages, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavored drinks, sugar sweetened lemonade, fruit punch, powdered fruit drinks and drinks with less than 100% fruit juice.
Dr. Nancy Appleton (Read more about her work at www.nancyappleton.com) has done research that tells us there are at least 146 reasons why we should limit sugary drinks—among them: hyperactivity in children that makes it difficult for them to concentrate, suppression of the immune system, risk of having gout, reduction in defense against bacterial infection, premature aging, weakened eyesight, obesity, feeding of cancer, can cause depression, can reduce learning capacity, can cause high blood pressure and headaches; can cause tooth decay, arthritis, asthma, and can contribute to diabetes and eczema!
Do we really need to know the remaining 146 reasons in order to be motivated to watch our sugar intake?
The American Heart Association does not tell us to give up an occasional sugary drink, but does recommend reducing our consumption.
It is reported that we have witnessed a dramatic increase in sugary-drink consumption over the past decade. The problem with sugary drinks (See www.fewersugarydrinks.org) has become so significant that doctors, nutritionists, government officials, consumer groups, business leaders, insurers, faith-based leaders and others recently held a Sugary Drinks Summit in Washington, DC in an effort to pool their knowledge on what to do about the craze of Americans for sugary drinks that many of us know are detrimental to our health.
Their goal was to interact with each other to come up with ways to broaden and strengthen the constituency working to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and add momentum to a growing public health movement.
Time to end crisis
It seems that so many are concerned about our health and are offering ways for us to improve. At the annual awards brunch of the National Congress of Black Women on Sept. 23 of this year, we are bringing women together from all over the country.
We have invited Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. Dr. Sandra Nichols, Dr. Sakiliba Mines and Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing to lead a discussion on what we in the African-American community can do to improve our own health. We must end this health crisis brought on in large part by sugary drinks, poor nutrition, stress and inadequate exercise.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.