Hawaiian health department warns against sugary drinks

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United states, Obesity

The Hawaiian health department has launched a campaign to discourage consumption of sugary beverages, which it claims is strongly correlated with obesity.

The public awareness campaign, launched through the Kauai and Maui District Health Offices’ Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) initiative, warns Hawaiians “Don’t Drink Yourself Fat”. ​The initiative’s media campaign is funded by a $3.4m federal grant, which is also being used to promote consumption of locally grown produce and to encourage physical activity.

DOH Kauai district health officer Dr. Dileep Bal said that Americans now consume an average of 200 to 300 more calories a day than 30 years ago.

“Nearly half of these extra calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks,” ​Bal said. “Research points to the strong correlation between consumption of sugar-loaded beverages and obesity with its many associated health problems. We know from our experience with anti-tobacco efforts that targeted media campaigns work and are a key component not only in raising awareness, but in changing social norms.”

Hawaiian health officials point out that the state’s adult obesity rate more than doubled from 1995 to 2009, from 10.8 percent of the population to 22.9 percent – and in 2003 Hawaii spent $290m on obesity-related medical costs. The state health department also said that the average American adult drinks 46 gallons of sugar-sweetened beverages each year.

However, the American Beverage Association, which represents the interests of the US beverage industry, has long argued that it is unfair to target soft drinks as the sole cause of obesity.

The association's director of communications Chris Gindlesperger told FoodNavigator-USA: "It's an attempt to bash one industry and blame them for the obesity epidemic, but when you look at the total calories from all sugar-sweetened soft drinks...they only count for 7 percent of the average American caloric intake."

He added that the beverage industry is "leading the way on doing its part to address obesity"​, citing its 'Clear on Calories' front-of-pack calorie labeling initiative, and its moves to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from schools.

Commenting on the initiative’s funding, state health director Loretta Fuddy said: “This grant is all about making healthy choices be the easy choices. This will help us in giving the people of Hawaii more opportunities to choose healthier options and enhance the overall well being of our communities and islands.”

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