Here’s a question that everyone should be asking the next time they pick up a soda. Is the soda worth walking five miles or running for an hour? That’s exactly how long it would take to work off every can of soda you consume, but you probably have never thought about it in that way
Displaying caloric information in a more understandable format may lead to a sharp decline in purchase of sugary drinks, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health reports. The study was carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in low-income Baltimore neighborhoods. “People don’t really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories,” claims Sara Bleich, associate professor at the university.
When people are forced to face the physical cost of calories, they respond with healthier choices. To many Americans, calories look simply as numbers, we know roughly how many we should eat, but most of us don’t pay attention to the true cost of calories. Bleich argues that in low-income areas, this phenomenon has an even greater affect on choices made in regard to nutrition. When asked about her specific interest in these areas, she noted “heavy drug use” and “all kinds of disadvantages” would have a bearing on how informed these populations are. With so many other things to worry them, “Who the heck is going to care how many calories are in the sodas that they’re drinking?,” Bleich asks.
Signs displaying calorie information in terms of physical activity — 50 minutes of running, 5 miles of walking — were placed inside corner shops in small, predominantly poor neighborhoods in Maryland. The mostly-teen customer base either skipped the drinks all together, or chose smaller drinks. According to the study customers were purchasing, on average, 203 calories’ worth of sugar-filled beverages, after the signs went up this number dropped to 173. For such a basic experiment, this change is significant.
Our bodies need calories to function, they are nothing to fear at all, just units that measure our nutrition. In other terms, a calorie is a unit of energy, a measurement of how much fuel a food item supplies to your body. It is the energy imbalance, created by over or under-eating, and over or under-exercising that cause health problems within the body. Too many calories taken in and not enough burned creates a surplus, which leads to fat growth. Excessive fat, especially around the heart, is very dangerous as it will most likely result in fatal diseases, such as heart disease.
Many Americans suffer from obesity, but the correlation between obesity and socioeconomic class is one that holds a special cause for concern. Could it be a simple lack of knowledge keeping Americans fat? If this is the case, the new signs could help to end our infamous obesity epidemic. It is estimated that nearly 20 restaurant chains could be displaying the new signs by the beginning of next year.
(Photo courtesy of Kevin Lawver)