Campaign to help kids in Maryland combat obesity

Education favored over ban on supersized drinks

BALTIMORE - We consume it by the truckload.

The average American puts down 46 gallons of sugar-sweetened beverages each year, and with the help of their parents, some kids are shifting away from soda.
 
"They don't like soda so they only let me drink one day... one soda every week," said Quincy Cortez, a third grader.

"Do you miss it?  What was your favorite one?" we asked 9-year old Daron Gross.
"All of them."
'You like them all?"
He nodded his head in the affirmative.

More than 200 students at Roland Park Elementary Middle School have signed a pledge to wean themselves on their own---cutting out soda for 30 straight days this summer.
    
The Co-Chair of a regional Wellness Committee, Dr. Peter Beilenson, says it’s a more effective way to reach kids, than the proposed ban on supersized drinks in New York.
 
"I don't think it's terribly useful,” said Beilenson, “For one thing, you can get around the 16 ounce amount by buying four 14-ounce drinks.  I think it does lend itself to the nanny state complaint that is often made about public health, and I actually think that educating the public will push the market to respond."

Getting companies to shift from sugar-laden drinks to water or to healthier options may take time, but so will this campaign.
    
You can tell kids they drink 40-pounds of sugar a year in their drinks, but it’s not always as simple as it seems.
 
"You have to drink soda for 30 days," said Cortez before her classmates corrected her, "You can't drink soda.  You can't!"

In fact, even hauling off Roland Park’s cold drinks machine outside the building doesn’t mean the one in the teachers’ lounge will go… underscoring the difficulty in cutting out the sweet stuff.
 
"Lots of parents are trying to do this, but it's not just parents telling their kids what to do, but also demonstrating themselves by not drinking lots of soda and lots of sugar-sweetened beverages," said Beilenson.

If you’re wondering why health advocates are just targeting sodas, Beilenson says there’s no other product---not burgers, potato chips or even candy, that contribute to obesity like sodas do.   

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