Coca-Cola has long been one of the leading producers in America’s favorite drink: soda. Of course, while the days of yore consisted of a soft drink on special occasions, people now consume one, two, even five or more sugary carbonated drinks each day. As a result, the soft drink industry has caught on and is attempting to clear its image. Coca-Cola, for example, will start airing ads today addressing growing concerns over the unhealthiness of soda as well as their aims to make soda somehow less terrible for people by increasing the diet options offered at most fountains. But while the ads may clear up some misinformation about soft drinks, the Coca-Cola bad soda vs. good soda argument isn’t actually all that valid.
First of all, diet soda is not necessarily healthier than regular soda. It has been linked to everything from stroke to heart disease to overeating (thus defeating the perceived purpose of the diet drink). In fact, people who drink diet soda have been proven to be generally less healthy overall than those who declined the diet options. So today, when the company begins showing their 2-minute commercials during high-rated shows on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC explaining that they have a longstanding track record of offering low-calorie sodas and that weight gain is caused by too many calories (which diet soda doesn’t have), keep in mind that there are other issues at stake in your health when you reach for a Diet Coke besides just your waistline.
In the ads which will run during “American Idol” and prior to the Superbowl, the company shows people doing several activities that could burn the “140 happy calories” each can of cola possesses. But drinking soda should really not be touted as something that everyone should think of as a casual part of their daily lives. These commercials make it sound like soft drinks are part of a balanced diet when, in fact, they should be as they were decades ago: once-in-a-while treats, like ice cream or pizza. Normalizing them as “happy calories” — a bizarre and misleading name for calories devoid of any nutrition or health benefits — is just going to confuse people into believing that they can drink a can of soda a day and, as long as they have time to go dancing, walk their dog for a while or go bowling, that’s a perfectly fine beverage to consistently consume.
But what of the rest of the soft drink besides just the empty, burnable calories? There’s still the incredible amount of sugar in each ounce to contend with as well as the chemicals that have often been criticized by food scientists, nutritionists and doctors alike. These ads are likely a reflection on the pressures of the health-conscious for change in the food industry, though Diana Garza Ciarlante, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola insists that the company is simply trying to become a part of “the issue of the times.” Unfortunately, they are a larger part of that issue than they’re willing to acknowledge, but until people stop opting for soft drinks — both diet and full-calorie — it appears that Coca-Cola won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
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