Year In Review: 2015

2015 has been a great year! Nature’s Pulchritude wasn’t as active as I would have liked but that will improve in 2016. Nature’s Pulchritude has grown significantly in 2015 and I look forward to seeing it continue to grow in 2016! There were a lot of things I did not get a chance to show this year, mainly recipes and product reviews, but stay tuned for exciting content in 2016.

Top Posts

LabelPoise40

1) How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XXXX. Are “naturally derived” products as good as they claim? This one in particular checked out to be okay!

2) SheaMoisture & Bain Capital Partnership Controversy. This controversy was and still is a touchy subject for many SheaMoisture fans. I can see the positives and negatives of this partnership, but the old waiting game applies here and we will see how it turns out.

ZoyaMiniPreviewNP

3) Swatches: Exclusive Zoya Mini Trio. The mini trio featured exclusive colors from NYFW.

LabelPoise42

4) How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XXXXII. This Label Poise covered a fairly widely available natural hair product that touts being paraben and mineral oil free though it has a host of unfavorable ingredients.

5) Triphenyl phosphate, found in ‘eco-friendly’ nail polish, spurs worries. This was another semi-controversial subject for many nail polish fans. The ingredient in question is most harmful through skin contact not through inhalation, which means with the right precautions you can avoid harm if it is in any of your polishes!

 

My Favorite Products

BraggACVNP

Dr. Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar.  Remedy in a Bottle! Internally, Externally. Hair, Skin. Cooking Purposes. This product is all natural (really) and is certified organic! Amazing-ness!

NPInstaNatural1

InstaNatural Peppermint & Lemon Essential Oils.  Ahhh the scent of fresh lemon and peppermint! These are great for aromatherapy and I even use them in a foot soak and a homemade “shampoo!”

Major Retailers are Leading the Push Make Over Make Up

As you loyal readers already know (Thank you for reading :)), the mission of Nature’s Pulchritude is to educate consumers on the ingredients in their beauty, cosmetic, and personal care products so that they can make informed decisions and in turn shift the market towards effective and safe products for everyone.  This article is just a glimpse of a wave of evidence that shows that more and more customers care about what is in their products and that retailers are investing in making sure they sell what customers want.  YOU as a CONSUMER hold the POWER!  Do NOT forget that!  If you want to learn how to pick the appropriate beauty products without the unwanted chemicals, visit Label Poise!

(Heather Clancy, 12/10/2015)–More consumers than ever are inquiring about the makeup of cosmetics and other personal care products. The best anecdotal evidence? The pressure giant retailers Target and Walmart have put on their suppliers — especially over the past year — not just to disclose their use of “ingredients of concern” but to phase them out entirely.

For the most part, the retailers’ past efforts have been very company-specific. Both companies have published lists of chemicals they’d like to see go, such as triclosan, diethyl phthalate and preservative compounds that release formaldehyde.

Now, however, Walmart and Target are taking this cause industry-wide in collaboration with non-profit Forum for the Future.  All three are encouraging other retailers, consumer products companies and other interested parties to participate in the forum’s Beauty and Personal Care Products Sustainability Project.

The goal: clarify priorities for products such as makeup, hair products and other personal care goods and share best practices that accelerate the availability of greener chemical alternatives.

“You wouldn’t have the retailers pushing as hard if the consumer pressure wasn’t there,” said Helen Clarkson, director of Forum for the Future U.S. “Retailers are seeing more rapid growth in product categories with natural or safe on the label. … We want more products like this, and we want to be more sure about what the labels mean, because more manufacturers are making these claims.”

Many details, including specific membership requirements, have yet to be finalized.  What’s clear, however, is that the new leadership group will focus on coordinating the work of existing initiatives, such as the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council. One of the first things it plans to tackle is the development of sustainable preservatives. “We want them to be ambitious,” Clarkson said.

Walmart began asking for disclosures about chemicals from its suppliers way back in 2006. Its initiative, the Sustainable Chemistry Policy, prioritizes action around 10 chemicals of concern.

Target updated its own chemicals list earlier this year as part of broader update to its Product Sustainability Index.  Its “Made to Matter” brand, which features natural, organic and sustainable brands selected by Target, should generate $1 billion in sales this year, according to the company. In fact, human wellness is officially part of its corporate social responsibility platform.

