Amid growing concern about obesity and the role of sugary drinks in exacerbating a major U.S. health issue, Coca-Cola weighed in Monday through an ad campaign scheduled to begin airing on major cable networks.
The two-minute spot, titled “Coming Together,” highlights the Atlanta-based company’s efforts to lower the caloric content of its drinks by providing consumers with “180 low- and no-calorie options,” ranging from Dasani water to Coke Zero. It also discusses the role that individuals and all Americans play in the obesity problem, such as increasing exercise or lowering our overall caloric intake – not just soft drinks.
The ad began airing during the highest-rated shows on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, the Associated Press reported Monday.
The Coca-Cola response comes as New York City prepares to enact a ban in March on the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, sports arenas and movie theaters – the first such move in the nation. As a fitness trainer, I blogged last September that I believe the New York City effort is a step in the right direction toward better nutrition, even as others criticized the ban as overreaching government.
According to U.S. health research, almost two in three adults are overweight or obese, and some health experts predict that half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030.
Excess sugar in sodas – and many sugary drinks and snack foods – provide “empty” calories. A 16-ounce bottle of soda can pack 55 grams of sugar – or about 22 sugar cubes; a can of soda, around 16 sugar cubes. So in this context, all calories are not necessarily created equal.
Empty calories provide few healthy carbohydrates, proteins or fats required in a balanced diet. When not burned as energy, excessive calories are stored as fat. For people with a two- or three-can soda habit per day, it’s easy to see how weight can get out of control. Should the reduction of sugary drinks be our only target? Absolutely not. The focus should be on increasing exercise and reducing the “big three” food saboteurs – excess fat, sugar and salt.
Coca-Cola does have options for consumers looking to lower their sugar intake. Focusing on the overconsumption of sugary drinks isn't the only step, but it's a good first step. As the commercial states, only by working together – through public policy, smarter individual decision-making around food and drink choices, increased exercise, and increased effort from soft drink and fast food manufacturers and other efforts – can Americans expect to get a handle on a weighty public health issue like obesity.