Matt Weir / The Collegian
Study explores the link between soda consumption and obesity
A recent study published by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy suggests that a high rate of soda consumption in California may be contributing to rising obesity rates.
The study is being promoted by the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP), which is housed at California State University, Fresno.
The research shows high rates of soda and other sweetened beverage consumption by adults 18 and over, adolescents ages 12-17, and children ages 2-11 in California, separated by county. The data includes sodas, and sweetened drinks like fruit punch and Sunny Delight, but not diet sodas.
According to Brandi Banks-Bey, communications specialist for the CCROPP, the study was published based on a survey of more than 4000 adolescents, ages 12-17, and 43,000 adults. The information gathered on children ages 2-11 was collected from the most knowledgeable parent or guardian of the child. Participants were selected from every county in California, Banks-Bey said.
The data collected in the 2005 survey shows that on average in California, 62 percent of adolescents drink at least one soda per day. Forty-two percent of children and 24 percent of adults also drink at least one soda on an average day, according to the report.
The report also showed that adults who drink one or more soda per day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than adults who do not drink sodas.
Banks-Bey said that rates of both soda consumption and obesity are higher in Central Valley cities such as Fresno than in other cities across the state.
â€œWe exceed the statewide average,â€ Banks-Bey said in a phone interview.
The survey results for Fresno show that 68 percent of adolescents, 53 percent of children and 35 percent of adults in Fresno drink one or more sodas per day.
There tend to be higher rates of soda consumption in lower-income communities, according to Banks-Bey.
â€œWe have a lot of low-income communities with unhealthy drinking water, too many fast food restaurants, and too few grocery stores,â€ Banks-Bey said.
Banks-Bey feels that it is these environments that cause people to make poor dietary decisions.
â€œIn these scenarios, people are less likely to be educated about healthy eating habits as well as healthy beverage consumption,â€ Banks-Bey said.
Another major factor in high rates of soda consumption is that it is widely available, Banks-Bey said. She said that when you market beverages such as sodas toward students on campus, and make them readily available, you have to expect that the students are going to choose them.
â€œYouâ€™re more likely to get consumers to buy whatâ€™s in front of them,â€ Banks- Bey said.
Debbie Adishian-Astone, associate vice president for auxiliary operations, said that the university is making healthier beverage options readily available.
â€œWe do what we can to make sure we have visible options that are healthier,â€ Adishian-Astone said in a phone interview.
Adishian-Astone said that sodas donâ€™t dominate the vending machines on campus.
â€œWe have more Aquafina machines than we do soda machines,â€ Adishian-Astone said. She also said that she didnâ€™t have the specific numbers, but she thought that more water was sold on campus than soda.
While water was readily available in vending machines across campus, The Collegian found no instances where there were more water vending machines than soda or sport drink vending machines. In most locations, Gatorade, Aquafina, and Pepsi machines were equally dispersed.
One location, in a hallway outside the Peterâ€™s Business building, housed two aquafina machines side-by-side. The first machine sold water as expected, but the second machine sold only soda.
In other locations, such as the Kennel Bookstore and the USU Food Court, water and flavored water are sold along with energy drinks, sodas, flavored teas, and juices.
Fresno State wonâ€™t be cutting ties with sodas any time soon. This is apparent when looking at signs around campus.
For example, the sign hanging over The Bucket Grill and Pub displays four Pepsi logos and two Pepsi cups, and advertises a free soft drink as part of The Pubâ€™s new $5 menu.
The connection between Fresno State and Pepsi is mainly due to the 23-year contract that the university signed with Pepsi in 2003.
The contract is tied to the $40 million sponsorship that Pepsi gave Fresno State and the building of the Save Mart center, according to Adishian-Astone.
â€œWeâ€™re an exclusive Pepsi campus,â€ Adishian-Astone said.
But, Adishian-Astone argued that it is not necessarily this partnership that is keeping students hooked on soda.
â€œWe could not stop serving soda because we have customers who want it,â€ Adishian-Astone said.
And while Banks-Bey said she feels that studentsâ€™ desire for soda is fueled by how readily available it is, Adishian-Astone said she doesnâ€™t think this is the case.
â€œI think within the campus, we donâ€™t advertise [soda] that much,â€ Adishian-Astone said. â€œI feel that when students arrive at Fresno State, their beverage preferences are already their own. Theyâ€™re adults.â€
Andy Stephens, a student in the credential program at Fresno State, said he also doubts there is a connection between Pepsi logos and advertisements on campus and students drinking more soda.
â€œI think the majority of students at Fresno State already have their soda drinking habits formed,â€ Stephens said.
Laycie Ellis, freshman communicative disorders major, is unsure what correlation Pepsiâ€™s sponsorship to Fresno State has on students drinking sodas.
â€œI know that people drink a lot of soda in general,â€ said Ellis, who was drinking a Pepsi during the interview.
Adishian-Astone recognized that Pepsi has become an integral part of our campus.
â€œPepsi is one of our partners,â€ Adishian-Astone said. â€œWe want to make sure they are recognized appropriately.â€
Banks-Bey said the issue at hand what she calls a battle over schools.
â€œWe have to think about the health of the students, faculty and staff, particularly the students,â€ Banks-Bey said.