“It is a critical time for collaboration; we need the supply chain to come together to truly move the need and make the greatest impact,” Target spokeswoman Angie Thompson told GreenBiz.

Early recommendations

Forum for the Future has collaborated closely with Walmart and Target over the past year to document what’s working and what’s not. In preparation for the leadership group’s first meeting this month, in October it published a think piece” identifying potential barriers as well as frameworks that could inform a systemic approach.

Aside from the retailers, other companies involved in the research were BASF, CVS, Dow Chemical Company, Eastman Chemical, the Environmental Defense Fund, Henkel, Johnson & Johnson, Method, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

Among the report’s recommendations are a push for more cross-initiative communications among the groups already working on solutions. The authors note: “To ensure a systems approach and lay the groundwork for greater alignment, we recommend creating a short-term, overarching organizational structure that provides an umbrella for the various sustainability initiatives in the beauty and persona care industry and combines their influence. This body should support holistic thinking over the coming months, until alignment and collaboration among the various existing initiatives has build up enough momentum to continue independently.”

Forum for the Future also advocates a collaborative research and development initiative centered on sustainable preservatives.  Among the issues that the industry needs to address are the sharing of intellectual property and safety information, as well as the framework for forward-thinking procurement policies that help bring these new products to market.

The latter is already a focus for GC3, according to the Forum’s analysis. Other groups, such as the Sustainability Consortium, have made progress in prioritizing ingredients.

“We see more and more retailers developing sustainable product indices, as well as evolving their policies beyond just chemicals, to now include ingredients, animal testing, safety and packaging,” Sarah Lewis, a TSC managing director, told GreenBiz. “We are also seeing convergence around key certifications and standards in this space.”

There’s also a policy-related twist that could inform the sustainable chemicals movement, in the form of proposed reforms to the nearly 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. Two bills are circulating in Congress, both of which would require more testing and more disclosure.

“Americans are exposed to a toxic soup of more than 80,000 different chemicals, but we have no idea what the impact of those chemicals is on our bodies — or those of our children,” said New Mexico senator Tom Udall when in March he proposed the Senate’s version of the bill (named for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg).

Right now, however, it doesn’t look like the legislation will be addressed this year.

(via GreenBiz)

 

Winterize: Skin

If you live in the northern hemisphere, it is officially winter. Despite mild temperatures thus far in much of the United States, winter typically brings cold sometimes frigid temperatures and dry air which more often than not disturbs the skin’s moisture balance. Those with skin conditions, such as eczema, often experience flare ups during the winter due to the increased dryness of their skin. To keep your skin soft and supple, and prevent skin ailments, everyone should “winterize” their skin regimen. The same way many women have 2 foundation shades–one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter–you should have at least 2 skin regimens that reflect the changes in the environment! Given such, your regimen will be based on your location. Those in warmer states/countries may not need as much of an adjustment, where as those in northern latitudes will have very clear differences in their regimens.

No Copyright Infringement Intended

MOISTURE

Say it with me: “Moisture is key.” In areas where the temperature is below 40 degrees for most of the winter, there is typically little available moisture in the air. As a result, the air will try to pull moisture for your skin or hair, resulting in dryness. The relative humidity (humidity and dew point) on a weather forecast is a great indicator of when moisture levels in the air are low. This is also why many ladies with natural hair avoid products with the humectant glycerin during colder months. Using a heavier butter-based (shea, cocoa, etc) moisturizer can help keep moisture in your skin. For example, though coconut oil is my go to during the summer, I switch to a much heavier homemade shea butter mix to moisturize. Less substantial moisturizers (i.e. mineral oil/petroleum based) are unlikely to keep your skin soft and truly moisturized for 24 hours, especially once the cold air reaches your skin (Author’s Note: Petroleum based products are great for keeping moisture in and forming a protective barrier after you’ve used a moisturizer, user Beware!. Using a moisturizing soap (note: not surfactant based “soaps”) is also beneficial. A true soap is a saponified (alkali reaction, typically KOH) vegetable oil.

