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MaryW's avatar

Are diet drinks causing health problems and should they be the only choice of soda drinks in school vending machines?

Asked by MaryW (1716 points ) August 4th, 2010

I found this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/aspartame-health-risks_b_668692.html and it has much information on aspartame. It brings into question the possibility that aspartame is actually a neurotoxin. I have seen my sister and two friends battle headaches and still consume diet drinks at the rate of 3 to 5 a day. Then they take medication for the headaches. Other problems have been reported with aspartame such as obesity and depression. Also there are scientists who feel “that in sensitive individuals… excessive aspartame ingestion might be involved in the pathogenesis of certain mental disorders (DSM-IV-TR 2000) and also in compromised learning and emotional functioning.”
Do you feel that soft drinks with any chemical sweetner should be in our schools or be the only soft drink option in vending machines as is often the case?

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36 Answers

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

There should be no soda vending machines in schools, period.

Seaminglysew's avatar

Our Board of Education took all Soda Vending machines out of our schools a few years back. I support this move.

marinelife's avatar

They should reformulate diet soft drinks without aspartame. I agree that there should be no soda in schools.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Count me in for a vote against soda in school, period.

JLeslie's avatar

I am against diet sweetners for children and adults, not just in soda, but lemonaide, and whatever other drink or food. The exception is diabetics, where the sugar is likely to cause more harm than the sugar substitute. I don’t think we had drink machines in my school? But, in high school we did have open launches (able to leave campus) so we could certainly buy a coke at lunch if we wanted to.

ninahenry's avatar

In the UK, we had a ban on it in our high school, and that was years ago. When we got to college though they had vending machines full of crap and it was awesome. I wish it hadn’t have been there though.

@JLeslie Yeah, in the last years of high school we could go to the local shop or fish and chip shop and buy whatever, but I never did.

JLeslie's avatar

@ninahenry You wish college would restrict vending machines? I completely disagree with that. I do think campus cafeterias have an obligation to offer healthy food choices, but I am ok with unhealthy ones being there along with.

wundayatta's avatar

yes and no

Luffle's avatar

Diet drinks make me feel sick. I think it would be better to give children more choices with drinks at school rather than limiting them to ‘diet’ soda. It is still soda and if they consume too much of anything, it will still be unhealthy for them.

If they were better informed about nutrition from their parents and health classes in school, they would make better food choices.

ninahenry's avatar

@JLeslie college is just a 2 year add on in the UK for A levels, you finish at 18, then you go to university, or what you’d call college in the US. I wish they hadn’t had them cause it was a waste of money and time, I wish healthier options were available. I think it’s fine to have vending machines available on uni campuses.

JLeslie's avatar

@Luffle I disagree a little bit. Young children will choose what looks and tastes good, no matter how well taught on nutrition. If their parents are strict at home about food and drink, school can be the place to cheat so to speak. Young children, elementary, need to have very few restricted choices I think. As the get older I am not so sure what I think, but I know I don;t like fake sweetner to get back to the original question.

@ninahenry I see, thanks for the clarification. Not sure where I stand. The age of 16 in your country you are basically viewed as adults though. Is that correct? You either go to college or onto some vocation?

ninahenry's avatar

Whatever kids are given on special occasions they will consider a treat, so you can do that with healthy snacks too (I knew someone who used to give her kids sultanas instead of sweets when they deserved a treat) it’s just an almost universal problem, because when the kids get into a bigger society they see how the other parents feed their friends and want what they don’t have. I agree with @Luffle, if children and their parents had better learning resources and the schools enforced stricter rules on what they did and didn’t serve, it’d make a big difference. The schools have the opportunity to feed children good-tasting healthy meals and snacks, and it’s their responsibility. Peer pressure starts at a young age, and you meet other people your age when you go to school, so if they eliminated bad choices it’d make things a lot better as they’d be taught to make those kind of choices. What you consume as a child really affects what you eat as you grow into an adult and in later life.

@JLeslie college (unless private) is free, so pretty much compulsary. You’re not really viewed as adults until you’re 18.

Luffle's avatar

@JLeslie It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an elementary school. My earliest recollection of seeing in a soda machine or a fruit juice machine was in middle school. At what age would you draw the line and consider children to be old enough to make healthy choices for themselves?

