Warning: Sodas Are Bad for You and Other Things We Already Know

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First it was New York who tried to declare a ban on sodas larger than 16 ounces and now California wants to place a warning label on all sodas over a certain size in an attempt to control the obesity crisis.

The sponsors of the bill state:

Under the bill, all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 calories or more per 12 ounces must carry a label that reads: State of California Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. The requirement would effectively apply to any sugar-sweetened bottled and canned sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, vitamin water and iced teas.

I understand the desire of legislators to fix the obesity crisis in America but I don’t think a warning label on soda is going to fix the problem. After all, how many people actually read the nutrition label on soda? I bet it’s a pretty small number. Who picks up a bottle of coke from the gas station and immediately turns it over to see if it is high in sugar or notice a small warning label? Not many people.

And aside from the small number of people who would actually read the label, people who want to drink soda are going to drink soda regardless of a warning label. Warning labels on cigarettes haven’t stopped people from smoking completely even when coupled with overwhelming evidence of the health risks associated with smoking.

Sodas contribute to obesity but they aren’t the only cause of obesity. If we are going to put warning labels on sodas why not on every other food that has added sugar? I can see it now. Warning labels on cereal, granola bars, candy,  gum, other sugary beverages, ice cream, pastries, desserts, etc.

I’m sorry but a warning label doesn’t seem to be necessary. Instead, I think we need to educate people on the how’s and why’s sugary foods and drinks are bad for them and for their kids.

When I see a mom and her kids walking out of Wal-Mart swigging 20 ounce bottles of orange sodas and colas, I cringe. I often wonder if the mom even realizes how many calories/sugar those bottles contain. I’d wager a guess that she doesn’t or if she does, she doesn’t care.

coke nutrition

The problem is that the nutritional information is right there on all the high sugar foods I previously mentioned, colas included. But obviously that doesn’t stop a lot of people from eating or drinking those products. It didn’t make a difference for me when I was 300 pounds.

I knew where to find the nutrition label but often ignored it. You see, I wanted the food or drink and the calories didn’t stop me, nor did the sugar or fat content. In fact, research has shown that calories being posted in restaurants doesn’t seem to sway the patrons much at all.

So what’s the solution if not warning labels? I think education is a key factor here. We can’t legislate good behavior as much as the government likes to think it can.

I talk to my children about nutrition and I’m not afraid of speaking up in a group of people to be the dissenting voice when everyone else is raving about some “terrible for you” but really tasty food. I don’t always win friends that way but I don’t want to just go along with the crowd and let other people think I agree that Twinkies are great and the Death by Chocolate dessert at the local restaurant is the perfect good for you.

Education can start at home, be supported in schools, take place in offices, and be passed around from person to person. But all the education in the world can’t make someone stop drinking sugary drinks if they don’t want to. That has to be an individual choice driven by a desire to make healthier choices for themselves and their family.

I don’t think cola is the evil of the world. After all, colas have been around for 200 years and obesity is a relatively recent problem. The problem is that we drink too much cola, we eat too much junk, and we tend to consume large portions of whatever it is we are eating or drinking.

Warning labels won’t make a difference in my opinion. They are an attempt to further regulate our lives, which I am opposed to. Instead, let’s band together and keep spreading the message of healthy eating and teach people why it matters.

What are your thoughts? Diane


  1. Susan says

    I think that warning labels and government interference won’t help with the obsiety crisis here in America. I think how children are raised, and what they are exposed to at home early on is the best way to fight this disease assuming the parents are healthy and care about what their children are eating and what they are drinking. We need to shift back to healthy home cooked meals and family interaction, and more purposeful movement in our lives less sitting and more movement where exercise is the rule and not the exception.

  2. says

    Most people already know soda is bad but they still drink it so I doubt a label will make any difference..though if more and more people point out to the bad nutrition maybe people notice. I agree with you a lot of us have no control over the quantity…I could never stop at one glass I always ended up finishing the entire big coke bottle.These days I still have an occasional coke but stick to one glass or less…
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  3. babbalou says

    I’ve never been much of a soda drinker. I agree that adding warnings probably won’t accomplish much. Having said that, I think there’s a significant difference between a restaurant dessert, no matter how decadent or caloric, and soda. And that’s the frequency of consumption. The people I’ve worked with who drink soda all drink multiple bottles a day. I would be willing to bet most would think 2 a day is “moderation.” I used to enjoy desserts in restaurants (can’t anymore due to allergies) and it was a couple times a year treat. I’m not defending adding 500 calories or so onto an already over ample meal. But my experience in maintenance has been it’s not the occasional calorie splurge that causes your weight to go up – it’s the daily habits. And for most soda drinkers, it’s a daily habit.

  4. says

    I agree that a warning label is not going to change the habits of regular soda drinkers. During one of my previous weight loss attempts I switched from regular to diet soda to save calories and before I knew it I was consuming at least two canned diet sodas a day. I’m glad to say that I’ve finally kicked the habit. I’ve had one diet soda in all of 2014 and I felt so sick to my stomach after I vowed to never do it again.