No Copyright Intfringement Intended

Exfoliate

Don’t forget to exfoliate. Dry skin can accumulate particularly faster during winter. Exfoliating not only removes dry, dead skin but also helps your skin better absorb moisturizers. Monthly or biweekly should be a good starting point, adjust based on your specific skin needs. Be sure NOT to over exfoliate! Never be rough with your skin when exfoliating! If you notice your skin becoming rough/dry/patchy/inflammed after exfoliating: stop exfoliating and apply coconut oil to over-exfoliated skin at least 2x a day until the skin softens. Try a sugar/oil scrub with a few drops of your favorite essential oils, avoid exfoliants with polyethylene beads.

No Copyright Infringement Intended

Diet

Incorporating more foods with high omega-3 fatty acid content can do wonders for your skin. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include: flaxseed oil, walnuts, sardines, salmon, beef, and soybeans (opt for organic). Also be sure to stay hydrated, drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, and protein.

No Copyright Infringement Intended

Protect Your Skin

This is a given, but always wear appropriate clothing in cold weather. This includes a proper warm coat, gloves, scarf, hat, etc. In addition, you should continue to wear a sunscreen during the winter. This is especially true if you do any winter sports or outdoor winter activities!

Suggested Winter Skin Routine:
  • Wash with true soap
  • Exfoliate
  • Moisturize with a heavy butter or heavy oil
  • Apply SPF face moisturizer in the morning
  • Incorporate Omega-3’s in at least 1 meal

 

What are your winter skin care tips?

Major Food Chain Pulls Back on Local Ingredients

This is the second major E.coli outbreak that has plagued Chipotle in just 2 months, with several other food contamination cases in the last 6 months.  Chipotle’s position highlights are larger issue with sourcing of local produce and the incidence of bacteria and other microbes being present.  Chipotle’s reaction should be applauded though we will see if they will be able to shift back towards local ingredient sourcing once the problems are identified and addressed.

Julie Jargon (12/16/2015)–Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has touted its use of local ingredients and fresh produce to help differentiate it in a crowded fast-food market. Now a string of disease outbreaks is forcing the once-scrappy upstart to act more like the big chains it long has derided.

Copyright Bloomberg. No Copyright Infringement Intended

Chipotle expects to lower its use of locally sourced ingredients and is centralizing the preparation of some vegetables as it seeks to shore up food safety following an E. coli outbreak that sickened 52 people in nine states and a norovirus episode in Boston. The burrito chain hopes the steps can help it regain consumers who have shunned its outlets, eroding sales.

Health officials haven’t been able to identify the source of the E. coli outbreak but say produce was the probable cause.

At an investor conference in New York last week, Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive of Chipotle, described the chain’s new practice of dicing, sanitizing and hermetically sealing tomatoes, cilantro and lettuce in a central kitchen where they are tested for microbes and then shipped to restaurants.

Mr. Ells said the extra steps don’t change the quality of the ingredients and that whole avocados and jalapeños will continue to be brought into the restaurants. The new techniques minimize the number of people and surfaces coming into contact with the ingredients.

“You could bring fresh cilantro right out of the field into the restaurant and wash it there. I don’t think that would be any better than washing the cilantro in the commissary,” Mr. Ells told investors. “And if dried properly and then sealed in the bags, it’s a delicious product.”

Chipotle said it has long used pre-washed cilantro in its restaurants.

Mr. Ells apologized for the outbreaks on NBC’s “Today” show last week and said Chipotle is trying to make sure they don’t happen again. “I’m sorry for the people who got sick. They are having a tough time, and I feel terrible about that,” he said.

Chipotle had moved away from centralized produce preparation for taste reasons. For many years, the Denver company chopped and washed tomatoes in a Chicago kitchen and shipped them to restaurants in bags. Last year, it began chopping them at its restaurants in dicing machines, because executives said they tasted better when prepared on-site.

“They are still the same tomatoes, they are simply cut, washed and packaged before they get to our restaurants,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said. “Any difference in taste would be slight, if even perceptible,”  

“Produce is the leading vehicle of single-source food-borne outbreaks in the U.S. Even if the contaminant was something else, like a spice, they still need to get it right with produce,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

Chipotle has experienced five disease outbreaks since July, including a salmonella outbreak involving tomatoes that sickened 64 people in Minnesota.

The company has warned its fourth-quarter earnings would fall well below analyst forecasts and its same-store sales would drop 8% to 11% because of the incidents.

