In September, Mayor Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission launched an awareness campaign against sugar-sweetened beverages. As of October 7th, municipal buildings are under an executive order to no longer sell, advertise or promote drinks filled with sugar. On the so called "red" list of beverages are non-diet sodas, pre-sweetened ice teas, refrigerated coffee drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and juice drinks with added sugar.
It's Mayor Menino's hope that it's not just municipal workers who will be affected by the awareness campaign.
“With the launch of this campaign, I’m asking all parents in the city of
Boston to join me in taking responsibility for helping young people
choose healthier foods and beverages. And I’m asking youth – especially
teenagers – to take a leadership role among your peers and push them to
make healthier choices,” Mayor Menino said.
It's estimated that more than 40% of Boston Public School
children are overweight or obese and about 10% of their calories are coming from sugar sweetened beverages.
The Boston Public Health Commission created a website www.sugarsmarts.org, where parents can learn about the potential effects sugary drinks might have on their children. Parents are encouraged to give their children more water, low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice drinks.
But perhaps the most talk-worthy awareness campaign the Boston Public Health Commission launched is directed at teens themselves: Fat Smack. In the videos and ads, flying blobs of lard are launched at teens who are drinking sugar-filled drinks. Now THAT's a wake-up call!
Fatsmack! from HealthyBoston on Vimeo
FatSmack.org is a great resource for teens. The big, fun graphics and clearly written copy reveal surprising facts about sugary drinks teens - and adults - might not know. Including the cost of health care due to obesity is "like buying everyone in the U.S. an iPad 2."
However, I don't agree with the some of the optional "healthy" beverages the Boston Public Health Commission suggests as substitutes for sugar sweetened drinks: diet sodas, diet iced teas and low-calorie sports drinks.
While these beverages are often lower in calories than their non-diet counterparts, many contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin. These can be 300 to 600 times sweeter than sugar, and some studies show them to be potentially addictive, just like sugar.
When the brain pumps out excessive dopamine because sweeteners and sugars make us feel good, our brain wants more, causing cravings. Why replace sugar cravings with sweetener cravings? This fight on sugary drinks is about creating new, healthy habits that could last a lifetime, not about creating new addictions that are "less bad" than the old.
Let's not lead teens and their parents to believe that sugar substitutes are the best solution, let's lead them towards reducing overall sugar consumption....period.