Carbonating the World
February 9, 2016 4:21 PM   Subscribe

Carbonating the World. "Overweight, obesity, and diabetes have been spreading throughout the world hand in hand with the consumption of ultra-processed foods, especially sugar-sweetened beverages. My country, Mexico, has almost the highest per capita consumption of sugary drinks in the world, where 70 percent of added-sugar consumption comes from those products. You can stand in front of any audience and ask who has a relative with diabetes, and a landscape full of hands will rise before you, revealing a tragedy that has already caught up to us."

Carbonating The World is a report released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest on the worrisome impact of soft drinks on the health of low and middle-income countries.
posted by storybored (64 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
How about a PDF warning?
posted by Chuffy at 4:35 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


98 page report. I'll wait for the movie.
posted by matt_od at 4:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Type 2 diabetes, to be specific.
posted by chinston at 4:38 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's also interesting that people in the US go to gourmet markets (now regular markets carry it as well) and buy 'Mexican' Coke, which has cane sugar instead of corn sugar, and pretend that it's healthier or better in some way. (Article is a few years old)
posted by Huck500 at 4:41 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Guardian Long Read (there's also a podcast) had a story before Christmas about how Mexico is addressing the problem with a soda tax.

Thanks for the link to the pdf of the report (my web browser opened it with no problems at all). I find it's always better to read the source of the news itself, rather than a summary written by some reporter.
posted by My Dad at 4:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's also interesting that people in the US go to gourmet markets (now regular markets carry it as well) and buy 'Mexican' Coke, which has cane sugar instead of corn sugar, and pretend that it's healthier or better in some way.

It's better in the only way that matters to my soda-buying criteria, which is that it tastes significantly better.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:47 PM on February 9, 2016 [41 favorites]


Cane sugar flavored drinks aren't healthier but they do taste different in a way many soda addicts would call "better." HFCS is really only economical in the US where corn is so heavily subsidized, and it maybe a tad worse for diabetes, but not by much.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:47 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]




Just to be clear, the problem here is actually sugar, not carbonation, right? At least, that's how it seems from the executive summary. So energy drinks are part of the problem, and it's not clear to me that diet soda is.

I'm not sure this is a great FPP, just because it's better if people read the links before commenting, and I don't think too many of us are going to read a 98-page link.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:55 PM on February 9, 2016 [9 favorites]




Just to be clear, the problem here is actually sugar, not carbonation, right?

Functionally, yes. However, the carbonization is what actually makes the drinks palatable and "refreshing". If the drinks were not carbonated, few people would drink them. So, the carbonation really does play a part in this mess.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:08 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Still, I don't like the title, because I adore seltzer water and probably drink a liter a day.
posted by uosuaq at 5:18 PM on February 9, 2016 [15 favorites]




Do just ban all carbonated sodas. Simple problem, simple solution.
posted by happyroach at 5:36 PM on February 9, 2016


>Still, I don't like the title, because I adore seltzer water and probably drink a liter a day.

I think you're safe as long as you carbonate your own seltzer. If you're buying club soda from the store it's going to have high levels of sodium.
posted by My Dad at 5:37 PM on February 9, 2016


You can take my seltzer water from my cold, dead hands.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:38 PM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


Switched to flavored unsweetened sparkling water over a year ago. No more diet soda. No more sugary soda. Haven't looked back.
posted by Karaage at 5:53 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


If the drinks were not carbonated, few people would drink them
Plain carbonated water is as "refreshing" as the sugared drinks, for many people. In fact, more so, on a really hot day, for me. I broke a 30 year beer habit by switching to plain carbonated water.
If you're buying club soda from the store it's going to have high levels of sodium.
Club soda and carbonated water are two different things.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:00 PM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's better in the only way that matters to my soda-buying criteria, which is that it tastes significantly better.

Ok, but...
posted by Huck500 at 6:00 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I haven't has a soda or sugary drink in about 7 years. I feel better. That crap is poison.
posted by ELF Radio at 6:34 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Get ready to break that nasty seltzer habit, let me introduce you to carbonic acid.

I know, I know, utterly breaks my heart too.
posted by nevercalm at 6:48 PM on February 9, 2016


Back in the McDonald's kitchen we used raw carbonated water to clean the stainless steel.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:04 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


nevercalm, the study cited by that article looked at flavored sparkling waters that were much more acidic than plain sparkling water (pH of around 3 for the flavored waters versus pH 5.5 for Perrier.) This study says "Sparkling mineral waters showed slightly greater dissolution than still waters, but levels remained low and were of the order of one hundred times less than the comparator soft drinks."
posted by fermion at 7:24 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, my teeth are fine. I'm not that worried about my teeth. Sugar intake on the other hand...

