Soda Companies Turn Attention to Developing Countries as Sales Fall Flat in the West
Americans still drink a lot of soda: Sales in the U.S. were more than $70 billion in 2014, according to Euromonitor International, well ahead of China, the runner-up market, with $28.4 billion. The way we think about, talk about and legislate soda has changed rather drastically—and we drink relatively less of it too, with consumption dropping 25 percent between 1998 and 2014. So with the threat of soda taxes and warning labels and an increased popular understanding of the links between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity, companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are looking to sell more of their products elsewhere—especially in developing markets.
The increased focus on countries such as India, Brazil and others is the subject of a new report released Tuesday by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer-advocacy group that has frequently critiqued the beverage industry for its role in the obesity crisis. “These are countries with growing populations, growing incomes and with governments less likely to pursue aggressive strategies to deter consumption," Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI's president and a coauthor of the report, said. And as the report argues, those unfettered new markets will soon suffer from more of the diet-related public health ills that the U.S. is grappling with, from obesity to type 2 diabetes.
Coke and Pepsi, which together account for $870 billion in annual soda sales, are by no means newcomers to the global market. But the sales trends are shifting: Emerging and developed markets have gone from representing about 55 percent of overall soda sales in 2008, according to the report, to nearly 70 percent projected for 2018. Soda sale forecasts for the next three years are flat for North America and declining slightly in Western Europe; sales in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa are all set to rise.
As Ahmet Bozer, executive vice president and president of Coca-Cola International, said in 2014, “There's 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week" and many of them live in these emerging markets. Latin America, for example, is soda's largest market and Mexico infamously has the highest per-capita consumption in the world.
While Coke will funnel huge amounts of money into these markets in the coming years—investing, according to CSPI, $12.4 billion in Mexico between 2010 and 2020 and another $17 billion in African markets—governments are showing signs of moving more quickly on public health policies to combat obesity and the like by limiting soda consumption.
Mexico, after all, passed a national soda tax in 2013, and research shows that it is working to reduce the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages residents drink. A local ordinance in Berkeley, California, now taxes soda and while a similar measure was voted down in San Francisco, the city will soon require health-warning labels on sugary drinks. As India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Great Britain all consider national soda taxes, Reuters said on Monday, “2016 could be the year of the sugar tax."
Whether a soda tax in a country like India—which is already a major market and will see a total of $5 billion in investment from Coke alone between 2012 and 2020—will slow soda sales there and create a protracted battle between government and industry (or both) remains to be seen. But with Indian officials considering a tax as high as 40 percent—much more than Mexico's peso-per-liter tax—it would seem that the political realities are shifting against soda.
But with soda companies blanketing developing countries with billboards, TV ads, sports-team sponsorships and plenty of icy-cold cola, the likes of Coke and Pepsi still hold the popular imagination.
“In regions where poverty prevails and most people do not participate in the world of hyper-consumption, drinking a Coke or other extremely sugary and intensely marketed drink is the result of an aspirational act—the desire to belong to a world from which they are excluded," Alejandro Calvillo Unna, a Mexican consumer advocate, wrote in his preface to the CSPI report.
“Companies take advantage of the vulnerability of those communities to market their products," he continued. “The result: racially and culturally discriminatory marketing practices that worsen the poor health conditions and marginalization these groups already experience."
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.
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Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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