Schools that emphasis nutrition would more considerate of what their cafeteria has to offer. What one person considers to be “healthy” may differ from the next. What I am saying is that they should not make the choice for the children or limit them only to a specific type of food. We have to teach children to be informed and make responsible, healthy choices.

ninahenry's avatar

@Luffle yeah, I don’t think at 17 I was ready to stick to healthy choices. You have to raise the child to the age where they won’t think it’s totally amazing for them to be offered unhealthy choices before you give them that option. It’s not like drugs, which you might ban your child from, making them want to experiment, as eating or drinking unhealthy things at a friends house or outside the home and school isn’t so bad, but when it’s available all the time a child’s willpower and resistance to peer pressure (conscious or sub-conscious) just isn’t that strong.

When I go to visit my Dad, they only have organic, fresh, natural produce, and I feel so much better mentally and physically after being there for a week. I’d like it to be like that in homes and schools.

GQ by the way @MaryW, has your opinion changed much since hearing others’ opinions? And to answer the 1st part of your question, yes, I think they are causing health problems; I think we have enough evidence to know that by now, and if we don’t, it’s really just ignorance and risk-taking mixed with instant gratification.

JLeslie's avatar

@Luffle Personally I would keep all soda out of the schools through high school I think. The tricky part is even orange juice has the same amount of sugar as soda. So, nutrition, regarding vitamins might be a little better with the OJ, but for weight concerns, the caloric and sugar intake is the same. Slightly sweetened caffeine free iced tea might be healthier, or water. I remember my only choice was milk or chocolate milk, which I hated. I drank Coke my entire childhood, not that I am saying it is a good thing, and I did not have it in school, except like I said in high school when we left campus. I was thin. I guess I exercised enough, and did not eat too many calories otherwise, and my mom cooked dinner every night practically.

I agree educating people on nutrition is important, I think we should start young with kids, but I think what has changed the most is how people eat at home, not how they eat at school. When I was in school we ate tacos, and pizza, and hamburgers, and hot dogs, and tater tots. I am 42. Not sure if the portions are bigger now? The food doesn’t sound that different to me.

ninahenry's avatar

@JLeslie yeah, most people don’t eat as well as their previous generations did, but my mum’s cooked dinners almost every night too. Those things being available in school didn’t help though. Considering the OJ vs Soda debate, I think it’s more nutritional value than calorific intake, although sugar plays a huge part and should be considered separately from calorific intake. Some wouldn’t consider fruit juices to be healthy options, personally I think fruit and water would be fine, or freshly squeezed (as in then and there) juice with no additives. Preparing fresh food then and there can be beneficial to children’s attitudes to food and that’s how you gain their interest to allow them to choose healthy options. Have you seen Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners? I bought the series DVD along with Supersize me and it was so interesting! He’s doing a project in America at the minute, his ‘food revolution’. I think it’s great.

I think you probably have a wider variety of unhealthy foods available in schools over there, as we never had tacos, and I don’t even know what tater tots are. Our food options were rather limited- healthy or unhealthy.

JLeslie's avatar

@ninahenry I have seen Jamie Olivers show here in the states. Some changes were made, but some were very difficult for the schools to stick to long term because of expense, and difficulty preparing some foods because of time restrictions and budget cuts to staff. Moreover, there are subsidies from our government for certain foods, and supposedly that affects the price of food and what is served in our schools, not sure of the specifics on that. I do empathasize with the schools. They are cooking for hundreds of kids, sometimes over 2,000 in one school. Orange juice in the carton typically does not have preservatives and has more vitamins than fresh squeezed, because it is fortified. It would be impossible for a school to squeeze enough oranges for fresh squeezed and get a meal out for everyone.

Interestingly on Jamie Oliver’s show here, they started at an elementary and most of the kids were not over wieght. It was at the high school level we saw more over weight children. I figure the little kids are still running around getting lots of physical activity, and are not emotinally eating yet. Many of the adults/parents in community were overweight.

I hate to say I think the biggest impact can be made outside of school, although of course I think everything counts.

You say your mum cooked as well. And, were you thin? You say those things at school didn’t help. Help what specifically?

ninahenry's avatar

@JLeslie They didn’t help anyone with anything. Yes I’m thin, although I put on a little weight when I started working behind a bar and having drinks bought for me.