(Actually I barely drink soda or seltzer but you get the point.)
posted by atoxyl at 7:27 PM on February 9, 2016


...just ban all carbonated sodas. Simple problem, simple solution.
How's that working out for Marijuana?
posted by Hatashran at 7:41 PM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


If you're buying club soda from the store it's going to have high levels of sodium.
...
Get ready to break that nasty seltzer habit, let me introduce you to carbonic acid.

Alright, jesus christ.

First of all, the nature of seltzer water and club soda. When you force carbonate water with high pressure carbon dioxide, a weak acid is generated called carbonic acid due to its carbon content. This gives seltzer a "bite" that not everyone enjoys, so some treat it with sodium bicarbonate (i.e., bicarbonate of "soda") which neutralizes the acid by forming a buffer solution which we call "club soda." So basically you're damned if you do, damned if you don't: either high sodium or teeth-eating acid, right?

Well.

Let's address the sodium in club soda first. The average amount of sodium in a 12 oz serving of club soda is 75 mg. The US RDA of sodium, on the other hand, is 2.3 g, or 2300 mg. So you can drink about 30 glasses of club soda every single day and still stay within the doctor-recommended guidelines for sodium intake. To be fair most people get plenty of sodium elsewhere in their diet, but that doesn't change the fact that club soda gives you about 3% of the RDA per glass, and it's hardly fair to blame the soda if you exceed your limit elsewhere. Like, literally throwing away 2 of your french fries gives you enough space in your sodium budget for a glass of club soda.

OK so what about the acid? Let's look at exactly what that article claims. Carbonic acid is a weak acid that can reduce the pH to ~5.5, but "The flavorings, though, can bring the pH down, making the beverages even harsher on tooth enamel. One 2007 study in which researchers exposed human teeth to flavored sparkling waters for 30 minutes found the waters to be roughly as corrosive as orange juice." Emphasis added. Let's go to the study itself. Why, right there in the abstract it specifies that the pH range of the tested beverages was 2.74-3.34, which if you know how the pH scale works is over 100 times as acidic as the plain carbonated water at about pH 5.5. In other words, the carbonic acid itself has fuck all to do with the tooth-rotting acidity. Yet another serious misrepresentation of the underlying research in science journalism, color me shocked.

WHEREAS. Obesity is one of the largest health problems in the US right now, and has been severely increasing for decades. And consumption of sugary drinks has been strongly linked to an increase in obesity in multiple studies. Which makes plain seltzer - or even, fuck it, club soda! - significantly preferable to sugar sodas any day of the week.

If you are really, really going to drink plain flat water in place of any other beverage that includes sugar or acid (including all natural fruit juices, coffee, tea, kombucha, etc.), then fine. But otherwise: tl;dr you will pry my selzter from my cold, dead, KILLED BY SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY hands.

oh yeah p.s. you better drink the water straight out of the tap soon after you poured it, since even flat water exposed to atmospheric CO2 forms carbonic acid over a period of hours. kthxbye
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:47 PM on February 9, 2016 [59 favorites]


Yeah many sodas add e.g. phosphoric acid (I would guess citric appears as well) making them far more acidic than carbonated water if this is actually something you worry about.
posted by atoxyl at 8:09 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


A couple of years ago in the hot summer, I started drinking cranberry juice with seltzer and seltzer with flavored bitters added and enjoying it. Shortly after that, some bit flipped in my taste bud circuitry and after not liking plain seltzer for my whole life, I discovered that I suddenly liked it. I have a carbonation rig at home and most of the water I drink at home is fizzed-up tap water. And when I go out to restaurants, where I used to order some kind of regular ginger ale or lemon/lime soda or something, and I order club soda.

So, yeah, I've joined the "pry my seltzer from my cold dead hands" club.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:15 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


My friend gave up sugary sodas and beer for blood sugar reasons, but he drinks a shit-ton of sparkling La Croix. He says he's addicted to the carbonation more than he was to the sugar, caffeine, alcohol, etc
posted by infinitewindow at 8:39 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've got a 5kg tank of co2 and carbonate my own (tap) water every day.

So cheap. So delicious.