It isn’t clear which restaurants may be benefiting as Chipotle loses customers. A spokeswoman for restaurant-consulting firm Technomic Inc. said direct Chipotle competitors such as Qdoba Mexican Grill or Moe’s Southwest Grill may benefit, but upscale burger chains like Smashburger that offer fresh, made-to-order foods also tend to attract similar customers and may get a sales lift.

Melissa Arnoff, a senior vice president at crisis-management firm Levick, said Chipotle’s safer practices might actually create a new problem for the company by turning off customers who like watching their food being prepared in front of them. “Hermetically sealed tomatoes are 180-degrees from the image they want to portray,” she said.

 

“Our commitments to better ingredients—including meat raised without antibiotics, pasture-raised dairy, and local and organically grown produce—have not changed. None of the plans and programs we are putting in place call for diminishing the quality of ingredients we use,” Mr. Arnold said.

Though there is no evidence that Chipotle’s multistate E. coli outbreak originated with a local supplier—and it likely didn’t, given that people from Oregon to New York got sick—, some smaller farmers Chipotle has long praised may be unable to keep supplying the chain if they can’t implement the kind of sophisticated pathogen testing it now is requiring.

Chipotle, which has nearly 2,000 restaurants, has talked up its local growers ever since it began the sourcing program in 2008. By 2010, the company said it was buying more than 50% of at least one ingredient locally throughout the country, although it initially referred to “local” ingredients as those sourced from within about 200 miles of its restaurants and now defines as local those grown within 350 miles.

Until last week, Chipotle hadn’t disclosed the percentage of its produce that is locally grown, but Mr. Ells told investors that the total amount of locally grown produce Chipotle buys in a given year amounts to just about 10%—a figure that is likely to decrease, Mr. Arnold said.

The spate of disease outbreaks marks something of a comeuppance for a company that has satirized so-called factory farms in its marketing, criticizing their mechanized growing practices, as well as fast-food chains for using preservatives. In October, Chipotle produced a fake commercial in which a customer walks into a fictitious restaurant chain named “Cheapotle,” where she finds a slew of artificial ingredients going into her food.

Choosing how to communicate its food-safety changes poses a dilemma for the company that wants to assure customers that its food is safe without alienating those who share its “food with integrity” ideals. 

Executives recently told investors that they will wait until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declares an end to the E. coli outbreak before launching an ad campaign about Chipotle’s food-safety steps.

Until that happens, once-loyal customer Sergio Pereira won’t return.

“With all the food poisonings there, I haven’t been to a Chipotle in the last three months and I won’t let anyone in my family go, either,” said Mr. Pereira, the 54-year-old president of Quill.com, a division of Staples Inc. He added that if Chipotle told customers they are sanitizing produce off-site, it would help give him the confidence to return, but that he still wants to know more.

“The company needs to rebuild trust and they need to tell people that they’ve made very concrete changes,” he said.

(via The Wall Street Journal @Yahoo! News)

Pulchritude: Winter Solstice (II)

No Copyright Infringement Intended 

December 22nd, 2015  marks the winter solstice and the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere.  The winter solstice officially occurred at 4:48am UTC, or 11:48pm EST on December 21st.  The Earth is in close proximity to the sun, though the northern axis is tilting away from the sun.  The winter solstice is often followed by cold temperatures.  Depending on your location, winter may not be as cold or have much snow due to the strong El Niño effect this year.  The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and longest night of the year.  The winter solstice is of high importance in many cultures across the globe.

A 10-year checkup on the quest to detox commercial products

 
 

A 10-year checkup on the quest to detox commercial products

toxic chemicals in commercial products

 
With federal chemical laws slow to change, what is being done to curb toxics in commercial products now?

(By Mark Rossi, December 8, 2015)–In the last 50 years, manmade chemicals have made their way into almost every industrial and manufacturing process — basically every commercial product.

Synthetic chemicals have become the foundation of our society, and the United States alone produces and imports tens of billions of pounds of chemicals every single day. It’s a staggering amount, and it’s expected to double in the next two decades.

The law that regulates this massive amount of chemicals is the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) passed in 1976.  Since then, our chemical use has grown along with our understanding of the risks. Yet the law has remained untouched.

Many attempts have been made to update our federal chemical regulations, but to date, no progress has been made. The legislative process is designed to be slow and deliberate, but in this case it’s a stretch to even call it a snail’s pace.

