Should Soda Have a Warning Label?

Research shows that the sugar in drinks can contribute to serious health problems. Would detailing these risks on the packaging save lives—or is it a misguided attempt to solve America's obesity problem? 

Powerful billboards, inescapable advertisements, celebrity endorsements—the soda industry spends millions of dollars every year trying to get Americans to buy sugary drinks, even though it knows just how dangerous they are. That’s why we need warning labels! They wouldn’t tell consumers what they can and can’t drink, but they would arm them with research-proven facts—and force the beverage industry to be transparent about its products.

The truth is, our society’s obsession with soda has already taken a devastating toll on our health. In fact, a recent study from Tufts University found that sugary drinks are linked to 184,000 deaths a year from obesity-related causes like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Most people already know that these beverages aren’t the healthiest, but many don’t fully understand the horrific consequences for their bodies. That ignorance makes it easier for them to keep drinking when they’re thirsty and there’s an ice-cold soda within reach. If forced to read a warning every single time they picked up a can, however, they might start thinking differently.

I realize that soda packages already have nutrition facts on the label, but consumers need more context. What use is seeing that a drink has 39 grams of sugar if people don’t know their recommended daily limit? More detailed warnings are needed to open people’s eyes to the harm they are inflicting upon themselves. 

The warnings would also deter parents from giving kids soda, which is especially important to combat our country’s high childhood obesity rates. Think about it: Would you be eager to hand your kid a bottle that clearly outlines how dangerous its contents are? 

Convincing Americans to consume less soda might be a long battle, but warning labels are an important first step. It’s time to call out the soda industry on its role in one of the worst health epidemics of our time—and give consumers the information they need to make better decisions.

5 Fast Facts: Sugary Drinks

1. Research shows that almost one-third of Americans drink at least one sugary drink daily.

2. Teens and young adults are more likely to consume sugary drinks than any other age group.

3. People who don’t sleep enough, don’t exercise much, and don’t eat well are more likely to drink soda frequently.

4. One study found that drinking at least one to two cans of soda a day increases your risk of diabetes by 26 percent.

5. Teens watch an average of 406 ads a year for sugary drinks.

Let's be real: Just about everyone already realizes that soda isn’t a healthy option. Forcing companies to put labels on the packaging is a waste of valuable government time and resources. Instead, we should be focusing on educating people about how to live all-around healthier lives and investing in programs that help them do exactly that.

Of course soda is bad for your body, but so are plenty of other foods and beverages, such as ice cream, potato chips, and sugary cereals—and we aren’t talking about putting warnings on any of those. Realistically, there’s just no way we can label every single thing that’s potentially unhealthy, so why are we choosing to single out soda? 

If someone develops a medical condition like diabetes or heart disease, it’s possible that soda may have contributed to it. But research has shown that sugary drinks are linked to poor diet quality, so the individual was probably making other unhealthy lifestyle choices as well. That’s why we’d be better off teaching that person how to read the nutrition facts on food and beverage packaging and helping them access exercise programs.

While drinking soda regularly isn’t good for you, it’s also important to remember that most foods and drinks can fit into a healthy lifestyle in moderation. That means that if you generally eat well and get all of the necessary nutrients, your body won’t be destroyed if you occasionally have a small soda as a treat. Warning labels ignore this, thereby suggesting that drinking a can of soda every once in a while is just as terrible as consuming several bottles a day. We’re better off learning portion-control skills and understanding that it’s fine to indulge occasionally! 

Ultimately, having one scapegoat for our country’s health problems isn’t the answer. Instead of shaming someone for consuming a sugary beverage, the government should look into methods that would truly encourage everyone to live healthier, happier lives.

THIS IS YOUR BODY ON SODA

Sugary beverages hurt your health—both now and later.

YOUR TEETH ROT.

Acids and sugar in the drink soften the enamel on teeth, allowing cavities to form. (Gross fact: Some experiments have shown that a tooth soaked in cola for two days would turn fully brown—ew!)

YOUR BLOOD SUGAR SPIKES.

The sudden rising and dropping of your sugar levels could cause a headache. Plus, sugar can mess with the parts of your brain that keep your mood stable, so you might feel anxious or depressed.

YOU GAIN WEIGHT.

A body of research has linked drinking sugar-sweetened beverages with obesity. One possible reason: Those extra liquid calories don’t fill you up like food does, so you still eat just as much.

YOUR INSULIN LEVELS SURGE.

Insulin is a hormone that scrambles to move sugar out of your blood. Over time, these surges can raise your risk for diabetes (a condition in which your body can't properly turn food into energy).

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