Upper Arlington

'Celebration of pop' not a good use of resources

To the Editor:

As a UA parent and an Ohio State University assistant professor who serves as a field specialist in youth nutrition for Ohio State University Extension, I am concerned about a recent program sponsored by the UA Public Library called "Pop for Teens."

Promoted as a "celebration of pop," this program involved soda tasting and production. Its poster pictured 11 brightly colored beverage containers, including high-calorie, high-caffeine beverages marketed to youth.

This programming is not consistent with widespread health concerns about over-consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among teens.

Soft drinks and other high-sugar beverages are now the primary source of added sugars in the American diet, and sugary soft drinks are the food category most strongly linked to increased rates of obesity and risk for diabetes.

A typical 12-ounce pop contains about 40 grams of sugar -- equal to 10 teaspoons -- and provides about 150 calories with no nutritional value.

Approximately 77 percent of adolescents consume at least one sugary beverage daily, and sugary beverages contribute, on average, 10 percent of teens' caloric intake. Research indicates that for each additional sugary drink children consume, their likelihood of developing obesity increases by about 60 percent.

Just over half of children's (ages 2-19) calories from sugary beverages are consumed in homes, and the other half are provided in community settings, including restaurants, recreational facilities and libraries. Among 24 community-level strategies for obesity prevention, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control singles out sugary beverages as the only food specifically targeted for reduced consumption.

Numerous campaigns such as "Re-Think Your Drink," "Kick the Can," "Soda-Free Summer" and Columbus Public Health's "Water First for Thirst" program support the consumption of healthier beverages.

It is disappointing to see public resources used to appeal to teens' sweet tooth without regard for serious health issues affecting them.

Carol Smathers
Upper Arlington