More than 200 people packed into the DMC Sinai Grace auditorium on Wednesday afternoon to help launch the hospital’s “Say ‘No’ To Soda Pop” campaign.
Sinai Grace Hospital President and CEO, Dr. Reginald Eadie, declared that November is now “National Say ‘No’ to Soda Pop” month. Eadie spoke about the health threats of sugary, carbonated drinks from a medical standpoint.
“The evidence is overwhelming that soda pop causes significant harm to our bodies,” Eadie said. “Just as Cigarettes, 30 years ago, were discovered to be linked to the leading causes of death in our country (heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and cancer), soda pop is too. Now, we’re realizing this in the healthcare industry.”
Eadie said that concrete data shows obesity is directly related to excess caloric intake. He said the leading source of excess caloric intake in America comes from soda pop.
That doesn’t mean diet pop drinkers are off the hook.
“For the diet soda pop drinkers, diet pop contains aspartame, which, unknown to many soda pop drinkers, actually increases your cravings and intake of excess sugar,” Eadie said.
Just by drinking one can of soda pop a day, a person can gain an average of 30 pounds over the course of a year, according to Eadie.
While there was no talk of creating legislative restrictions on soft drinks at the rally, Eadie said that soda consumption is a major factor in the rise in childhood obesity across the nation, which leads to serious health problems later in life.
“Childhood obesity, in my mind, has caused more damage than hurricane Sandy could ever do,” Eadie said.
City council President Charles Pugh shared personal testimony on his experience with soda pop and weight.
“I lost 60 lbs since last July and I am the strongest and healthiest I’ve ever been. I used to have abs like a keg and now … you could wash clothes on my abs,” Pugh said, noting that it’s not just pop that contains excess sugar. “I attribute one half of my weight loss to giving up not only pop, but sweet tea, lemonade, and juice. If you ever put a cranberry in your mouth you would spit it out because it is so bitter. So how can you drink a glass of cranberry juice? Because it’s full of sugar. We need to realize how much sugar we’re consuming.”
Both Pugh and Eadie said that the no soda pop campaign is not meant to slam soft drink companies, but to educate consumers.
“This is not a war on the soda pop industry, this is a war on the lack of knowledge that American soda pop drinkers have in terms of the harmful effects that it causes,” Eadie said.
Pugh urged companies like Faygo to explore new options when considering beverage production.
“Horse and buggy companies went out of business once the car was created,” Pugh said. “I might not drink pop but I still need to drink something. I will buy Faygo water… I will buy Vernor’s water choice. If all of them offered tea that was unsweetened I would buy it. If [soft drink companies] would offer choices that are more healthy and join the movement they could make more money.”
Other supporters of the campaign spoke about their intentions to cut out pop, as well as past decisions to leave the sweet, fizzy drinks alone.
Wayne County Commissioner Irma Clarke-Coleman admitted to ditching what she called an addiction to sugary soft drinks.
“I was a pop-a-holic,” she said. “I could not walk by the refrigerator without getting a pop.”
Clarke-Coleman said she stopped drinking soda and started adhering to an exercise regiment a couple years back after she noticed significant weight gain. “If you drink 64 ounces of water a day you won’t want pop,” she said.
Rev. Horace Sheffield, director of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, said he was on board to cut pop from his diet. “ I saw how much weight [Charles Pugh] lost after cutting out pop. I thought I’d get on that program,” he said.
Sheffield said he was no stranger to the grim consequences of excess pop consumption. He shared a personal story of his mother’s battle with diabetes, which led to her passing at the age of 44. “We can fight for civil rights but if we’re not healthy what difference does it make?”
All attendees at the event took a pledge to completely cut soda pop from their diet for the month of November.
The spirited rally attracted prominent local leaders, activists, and high school students as well as hospital employees.
Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) said he and his family intend to keep the pledge to cut out pop. “We’re kicking pop in our own home,” Johnson said. “Before today, we had talked about it … [now] we’re gonna take the plunge.”