We need faster paths toward change, because over the past few decades we’ve seen a surge in chronic diseases and illnesses, especially in children. Increasing rates of asthma, neurobehavioral disorders such as autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, along with childhood cancer, can all be linked in part to exposure to toxic chemicals:

  • In 2012, 6.8 million children under age 18 had asthma; an increase of more than 158 percent since 1980.
  • The prevalence of autism increased from 6.7 to 14.7 per thousand children from 2000 to 2010, an increase from 1 in 150 to 1 in 68.
  • The incidence of childhood cancers jumped over 35 percent between 1975 and 2012.

Our health is intimately tied to our environment, and there’s overwhelming evidence that many synthetic chemicals we’re exposed to every day are impacting us in negative ways.

This isn’t groundbreaking news. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been fighting for change for decades. And businesses have been shifting towards safer chemicals simply because it’s better for the bottom line by meeting customer demands and reducing liabilities.

What if they worked together?

Ten years ago, Clean Production Action looked across the landscape of business leaders moving to safer chemicals, along with the NGOs orchestrating campaigns promoting the same goal. We saw many synergies, so we brought them together to see if indeed there was common ground.

BizNGO was born out of this 2005 meeting — a first-of-its-kind collaboration of businesses and environmental groups working together for safer chemicals and sustainable materials.

What makes it unique is the unexpected alliance of typically opposing forces. We’re able to hash through the complex obstacles of phasing toxic chemicals out of supply chains, and collaborate on solutions — without waiting for the government to act.

After 10 years, we’re seeing increased engagement and significant impacts from this bilateral collaboration.

“There are not only a growing number of NGOs that have been participating and playing an active role in the network, but we’re also seeing more and more businesses across different sectors, including some of the world’s largest Fortune 500 companies,” said Mike Schade of the NGO Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. “We all recognize that we can’t solve these problems on our own.”

Together, we’ve created numerous practical tools to be used by companies, including the Alternatives Assessment Protocol, a featured framework in reports by the National Research Council, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse.

Our Guide to Safer Chemicals set the foundation for our newest program, the Chemical Footprint Project, which is the first common metric of its kind for publicly benchmarking corporate chemicals management and profiling leadership companies.  

The Chemical Footprint Project creates a level transparency that was unimaginable 10 years ago. Even though it is still in its infancy, it’s a game-changing tool publicly supported by companies such as Kaiser Permanente and Staples.  

“The industry is used to managing risk at the end of the pipeline,” said Bart Sights, senior director of the global development network at Levi Strauss & Co. and keynote speaker at the upcoming BizNGO-Chemical Footprint Conference. “This is a totally different approach that identifies and removes hazards up front in a proactive and precautionary manner.”

Together, businesses and NGOs are turning things around. Everyone at the table is trying to transform the chemical economy from one of high hazards to safer and healthier alternatives. We’re co-pioneering new paths, and there’s a type of magic that is transpiring.

Do we still need legislative reform at the federal level? Of course; it’s crucial. But we don’t need to wait for policies to make progress. BizNGO shows there are other paths toward change that shift the marketplace to a less toxic world. 

 

Big Soda is fighting science on sugar

Sugar has been high on my radar for the past few weeks.  I personally do not drink soda for the very reasons contained in this article, but many people still do.  It is important to note that the soda/beverage industry is not the only player in “Big Sugar” and sugar–er “High Fructose Corn Syrup”–is present is a host of different foods and condiments that would quickly send you over the FDA suggested sugar limit even without soda!  Be on the look out for a full series on sugar in 2016!

Lawmakers and consumers are turning against big sugar, and soda companies are reeling.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that Americans should eat and drink no more than 50 grams of sugar — roughly the amount in a can and a half of Coke — each day.

The new proposal has been years in the making: Chatter of the need for a cap on sugar has been circulating among consumers, lawmakers, and public-health advocates since research in the early 2000s first linked our excessive consumption of the stuff with obesity, weight gain, and other health problems — especially in children.

Not surprisingly, soda and processed-food companies are less than pleased.

The American Beverage Association, the soda industry’s main lobby group, has since invested millions of dollars fighting laws to tax and label sugary beverages. For its part, Coca-Cola has been accused of pumping money into misleading research that champions exercise over dietary changes for health and weight loss — the company has promised to increase transparency about these research partnerships going forward.