Also kicking the post-work beer habit by having two or three glasses of ice cold sparkling water instead
posted by flippant at 8:54 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


For those using a DIY carboation rig like me: just make sure it's food safe or medical grade CO2 from a homebrewing or bar supply store or something similar. Industrial grade CO2 like you can get at welding or paintball supplies may potentially contain harmful contaminants.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Firmly in the La Croix cult here.
posted by thelonius at 11:48 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


which has cane sugar instead of corn sugar, and pretend that it's healthier or better in some way.

The corn sugar used is high fructose corn syrup. Fructose has been linked to type 2 diabetes as it is processed differently by the body - without insulin. In effect it trains the cells to an even greater insulin resistance (which is what type 2 diabetes is). Fructose leads to an even lower insulin sensitivity than glucose (cane sugar). This is called metabolic syndrome. Furthermore high fructose levels lead to a higher risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, and gout.

So yes, that Mexican Coke is actually healthier (probably one should say: less harmful) than the US version.

Disclaimer: I'm not a professional, but diabetic (type 1, though), so I have to better keep informed about this stuff.
posted by ojemine at 1:21 AM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


The sugar in HFCS is about half and half fructose and glucose. Cane sugar is all sucrose. But each molecule of sucrose is just one molecule of glucose bonded to one molecule of fructose, and these get broken apart as the sucrose is absorbed by your gut; once the fructose and glucose are in your bloodstream, your liver can't tell whether they came from HFCS or cane sugar.

In other words, the metabolic differences between HFCS and cane sugar are pretty much negligible and the only real difference is in the taste.
posted by flabdablet at 1:47 AM on February 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


Carbonated sugar beverages are the Martin Shkreli of nutrition. Every time they're vilified, every other manufacturer of high carbohydrate, high glycemic load food is quietly relieved.

Withdrawal from the sugar cycle is one of the crappier aspects of managing type 2 diabetes. But almost as crappy, or just as crappy, is managing an alternative route through eating. If I think I'll want a snack when I'm not at home, I have to plan in advance every single time. And I can only turn down the damn quinoa/low fat blueberry muffin/kale smoothie/yogurt with fruit/granola bar that someone insists is healthy a few hundred times before it gets as tiring as reading a 98 page report.
posted by gnomeloaf at 5:38 AM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Next thing you'll be telling me that alcohol's bad for me.
posted by JanetLand at 5:40 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


You can stand in front of any audience and ask who has a relative with diabetes, and a landscape full of hands will rise before you, revealing a tragedy that has already caught up to us.

Does this bother anyone else? I mean, yeah, I periodically get accused of being a statistician, but it reminds me of my mom going on about how prevalent cancer is in our family and then rattling off a list of people with whom I share less than 2% of DNA in common and ignoring the size of the pool from which her hand picked artisanal data comes.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:16 AM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Next thing you'll be telling me that alcohol's bad for me.

All the bad stuff alcohol does to your liver? Fructose does the same things.
posted by flabdablet at 6:25 AM on February 10, 2016


So here's my thinking:

Diet soda is orders of magnitude better for you than regular soda.

But it's still mostly as pleasurable, and pleasure is bad, so look at that, they're complaining about carbonation instead of sugar.
posted by effugas at 6:38 AM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


...and, just to complete the thought, I see all these health obsessed stores selling aisles and aisles of massively sugared drinks, with no sucralose in sight. A fistful of sugar is still a fistful of sugar even if it came with Kumbacha.
posted by effugas at 6:39 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't like carbonation because it hurts my mouth. But I am sure that any day now, we will be informed that coffee causes cancer and my glass of wine with dinner is responsible for global warming. Actually, I think I'm already not supposed to be drinking that glass of wine, because I am potentially pre-pregnant.

But none of this has to do with the perils of big food conglomerates marketing sugar soda to developing countries.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:45 AM on February 10, 2016


Diet soda is orders of magnitude better for you than regular soda.

Uh, not really? It still contains phosphoric acid and artificial sweeteners.

But it's still mostly as pleasurable, and pleasure is bad, so look at that, they're complaining about carbonation instead of sugar.

Every little pleasure has to be paid for, for example in fecal incontinence caused by artificial sweeteners. Why was I not surprised to see fecal incontinence products marketed to Middle America in the Ladies' Home Journal? It's all that diet soda and sugar free gum.

Also, diet soda tastes gross.

But hey, de gustibus non est disputandum.
posted by tel3path at 7:11 AM on February 10, 2016


tel3path:

Yeah, it contains phosphoric acid and artificial sweeteners. It does not contain multiple fistfuls of sugar.

Sugar free gum has different sweeteners than sodas. Not going to see Malitol in Diet Mountain Dew.