    I think the bigger problem contributing to obesity is that people are uneducated about food and a warning label will not fix that problem. People will do anything to lose weight: cut out all fats, all sugars, all carbs and have results that aren’t sustainable. Food addictions begin at a young age and the plethora of vending machines in school cafeterias and the food generally served in school just adds to the problem. The one thing most people aren’t willing to do is eat a healthy, well balanced diet that’s rich in healthy fat, carbs, and protein, and all the education tells us is the best way to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight throughout your life.

    I like to believe that education is the key, but during my time in nursing school we read a lot of research about how patient education doesn’t actually help all that much either. Sad, but that’s what the studies say. My personal opinion is that the only way to get people to stop eating junk is to make it more expensive than healthy foods, and honestly, I’m not even sure if that will work.
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  5. says

    You know, for the longest time I thought the idea of those labels were just stupid. We know. WE KNOW! But then I started thinking that maybe it’s not for the people buying it now. I thought a bit more about the younger generation coming up and when they start making buying decisions on their own. They ask questions. When they see something highlighted on the front of something, they actually DO stop and take note. They might still buy it, or they may not, but it makes an impression. I know that a warning label on a bottle of soda would make my daughter take a step back from it and ask why, and maybe that’s the first step in making a difference here; making the younger generation ask what’s going on.

    Maybe it won’t change anything, and I’m certainly sick of all sorts of obnoxious labeling, but if a catch phrase about not eating just one can stick in their mind and create a suggestion in regards to that, why not a warning too? It works both ways. It may be too late for the grown-ups, but maybe not for the next generation. Just a thought.

    One last thing though: we need to be careful about too many warnings. They need to actually matter or they ALL cease to matter together because everyone becomes numb to seeing them.
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    • says

      And for the record, we don’t drink soda or juice and never have. But my daughter is old enough now to make her own decisions when she’s out and about and things have come up with questions she has (for example, about those energy drinks all her friends have all the time, etc.)
      Kyra recently posted…On PauseMy Profile

  6. says

    I think they have to start somewhere. It is the first step. A second step would be to ban in schools. Maybe someday CVS will stop selling it.

    I have never thought warning labels were (actually) meant to deter behaviors. I think they are mainly there to protect the manufacturers. You can’t sue us if you are dying of lung cancer, because we warned you on every package of cigarette’s you ever smoked (after 1970).

  7. says

    I pledged when I started my journey to get healthy, that I would not drink my calories. As an avid devotee of regular Pepsi for many years, this was a change I knew I needed to make. With the exception of maybe four or five mixed drinks (bloody mary’s!) over the last four years, I have stuck to that pledge. Warning labels will not work, however, I know of no one who has decided to change their lifestyle, get healthy, and/or lose weight, because they read a label on anything.
    That being said, and reiterating that I used to drink a lot of Pepsi, and never really liked Coke much, when they have those commercials on the Olympics of that cold glass BOTTLE of Coca Cola, it looks really really good. I think those advertising companies know what they’re doing.
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  8. Janis says

    I don’t know if warning labels make a difference themselves, but they ARE a sign of changing times, so I don’t mind seeing them. I doubt that the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarettes is directly responsible for the precipitous drop in smoking in the US, but I think it was a sign of the changing attitudes that caused the drop. Consequently, I don’t really mind. It’s not a bad thing, and it’s a positive sign of attitudes changing.

    And when it comes to childhood obesity and kids coming straight out of the womb and into a life of poor eating, they might help. We know that these things aren’t right for us and our kids, but the kids themselves don’t know it, not yet. A little kid who drinks a soda might hear from their parents, “Oh, it’s fine! It won’t hurt him!” but if he or she sees that label on the thing, it might cut the parent off from making the same poo-pooing remarks.

  9. says

    I dont think a label is going to help at all. Just like the labels on cigarettes as you mentioned. People need to be educated and actually have to care enough to get educated about food. I think when there starts to be lots of media on how bad all these additives, high fructose corn syrup are. When people start seeing that they cause a whole host of problems some of them might begin to care. But for the most part – they dont care because it is about instant gratification and apathy. And I doubt the huge food conglomerations will let the people see just how bad their food is for us.

  10. says

    People know it’s not the healthy choice. If they choose to drink it, let them. A warning label is a waste of time. The bigger issue is government’s dietary guidelines. Rather than passing useless laws, govt should look at it’s own culpability…hello dietary guidelines.
    Dot2Trot recently posted…Food ‘Experts’ Wrong AgainMy Profile

  11. says

    This is a debate that I have with my students (they’re medical students) — about putting warning labels on foods. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have the labels. At least you can’t say you weren’t ‘warned’. The thing is, as your title says, it’s something we already know. Well, at least a lot of people already know. I don’t think a change in habits will come from the label. It has to come from an intrinsic desire to change. At the very least, it may just make a few people stop and think and make a healthier choice. It’s a start.
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