When child obesity rates are in the news, it’s easy to place blame. One common target is the soda industry. With drinks packed with sugar and marketing directly aimed at children, it’s easy to see them as the villain.
In fact, the World Public Health Nutrition Association, World Obesity Federation, Consumers International and many other health initiatives from around the world are currently lobbying soda giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to stop marketing to children in lower-income countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
Because soda companies have recently increased advertising targeting children and adolescents in these areas, experts predict increased numbers of children (and adults) with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more.
Dr. Dirk, a Bariatric Surgeon in Dallas, TX, sees things a little differently. Sure, it would be helpful if soda marketing wasn’t directly aimed at kids, but at the end of the day, it’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure their children are eating healthfully. Being vigilant about what your child eats not only helps them avoid childhood obesity, but also teaches them lifelong healthy habits.
“I understand the concern and the natural urge to demand social responsibility from large corporations,” Dr. Dirk says. “But it is much more important for parents to recognize that soda consumption for children should be limited.”
Once parents understand and enforce this, the advertising won’t matter. Parents can teach children about nutrition and help them understand how to make healthy choices for themselves as they get older.
Another huge factor in this conversation is the amount of outside or physical activity children get. As it becomes more acceptable for kids to stay inside playing video games and watching TV all day, it is harder for them to maintain a healthy weight, soda or no soda.
“Sugary soda consumption in children combined with limited outdoor physical activity leads to obesity, with its present and future attendant health risks and problems,” Dr. Dirk says. “To all parents, I recommend carefully watching your child’s soda, candy and junk food intake and their outside play time.”