In California, politicians have proposed a warning label on sugar-sweetened beverages to decrease obesity. Unfortunately, their initiative rests on claims about sugar in beverages that are both false and misleading - which means the effort would do nothing to address the challenge of obesity or improve public health.
In a recent op-ed in the Contra Costa Times, registered dietitian Lisa Katic confirmed that the objective to demonize beverages is clear - and the arguments flawed - when it comes to sugar.
“Another myth that I frequently hear is that sugar-sweetened beverages are more harmful than other sources of sugar…This myth isn't hard to debunk if you use a little common sense; after all, calories are calories and sugar is sugar, whether found in food or beverage form.”
Katic, a registered dietitian and consultant to a number of food industry clients (for transparency, that includes the American Beverage Association), points out that it is not sugar but calories that are the culprit to be addressed.
“Consuming any form of sugar is not uniquely related to insulin resistance or diabetes…It is over-consumption of calories that increases the risk of health issues like Type 2 diabetes and obesity.”
If politicians want to get serious about the fight against obesity they need to abandon these agenda-driven policies to demonize certain products and focus on the facts, says Katic.
“It is overly simplistic, not to mention misleading, to single out sugar-sweetened beverages as the driving cause of Type 2 diabetes…Educating the public about how many calories they need to achieve and maintain a healthy weight would be a better approach to decreasing obesity and Type 2 diabetes than restricting people's choices or trying to legislate behavior.”
The beverage industry believes - as many do in the public health community - that educating consumers on calorie awareness and the importance to balance what you eat, drink and do is the way to address the challenge of obesity. Calories from beverages have been on the decline for years due in part to industry’s innovation, and through our Balance Calories Initiative we have set a goal to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. It is through working together that we can achieve lasting results though real solutions. A warning label that misleads people into thinking one product is the problem is not one of them.