Anyway, it's nice to see "Every little pleasure has to be paid for", because while that's not actually true it is in fact exactly the thought process I'm talking about.
posted by effugas at 7:23 AM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the advertising of incontinence products in Ladies' Home Journal is because their readership skews older.
posted by LindsayIrene at 7:36 AM on February 10, 2016


Finally I can ask this question without feeling weird! How do you pronounce La Croix?
posted by damo at 8:19 AM on February 10, 2016


I pronounce La Croix, the right way!
posted by Gor-ella at 8:24 AM on February 10, 2016


So, I'm the only one who gets this effect from diet soda?

OR AM I JUST THE ONLY ONE WHO ADMITS IT.
posted by tel3path at 8:44 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, and yes, these were definitely fecal incontinence products for the young and trendy. Those who see diet soda as an important part of their energetic, mountain-biking lifestyle, just... not the effects of it.
posted by tel3path at 8:46 AM on February 10, 2016


It's pronounced Lah Krwah.
posted by tel3path at 8:46 AM on February 10, 2016


Young and trendy people who read Ladies Home Journal? Anyway, most incontinence products for women are for urinary issues. Permanent physical effects from giving birth plus a short urethra means that a lot of women have urinary incontinence issues.

(My lips swell up like balloons if I eat mango. Doesn't mean I think that everyone else is lying to themselves when they say that they don't get the same effect.)
posted by LindsayIrene at 9:17 AM on February 10, 2016


Yes, I know that, but these were definitely for fecal incontinence and they were definitely marketed at the not-geriatric population. Definitely. No mistake there. I don't mean they were really being marketed at geriatrics in such a way that they could flatter themselves that they were still young and trendy. I mean they were definitely marketed at the "I'm too young to be experiencing this" demographic.

All I know is that this was happening to me intermittently a few years back and I was distraught about it until I realized it was only happening when I consumed products with artificial sweeteners, including diet soda. Since I only consumed those things intermittently it was pretty easy to spot the connection. When I stopped consuming those things I stopped having the problem.

I think it's extremely unlikely that I'm the only person in the world who experiences this effect, and most of them are probably buying designer incontinence pantyliners (they are shaped like wide butterflies) which they put in the cart next to their diet soda. Of course, this is purely unscientific speculation and I have 0 data to back it up. Nevertheless, there is enough of a market for this stuff that the company thought it was worth spending the advertising dollars.

I agree it's unlikely that people are lying to themselves that they aren't experiencing fecal incontinence when they are. It's not exactly an easy problem to ignore.
posted by tel3path at 9:31 AM on February 10, 2016


So you have a sample size of one, and happened to see adult diapers marketed in the same magazine alongside ads for diet soda, and you reached the conclusion that artificial sugars cause anal leakage based on that scant evidence? I'm a biologist, and I've seen artificial sugars blamed for pretty much every malady under the sun in the past twenty years. The only one that seems plausible to me is the correlation with obesity linked above, and causation still remains to be proven in that case, as the studies in question were observational.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:45 AM on February 10, 2016


Well, fortunately this isn't a peer reviewed journal. I'm merely expressing a hunch.

All I know is that diet soda gives me fecal incontinence, and that I can reliably avoid fecal incontinence through absence of diet soda.

I also suspect I'm not the only person in the world to experience this, and when I saw that ad for that very specifically targeted product for a very embarrassing condition in a mainstream magazine, I got the hunch that maybe diet soda was affecting others in the same way as me, but weren't noticing it because diet soda is the water we all swim in.

I'm not claiming any scientific validity for this speculation. None. I have been right several times before with exactly this kind of hunch, though.
posted by tel3path at 11:54 AM on February 10, 2016


If you do want a scholarly source, here's one which lists aspartame as a colorectal stimulant and possible cause of fecal incontinence. [1]

Likewise, even though some people don't have any negative reaction to mangoes, that doesn't mean mango hypersensitivity isn't a thing. [2]

tl;dr Diet sodas taste terrible and may give you the runs or, worse, the too-late-to-runs. If you aren't hypersensitive to aspartame, or you just like having the runs, then maybe you won't care if diet sodas have other ill effects.

[1] Mitchell, Peter J., and Edward S. Kiff. "Assessment and Investigation of Fecal Incontinence and Constipation." Contemporary Coloproctology (2012): 347.

[2] Sareen, Richa, and Ashok Shah. “Hypersensitivity Manifestations to the Fruit Mango.” Asia Pacific Allergy 1.1 (2011): 43–49. PMC. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
posted by tel3path at 12:09 PM on February 10, 2016


Not scientific at all, but the Amazon reviews for sugar free gummy bears are all about GI issues with sugar substitutes.
posted by Monochrome at 12:52 PM on February 10, 2016


The sugar in HFCS is about half and half fructose and glucose.

