While athletes from all over the world are in Rio trying to set athletic records, Coca-Cola is trying to use the Olympic Games to set sales records.
In the coming weeks, Coke will be smothering broadcasts of the Games with endless commercials for its sugary drinks, as well as using social media to engage young people. That kind of advertising seeks to achieve “innocence by association”—associating the company and its products with the uplifting spirit of the Games and with athletic excellence. And we can be sure that Coke’s sunny ads will mask the fact that sugar drinks are a major cause of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. (A 2015 studyconcluded that sugar drinks cause about 184,000 deaths annually.)
Sugar sweetened beverages don’t seem so sweet when you consider their harmful effects on health.
Consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages – fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweetened teas, and energy drinks – may be on the decline, but sugary drinks are still the number one source of calories and added sugars in the American diet. A typical 12-ounce can of regular cola contains 9 ½ teaspoons of added sugars; a 20-ounce bottle contains 16 teaspoons of sugar.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends only 12 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The American Heart Association recommends even less: that men limit themselves to nine teaspoons of added sugars per day, and that women limit themselves to six teaspoons per day. In either case, one sugary drink a day puts you at or over the recommended level.
CSPI teamed up with legendary ad man Alex Bogusky, singer Jason Mraz, and The Butler Bros. This short film featuring an animated family of polar bears. USA Today said “this is the video Coca-Cola doesn’t want you to see”.
Health risks of sugar drinks
Consumption of sugar drinks can lead to:
- Obesity. Caloric beverages contribute to weight gain more than solid foods because the body doesn’t compensate fully for beverage calories by reducing calorie intake from other foods. Adults who drink one sugary drink or more per day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than non-drinkers, regardless of income or ethnicity.
- Diabetes. Persons consuming sugary drinks regularly—one to two cans a day or more—have a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely consume such drinks. The risks are even greater for young adults.
- Tooth decay. Soda consumption is associated with nearly twice the risk of cavities in children and increases their likelihood in adults. Untreated cavities can lead to pain, infection, and tooth loss.
- Heart disease. Men who drink one can of a sugary drink per day have a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consume sugary drinks. A related study in women found a similar sugary drink–heart disease link.
A collaboration with Alex Bogusky, Lumenati, and Daughters & Howard, this video appropriates Coca-Cola’s legendary “Hilltop” ad and features real people suffering from real soda-related diseases.
Beverage companies pour a lot of money into making their products household names.
- Children and adolescents. Youth consumption of carbonated beverages increases by almost 10 percent with every 100 additional television ads viewed.
- Communities of color. African-American children and teens saw more than twice as many television ads for sugar drinks than their white peers in 2013. Hispanic Americans are 20 percent more likely to be obese than white Americans and 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes. Ironically, the beverage industry disproportionately targets its marketing at low-income people and people of color.
- Low- and middle- income countries. While soft-drink sales have decreased in wealthier nations, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been making up for declining profits by investing heavily in low- and middle-income countries. And the expansion is coming at the expense of people’s lives, from Central America to South America, Southeast Asia to South Africa.
Does soda = happiness? We built an actual Happiness Stand in downtown Denver and filmed the stunned reactions of passersby who learned the truth about what’s in their soda.
What can you do?
If you drink soda, cut back or stop. Diet soda is not without its risks, but does not promote diabetes, weight gain, or heart disease in the way that full-calorie sodas do.
Act now to ask restaurants to take soda off kids’ menus, support sugary drink warning labels, or urge cities, states and Congress to levy excise taxes on sugar sweetened beverages and invest the revenues in programs to promote the health of their communities and the nation.
Customizing labels is fun… but Coke shouldn’t customize the truth about their products. #ShareHonesty
Coming Together: Translated. Coke claimed it was “part of the solution” in an ill-conceived ad campaign called “Coming Together.” CSPI decided to translate Cokespeak into English.