County takes aim at sugary drinks

High fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice. It doesn’t matter what it’s labeled or what type of sugar it is, sugar is sugar is sugar. And a countywide effort is working to inform consumers that drinking too much sugar, particularly hidden in drinks, puts their health at risk.

The effort urging consumers to rethink their drinks is focused around the message and question: “You wouldn’t eat 22 packs of sugar. Why are drinking them?” It aims to increase awareness about how much sugar people drink and the negative impacts drinking even one sugary drink a day has on a person’s health.

The campaign is funded through the $3.5 million Community Transformation Grant, a highly competitive grant awarded to Sonoma County in 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The project is in collaboration with Alameda, San Francisco and San Mateo counties to make consumers aware about how to prevent chronic health problems, including obesity and Type 2 diabetes. The $150,000 campaign fits within Sonoma County’s goal to be the healthiest California county by 2020, with obesity prevention efforts at the forefront of achieving this goal.

Sonoma County Department of Health Services will use ads and posters to target consumers, particularly Latinos, teens and low-income families who are most susceptible to pro-sugary drink advertising and whose health has increasingly worsened in recent years due in part to poor beverage selections, according to county Healthy Beverage Initiative and Healthy Food Outlet Project Coordinator Jasmine Hunt. The campaign cites Latino children saw one-and-a-half times more ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks, and Latino youth saw twice as many ads compared to teens of other ethnicities.

Sugar is processed differently when a person drinks it as opposed when they eat it, Hunt explained. “Those who drink even one sugary drink a day are more likely to be affected by so many different health concerns (such as) weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and tooth decay.”

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