30 September 2010

Coca-Cola partners with sports franchises to combat childhood obesity, quite ironic

A newly formed partnership between the Coca-Cola Company and Washington D.C. based professional sports franchises (Capitals, Nationals, Mystics, Redskins and Wizards) to battle childhood obesity may appear to be noble on the surface, but in reality it’s nothing more than another example of a corporation offering a solution to a problem it helped create.

The initiative called “Get the Ball Rolling” aims to educate “local area youth about the importance of physical activity and a balanced diet.” Here’s the $10,000 question, will part of this education include teaching the participating children to avoid sugary soda drinks?

In the 2009 landmark study “Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its link to Obesity in California” researchers from the UCLA Center for Health Policy and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy found a strong correlation between soda consumption and obesity.

The findings revealed that “adults who drink a soda or more per day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight than those who do not drink sodas, regardless of income or ethnicity.”

The study also showed that young children and adolescents indulge in sugary drinks quite frequently, to say the least:

Among children, the study found that 40 percent of young children (2-11 years of age) are drinking at least one soda or sugar-sweetened beverage every day. Adolescents (12-17) represent the biggest consumers, with 62 percent (over 2 million youths) drinking one or more sodas every day – the equivalent of consuming 39 pounds of sugar each year in soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

In case you were wondering, 39 pounds of sugar equates to an extra 187 calories per day or 68,462 calories per year. Yes it’s most definitely an issue.

The list of illnesses and diseases caused by obesity, especially childhood obesity, are practically a who’s who of serious maladies. From type-2 diabetes to high blood pressure to stroke, by now if the public at large lacks awareness of the seriousness of weight issues then quite possibly it never will.

To that point Coca-Cola deserves some credit as any attempt to enlighten young people to the perils of obesity is at least somewhat commendable.

But where do we as society draw the line between corporate responsibility and profit? And are initiatives like “Get the Ball Rolling” really sincere efforts or nothing more than red herrings?

Eric Fortney | @elfortney
Eric is the co-founder & executive editor of This Dish Is Veg. In addition to his TDIV work, Eric is a father of three, runner, and lover of the outdoors.

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/fatmandy