Depends on the HFCS. HFCS-55 is 55% fructose and 45% glucose; so, yeah, about half, but still has 10% more fructose than glucose. HFCS-80, on the other hand, is 80% fructose. Good luck figuring out which kind the ingredients list is referring to, though!
posted by KathrynT at 4:41 PM on February 10, 2016


In fairness to diet sweeteners, the gummy bear issue is very specific. Because they need something to replace the bulk and mechanical properties of sugar as well as its sweetness, they use a form of sugar that you can't digest, making it zero-calorie for you. However, these sugars can be processed by your gut bacteria, so if you gorge yourself on a lot of these gummy bears when that mass of sugar hits your gut the bacteria PAAAAR-TAAAAY! And that's why you get the dramatic rectal effects as the bacteria do what your own stomach couldn't and turn those sugars into more of themselves and gas. Sweeteners like saccharine, aspartame, and sucralose don't do that, but you also can't use them to make gummy candy unless you use some other carbohydrate to make the gummy scaffolding.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:01 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't know why I didn't think of it before. According to their youtube channel La Croix (the beverage) is pronounced "La Croy". Success! I am the only one I know in my circle who buys or drinks the stuff, so I've never had to say it out loud and feared the day I might make a fox pass trying to ask for it.
posted by damo at 5:33 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


HFCS-80, on the other hand, is 80% fructose. Good luck figuring out which kind the ingredients list is referring to, though!

If Wikipedia is to be believed, the main use of HFCS-80 is for mixing with HFCS-42 (typically used as a sucrose substitute in foods) to make HFCS-55 (typically used as a sucrose substitute in soft drinks).

In any case, most of the sweetness comes from the fructose. So if you were to encounter HFCS-80 in a food that used to contain HFCS-42, then unless the new formulation tasted noticeably different, you probably wouldn't be ingesting a hugely different dose of fructose. And it's the absolute amount of ingested fructose, rather than any kind of balance between ingested fructose and ingested glucose, that does the damage.

The differences between the total amounts of sweetening added for different markets are probably more important than whether specific markets use sucrose vs. HFCS. For example, as an Australian I simply can't stomach American candies, whose blast of sickly sweetness simply overwhelms any other flavour; I fail to understand Reese's Pieces in much the same way as a typical American would fail to understand Vegemite.

To be fair, though, there are flavours in Hershey's chocolate that absolutely need to be overwhelmed.
posted by flabdablet at 10:14 AM on February 11, 2016


Bringer Tom,

Thanks for finally, uh, breaking that down! Yes, Thoughtcrime, massive amounts of Malitol have quite reliable effects on many people.
posted by effugas at 10:46 AM on February 11, 2016


can we stop saying fecal incontinence
posted by Karaage at 11:30 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


And it's the absolute amount of ingested fructose, rather than any kind of balance between ingested fructose and ingested glucose, that does the damage.

Not always. For people with fructose malabsorption disorder or certain kinds of IBS, the fructose-glucose balance is far more important than the absolute amounts of fructose. Now, that's (probably) not relevant to the obesity or liver damage discussions, though the probable impact on gut flora might put the lie to that statement, but it is a real concern. That's one reason why the FDA rejected the Corn Refiners Association's request to be allowed to relabel "high fructose corn syrup" as "corn sugar" on ingredients labels -- "corn sugar" is a long-standing name for dextrose, which is pure glucose, and people with fructose intolerances depend on that kind of labeling for their health.
posted by KathrynT at 11:52 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


can we stop saying fecal incontinence

Okay.

Seepage
posted by flabdablet at 1:37 AM on February 12, 2016


I drink Diet Coke in all its varieties (regular, caffeine-free, lime, even orange when I am at the freestyle machine). I never get diarrhea from it. I drink one single can of Coke Zero and I have diarrhea. The same thing happens with some flavored waters with artificial sweeteners, so I assumed it was a reaction to a specific sweetener. Except Coke Zero and Diet Coke use the same sweetener, a blend of aspartame and acesulfame-K. The only difference I see in their ingredients lists is that Coke Zero has Potassium Citrate in it (the UK version has Sodium Citrate) and Diet Coke has Citric Acid.


Also, La Croix is pronounced just like St. Croix and they both rhyme with boy.
posted by soelo at 12:48 PM on February 12, 2016


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