But if our diets are any clue into whether a sugar cutback could be useful, they reveal a pretty big area for improvement.

Is sugar the enemy?

yogurt, Yoplait, grocery, food, disposable containers Flickr / PKMousie

Just two containers of strawberry Yoplait (which is 99% fat-free) contain the FDA’s new daily suggested limit of sugar.

Before sugar was the enemy, it was fat.

Headlines of the 1980s and ’90s were filled with missives that butter, oil, and meat were killing us. Soon, grocery store shelves were filled with low-fat alternatives to every rich food: Margarine, skim milk, and eggbeaters lined the shopping bags of every health-conscious consumer.

Now we know fat is not the enemy, thanks to an outpouring of recent research showing that in small amounts, probably no single food — be it salt, sugar, or fat — can be targeted as the cause of all of our problems.

As several writers and researchers have since suggested, this process of demonizing specific ingredients harkens back to the crusades against Big Tobacco.

Candy Cigarette MachineSteve Snodgrass A candy cigarette machine.

“Soda follows tobacco’s playbook to the letter,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and the author of the book “Soda Politics,” which explores the relationship between soda industries, politics, and public health, told Business Insider. 

While there’s no doubt that fat or sugar are anywhere near as bad for us as cigarettes (as Nestle says point-blank: “Sugar is not tobacco”) some headlines seemed to suggest as much. And the food and beverage industry reacted accordingly, scrambling to remove fats from foods.

Ironically enough, food makers began replacing all this fat with another ingredient: sugar.

Hence the makers of yogurt, cereal, and snacks started smacking “non-fat” or “low-fat” labels on all their products.  Even candies like Twizzlers and Lemonheads — which each contain roughly 20g of sugar per serving (close to half the FDA’s new daily maximum recommended allowance) — were proudly declared “fat free.”

Consumers, lawmakers, and a growing body of scientific research side with the FDA: Too much sugar is bad for us

And as far as processed convenience foods go, soda may just as bad of an offender as candy.

systematic review of 50 years of studies published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition in 2006 found a link between the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages people consumed and weight gain and obesity.

Specifically, the researchers found “strong evidence for the independent role of the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly soda, in the promotion of weight gain and obesity in children and adolescents,” they wrote in their paper.

In the years since, the research has continued to pile up. A 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine written by seven experts in public health, nutrition, and economics made the links between sugary drinks and America’s obesity problem explicit:

“The science base linking the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to the risk of chronic diseases is clear,” the authors wrote.

One of the reasons soda may play such an important role in obesity has to do with how sugar is processed in the body.

All carbohydrates — bread, cereal, or potatoes — are ultimately broken down into glucose, which circulates in our blood and gives us energy. Sugars get broken down quickly and tend to raise blood glucose the most dramatically.

But while many foods that are high in natural sugars (fruit, milk, etc.) also contain other nutrients, like protein and fiber, which help build strong muscles and keep us feeling full, soda does not.

A traditional 12-ounce can of Coke, for example, has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar and no protein or fiber to help round out the impact of the sugar. This is part of the reason sugary drinks, like Coke or Gatorade, are called “empty calories” — they most likely contribute to weight gain because they don’t fill you up.

“The correlations between soda and obesity are extremely strong,” said Nestle. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly one-third of all the calories Americans get from added sugars are from soda and sugary drinks. They get the other two-thirds from processed foods like snack bars, cakes, breads, and ice cream.

And the science suggests that cutting calories, especially in the form of sugary beverages, has the potential to have a far larger effect on weight than exercise.

“Studies tend to show that in terms of weight loss, diet plays a much bigger role than exercise,” Philip Stanforth, a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas and the executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas, told Business Insider.

Efforts to curb our soda habit

In 2013 while still in office, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg tried (and failed) to ban oversized sugary drinks; around the same time, Berkeley, California, passed a tax on sugary beverages. And San Francisco recently slapped warning labels on drinks with added sugar. In all, 33 states have laws taxing sugary drinks.

Vintage Coke Adunknown

But experts have said these taxes are still too low to meaningfully affect consumption, with some going so far as to propose a higher penny-per-ounce amount. And if Bloomberg’s XL-soda ban was a test of how far consumers are willing to go to take action on sweetened beverages, the odds of a real shift in consumption aren’t looking great.

