Food Police's Latest Victim: Soda Industry

     First the media tell you not to drink bottled water because it contributes to global warming. Then they warned against finding any humor in beer ads. They’ve even made overtures about the evils of energy drinks.


     Now media fear-mongering has spilled on to soda. “[A] report tonight said that [consumption of soda] may be bad for our hearts,” said CBS “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric.


     A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported the consumption of soda – diet and regular – may increase the likelihood of metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adults and that could increase the probability of heart disease.


     However, a release from the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) said the study is “grasping at straws.”  “There is no plausible biological explanation for this supposed correlation between soda consumption and the metabolic syndrome,” said Dr. Gilbert Ross, ACSH medical director in the release. “The authors provide no credible basis for believing these associations are causal, or even real, or why both regular and diet soft drinks could be implicated.”


     The CBS report focused on a woman named Meredith Wise, who was described as being “hooked” on soda, treating it like an addictive substance. She was consuming eight glasses of soda a day according CBS Medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.


     “Given that soda is 99 percent water, I cannot imagine what could be ‘addictive’ about it,” said Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of ACSH and Business & Media Institute adviser said. “The word ‘addictive’ is overused these days, as in ‘I am addicted to my iPod.’ There is no relation in terms of being ‘addictive’ between truly addictive cigarettes (nicotine) and soda.”  


     Eight 8-ounce servings of soda a day would constitute an additional 776 calories to one’s daily diet. But LaPook’s report correlated Wise’s soda consumption with the product itself and not the increased caloric intake. “Meredith Wise has cut her habit significantly,” LaPook said. “She stopped drinking regular soda and is down to two diet ones a day. And it shows. She's dropped five pounds.”


     NBC “Nightly News” drew similar parallels between soda consumption and heart disease, despite the report admitting the data was unclear. “Whether you call it soda or pop, America's love affair with soft drinks may be getting a reality check,” said NBC Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman. “A new study links soft drinks to risk factors for heart disease.”


     Even with the admission “this is not the final word on soft drinks,” Snyderman told viewers the study “suggests soft drinks become more of an occasional treat.”


     One expert has even used this study to go as far as suggesting more regulatory action for the soda industry. The Associated Press reported Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill “has called for cigarette-style surgeon general warnings about the negative health effects of soda” in the wake of this report.