Shutting Down Sugar

February 9, 2017
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Sugary drinks such as Pepsi and Coke have risen to become some of the most popular drinks in the U.S over the past two decades. Unfortunately, health related problems such as diabetes are correlated to the consumption of too much sugar. Diabetes is a disease that results from a high concentration of sugar in the blood. Even though the dangers of sugary drinks are known, soft drink companies continue to spread their products throughout the world and yield significant revenues. The containers for these drinks are also responsible for multiple environmental issues, such as damaged ecosystems and resource consumption. These unhealthy drinks eventually began showing up in schools, where some students buy them despite having access to a variety of other choices. North Allegheny should limit the sugary drinks they sell at lunch, because child obesity is too important, water fountains are more environmentally friendly, and water is healthier.

To begin with, child obesity is a rising problem due to products such as sugary drinks. The number of children with obesity has grown to an alarming rate with “more than a third of U.S. children ages 2–19 are overweight or obese”(“Childhood”2011). This can be problematic for individuals to deal with throughout their lives, because obese children living unhealthy lifestyles are more likely to stay the same and get diabetes. According to a study done by Harvard involving sugary drinks,”Drinking one 12-ounce serving per day increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 15%”(“Sodas”). This increased risk, however, also includes people who are considered healthy. Therefore, sugary drinks should be limited not only to prevent diabetes but also to prevent or reduce obesity. Other than diabetes, obesity opens up several other health issues. Obesity can eventually cause increases in both blood pressure and cholesterol. These in turn increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. In a study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,“70% of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor, and 39% had two or more”(“Childhood”2015). Cardiovascular disease can result in life or death scenarios, such as heart attacks. Lifestyle will also change inconveniently with the need to buy and take medications. Children who are obese are also subject to psychological stress. These include behavioral problems, depression, and low self esteem (“Childhood”2015). A combination of all of these problems can lead to worse results in school, if the student is no longer motivated to perform well. Does it still make sense to sell sugary drinks at school? Ultimately, an increase in healthy lifestyles by limiting sugary drinks will help decrease obesity and promote a higher quality of life.