Still, once Bloomberg was mocked for advocating for a different kind of ban — outlawing smoking in restaurants and bars, something that has become the new normal across the US.  Anti-obesity advocates are quick to draw comparisons between tobacco and beverage industry groups, saying that the American Beverage Association creates its own science and misleadingly rebrands products in a way that is reminiscent of Big Tobacco’s prior efforts.  Now these advocates are attempting to use similar strategies to those that drastically reduced tobacco usage to do the same when it comes to sugar.

There are signs that this change is coming, if slowly.

Across the board, per capita soda sales are down 25% since 1998, The New York Times reported in October.  Juice sales are similarly dropping, with orange-juice consumption down 45% per capita in the same period.  On a related note, in November, the University of Colorado School of Medicine gave back a $1 million grant from Coke after discovering that the funds were spent on an advocacy group for that research.

Soda companies are taking notice, and exploring ways to make up for the losses

Pepsi and Coke are trying to recoup their lost sales and taking a dual-pronged approach: In addition to trying to reframe products and convince consumers that sweet beverages are ok to drink, they’re also investing outside of traditional sweet beverages.

Nestle says these moves harken back to the same strategy Big Tobacco used in the 1980s. “First, they attack the science. Then, they fund community groups, promote exercise as a solution, and say they’re self-regulated and don’t need to be regulated by an outside source,” Nestle said.

If soda companies want people to continue to drink sodas, they need to present evidence that the beverages aren’t always the sugar bomb that scientific research is presenting. A major way to do that is to cut calories — not necessarily by reworking recipes, but by making serving sizes smaller.

Coca-Cola is going “back to its roots” by shifting focus toward smaller cans and bottles. According to the company, retail sales of smaller cans and bottles, including mini cans and glass bottles, were up 17%. So even as per capita consumption of soda by the gallon go down, sales of smaller packages go up.

These changes allow the chains to put a positive, healthy spin on the brands without requiring major changes in sodas’ nutritional makeup. For example, when the American Beverage Association pledged in 2014 to cut drink calories by 20%, that doesn’t necessarily mean a can of Coke or Pepsi will have 20% fewer calories. It may just be 20% smaller.  Last August, Reuters reported that Coke and Pepsi’s mini cans — 7.5-ounce versions of the traditional 12-ounce sodas — had been one of the few bright spots in US soda sales in the previous month.

“That’s the soda industry’s response,” Nestle said of the mini-can campaign. “They want to be part of the solution, and they charge more for them.”

coke pepsi mini cansReuters Coke and Pepsi’s new mini cans, which they released in 2009.

Still, while Coke and Pepsi are exerting a lot of effort to make sure their namesake beverages stay on the shelves, the companies are also very aware of the need to bring in some lower-sugar options.

In October, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi told investors that focusing solely on carbonated soft drinks was “a thing of the past.” Instead, noncarbonated beverages are “driving all the growth in the whole industry.”

Nearly half of Pepsi’s beverage sales are now in low- or zero-calorie drinks, juice, or sports drinks, more than double the proportion these drinks represented 15 years ago. In the past few years, Coca-Cola hasinvested in brands including Monster Energy, coconut-water company ZICO, and organic-focused Suja Juice. Both companies reportedly were in talks to invest in Greek yogurt maker Chobani.

“Today, more than 1,000 reduced-, low- or no-calorie options are available in our global portfolio, representing more than 25 percent of the beverages we offer around the world,” a Coca-Cola spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider (PepsiCo declined to comment for this story). “Of our top 20 brands, 18 are now available with reduced-, low- or no-calorie options.”

Of course, many of these products are still high in sugar (a 32-ounce bottle of PepsiCo’s Gatorade, for example, can easily exceed the 50g sugar limit). However, they do represent a major change in what Americans are drinking.

Should you quit soda?

It’s no doubt that exceedingly high levels of sugar are bad for us. Sports drinks and sodas squeeze more of the stuff than we should consume in a day into a single serving.

But, as a growing body of research is showing, no single ingredient alone can be blamed. Rather, it’s the amount and the types of food we’re eating that need to be reassessed. Our portion sizes, for example, have ballooned in recent years, having increased up to 700% in some foods.

Giant sodas masquerading as a standard component of any meal are no exception.

(via Business Insider)