Children and Soda

I was riding the bus home to Cambridge last week, when a family of three got on.  There was a mother and her two daughters, and each of them carried a huge box of fried chicken and a can of Coca-Cola to go along with it.  They sat down and proceeded to eat their chicken along the ride and finish off their Coca-Colas.  Normal situation (except for the eating on the bus situation, gross.) except that the little girls couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old. And there they were, finishing off 120 calories of high-fructose corn syrup.

Now, this is America and I do believe we have the right to do as we please as long as our desires don’t infringe on the civil liberties or rights of others, so you could make the argument that I can’t be upset about these little girls drinking full cans of Coca-Cola because they can do what they want.  But it’s not like we let have little kids smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.  We certainly don’t let them ride motorcycles or drive cars.  And why?  Because it’s unsafe and puts their health at risk.

So why not soda?  Soda is a leading contributor to obesity, which in turn is a leading contributor to quite a few of the top ten causes of death in America, namely heart disease and diabetes.  Having just one soda a day can increase your risk of developing diabetes by 26% and this rate is even higher in children and youth.  Soda also contains phosphorus which can deplete bone density, especially in young girls, increasing their risk for broken bones and for osteoporosis later in life. If you want to see more studies proving that soda is bad for you, Harvard did a great job compiling them here.

Diet sodas are even worse: aspartame is a brain toxin and an endocrine disruptor.  Diet soda can actually increase your appetite for sugary foods because you’ve tricked your body into thinking you were consuming something sweet and it’s waiting for the calories to show up in your stomach.  So they do: in the form of over-eating.

So, my question to then is: should we be limiting the sale and consumption of soda the same way we limit the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes?  Should there be a certain age where you’re allowed to purchase soda?  More importantly, do you think it would make a difference?  Let me know in the comments!  I’d love to hear what you think!

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