Continuing with health-related concerns, one drink that contains no sugar and has many benefits from drinking is water. Water can act as a substitute beverage to help cut weight. In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois, “The researchers found that the participants who drank the most plain water in their daily diet consumed fewer total calories, drank fewer sweetened beverages, and took in less total fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt, and cholesterol”(Marshall). People looking to improve their diet can therefore replace sugary drinks with water, which can significantly reduce their calorie intake and lower weight. Many healthy foods, primarily fruits and vegetables, already contain rich amounts of water. Next, water makes up the majority of the human body. A normal body should be made of a “water percentage slightly over 50 percent … body fat contains approximately 10 percent water, while muscle is approximately 75 percent water”(Lee). Drinking water can help replenish the water lost through processes such as sweating, urinating, and breathing. People are what they eat and drink. Lastly, water is essential in allowing the kidney to properly transport fluids. For example, blood urea nitrogen is a toxin that is transported out by the kidney. However, lack of water can impede the kidney from removing blood urea nitrogen, resulting in an abnormal level of concentration. The lack of fluids will eventually lead to the creation of kidney stones and can be discomforting to pass. Therefore, an adequate amount of water is needed, so the kidney can perform its function in cleansing the body. Accordingly, water is important in several purposes including improving diet, maintaining body water composition, and cleansing the body from toxins.
Next, utilizing the school’s water fountain is more environmentally friendly than buying the sugary drinks that come in bottles and cans. There is a lot of energy consumption and damage  inflicted due to can production. To obtain the aluminum needed for cans, bauxite ore is mined and refined into alumina with non renewable resources such as oil. Alumina then needs to be smelted into aluminum ingots (“All”). To receive the electricity needed for this process, however, hydroelectric dams are often built to provide the energy. These dams can hurt river ecosystems by increasing the rate of water evaporation and hurting the wildlife (“Environmental”). Production of beverage containers is also harmful to the atmosphere. “An estimated 11.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions were also produced in the process of replacing the 153 billion bottles and cans not recycled in 2010”(“All”). Greenhouse gas emissions can be harmful for the earth by trapping heat in the atmosphere, which increases its temperature. They can also make the earth a less safe place from the sun. The Earth’s atmosphere under normal circumstances reflects the sun’s harmful radiation, but greenhouse gas emissions allow radiation to reach the earth more easily. Next, beverage containers make up a large portion of the litter hurting the environment. The use of water fountains would eliminate the need to properly discard beverage containers. In 2005, “an estimated 146 billion containers ended up as litter … This figure includes approximately 54 billion aluminum cans; 52 billion plastic bottles”(Vaughn). Litter can harm the environment in multiple ways. It can be transported by rainwater from the streets to river ecosystems, where the waters can become polluted. Litter on the ground can also serve as habitats for bacteria that threaten public health. At the same time, innocent animals nearby could be harmed from the careless humans’ trash. A smaller use of beverage containers and use of fountains would help keep the waters more clear, the atmosphere more normal, and the streets more clean. One small push on the water fountain’s button could reduce enormous piles of trash.
Some may argue that restricting the sale of sugary drinks is limiting students’ ability to make decisions as young adults. It would be degrading to grow up yet still be told what should and should not be consumed. After all, it is the students’ own decisions to choose what they eat and drink, and the school should not be making these decisions for them. However, North Allegheny should take measures into their own hands when child obesity is an issue, and they are a vendor for foods and drinks. The director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity Joe Thompson said, ”You can't say to a family 'eat more fruits and vegetables' when the only stores in the neighborhood sell six kinds of chips … , but not a single piece of fresh produce”(“Childhood”2011). When there is an important issue such as child obesity, letting families make their own decisions will not solve anything, or the issue would have never existed in the first place. Instead, there needs to be change so that students can make healthy choices. Outsider factors such as North Allegheny should step in and contribute by restricting sugary drinks during school lunches. In doing so, the idea of sugary drinks being harmful would be more reinforced in a setting outside of home.

Sugary drinks present many issues, but North Allegheny can restrict these harmful beverages and lower risks of obesity, lessen the harm on the environment, and promote the consumption of water. Sugary drinks is a culprit behind the rising issue of child obesity. Obesity is a gateway for multiple lifetime diseases such as diabetes. The containers for beverages pose harmful consequences on land, water, and the atmosphere while using limited resources. Water is a drink that contains no sugar and is important in maintaining a healthy body. Everyone wants to live a healthy life. Let North Allegheny’s superintendent of schools know why restricting the sugary drinks sold at lunch should be in their interests. 



Works Cited
"All About Beverage Container Waste." Container Recycling Institute. Container Recycling           Institute, 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
“Childhood Obesity.” Issues & Controversies. Infobase Learning, 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 21 Nov.     2016.
"Childhood Obesity Causes & Consequences." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.          Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 June 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
"Environmental Impacts of Hydroelectric Power." Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of        Concerned Scientists, 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
Lee, Matthew. "Healthy Body Water Percentage." Livestrong. Livestrong, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 23  Nov. 2016.
Marshall, Mallika. "The Big Benefits of Plain Water." Harvard Health. Harvard University, 2016.          Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
"Sodas and Other Sugar-sweetened Beverages Linked to Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes,      Metabolic Syndrome." Harvard T.H. Chan. Harvard University, 2016. Web. 21    Nov. 2016.
Thomas, Mary Jo. "Obesity." Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society, ABC-CLIO,   2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Vaughn, Jacqueline. "Beverage Bottles and Cans." Issues: Understanding Controversy and     Society, ABC-CLIO, 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
"Water and Nutrition." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control     and Prevention, 05 Oct. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Zelman, Kathleen M. "6 Reasons to Drink Water." WebMD. WebMD, 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.

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