Blog Post


The Sweet Truth 

Which beverage has more calories and more grams of sugar?  A 12 ounce cola or 12 ounces of a leading brand’s 100% White Grape Juice targeted for babies and toddlers?   I was shocked to find out that 12 ounces of the White Grape juice has 240 calories and 80 grams of sugar compared to the cola’s 150 calories and 41 grams of sugar.  While most people know feeding soda to their young child is not healthy, who knew that a juice marketed for babies and toddlers is more sugary (still unhealthy, even though the sugars are naturally formed fruit sugars) and caloric than a can of soda? 

According to the 2012 CDC Diabetes Report Card, Tennessee has the fifth-highest rate of diabetes in the US, and the US has the highest diabetes rate in the developed world (for all sources not listed, please see Moreover, sugar-sweetened beverages are the single largest caloric contributor to diabetes.   It seems clear: we need to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks…. but how?

Attempts to Reduce Consumption of Sugary Drinks

New York tried to solve this problem by attempting to limit the size of sugary drinks; others have suggested higher taxes on high sugar content drinks.  According to the Huffington Post, Hawaii ran a campaign to reduce consumption of sugary drinks by “grossing teens out.” They ran ads and TV spots with images of teens drinking from soda bottles with what looks to be lard pouring into their mouths and over their faces.  The tagline, “Don’t drink yourself fat. Choose water instead.”

We are developing a mobile app to locate nearby drinking fountains and report upon their conditions.

But choosing water is not always so simple.  Public drinking fountains in the US were once about as pervasive as Starbucks shops are today.  During the 1980s, however, sales of bottled water started to take off, increasing steadily, while public water fountains fell out of favor.

TCWN’s “Bringing the Tap Back”

The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) intends to bring back public water stations and increase the awareness of drinking tap water’s health benefits. With a grant from the TN Department of Health, TCWN has launched “Bringing Back the Tap” to help Tennesseans make healthy choices in cities across the state. According the program site, TCWN states

“We are improving access to our safe, healthy, and free public drinking water while launching targeted educational campaigns to promote drinking water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

In the universities, we are partnering with the offices of sustainability to improve access to drinking water, and we will support student-generated campaigns to promote their use.

For the general public, we are working with organizations and municipalities to install new water bottle refill stations with drinking fountains in the parks and public spaces. We are developing a mobile app to locate nearby drinking fountains and report upon their conditions. Finally, we will host six artist-designed water bottle refill station competitions in prominent public places across the state in order to improve access to drinking water while raising awareness.

But what about the taste of tap water?  Doesn’t bottled water taste better?  No, according to more and more blind taste tests.  For example this past fall during TCWN’s Duncan-Williams Dragon Boat Race at Mud Island in Memphis, TCWN conducted a blind taste test.  To many people’s pleasant surprise Memphis tap water was preferred over bottled water.   With better taste, easier access, fewer plastic bottles, what’s not to like about “Bringing the Tap Back”?  If you are still not convinced, consider this:

If you were to drink just one can of sugar-sweetened beverage every day—and not cut back on calories elsewhere—you could gain up to 15 pounds in a year.  15 pounds!   Check out the website to find out more and take the online survey about your interests and experience with drinking water.

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