Yeah, the whole thing is very challenging. If they were to have more lessons on what was healthy and unhealthy, like food tech lessons/cooking classes, they’d find the time in there to help prepare things like fresh juice. It’s interesting how we are not taught how to eat well from the youngest possible age, and how most research has to be done yourself, as it’s as important as breathing. The ‘School Dinners’ series was also challenging but more successful, it’s really interesting so you should watch that too if you liked the other one :) It’s probably a bigger problem in the US.

JLeslie's avatar

@ninahenry I really think getting to the adults and parents is a big part of it. Normal portion size, cooking at home. I am sure that people who think they eat well, but are fat, are not really eating like a thin person (of course there are exceptions, but not many). I have said this before on fluther and usually get jumped on. I think if everyone who is 40 pounds overweight spent a week with a thin person their same height and basic body structure, they would be shocked at how much less a thin person eats, how different their food choices are, and how much more exercise they get.

I remember once Rosie O’donnel said when she was first dating her girlfriend, who is thin, she had at one time offered her a cookie, and her girlfriend turned it down stating she was not hungry. Rosie said she had never realized before that some people need to be hungry to have a cookie. My dad is overweight and he eats a lot, no getting around it.

ninahenry's avatar

@JLeslie I agree, that’s why I feel so much better after spending a week at my Dad’s. I’ve learnt willpower now though (somewhat) and refuse things when I don’t feel I should eat them. I’ve always been able to abstain from gaining weight though.

Aster's avatar

There should Not be sodas in schools. What I want to know is, what besides water is decent to drink?? What do we put in school for them if soda is poison and milk has hormones and juices have sugar??
I’m a huge milk drinker . Doesn’t seem to have hurt me.

SeventhSense's avatar

No but I don’t think soda should be in school at all.

ninahenry's avatar

@Aster good question, we are 72.8% water after all, so I think we should carry on drinking that. Make sure it has limited to no nasties in it though (chlorine/bromine, flouride, etc.)

Herbal teas are great!

Steve_A's avatar

This is only something I heard before but don’t schools get paid pretty nice for having the brand name soda machines there?

If it is true,then they won’t be leaving anytime regardless of how sensible it is to NOT have them.

mollypop51797's avatar

Firstly, No soda. At all. Nada. Secondly, we all know that there are healthier ways to diet. It may be harder, but it’s a healthier way for your body to adjust and become thinner.

RocketGuy's avatar

My wife’s friend got migraines when she drank diet soda. They miraculously went away as soon as she stopped. Unfortunately it took a while to figure it out, so she suffered the whole time.

Jabe73's avatar

Do you feel that soft drinks with any chemical sweetner should be in our schools or be the only soft drink option in vending machines as is often the case? No, I have read many articles on aspartame and other artificial sweetners. Ironically sugar (which is not healthy itself) is safer than these chemical sweetners. What I do not understand is why more companies do not make more soda/candy with xylitol as the sweetner. Xylitol has been shown to be very beneficial to the teeth and rest of the body.

woodcutter's avatar

I always thought that kids believed that diet drinks were uncool and nasty. Maybe they won’t even drink them as much?

ninahenry's avatar

@woodcutter they’re not uncool, pretty nasty, but also addictive.

mattbrowne's avatar

Most of the time it’s the anxiety about diet drinks that causes health problems. No one gulps down a gallon of diet coke. A fiber-poor diet and almost no regular exercise is riskier than small amounts of aspartame for example.

NaturallyMe's avatar

They are very unhealthy indeed, and it’s disturbing to hear that that’s all they have to offer in school vending machines….that means children will be drinking soda everyday unless they drink water from the tap? Small doses of bad things on a daily basis over a long time will have serious health consequences.

woodcutter's avatar

@ninahenry well I for one drink them for the buzz ;p

jonsblond's avatar

Yes, they are causing problems.

When I attended school, we went to the water fountain to get a drink, not a vending machine.

I survived.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@jonsblond Unfortunately, and perhaps it is because of the abundance of vending machines out there, many schools (including the university I attend now) do not do much maintenance on their water fountains. I don’t think there is a single water fountain I have tried at my school that works correctly. Similarly, many towns have heavily treated water, making the taste rather unpleasant. I’d like to see more people using water fountains, but when they don’t work and the water tastes horrible, what can you do?

RocketGuy's avatar

Water in my area tastes terrible!

ninahenry's avatar

Aren’t water fountain’s unhygienic? Not everyone uses them correctly, and with dust and germs in the air… or if they’re outside what if a bird pooped on it? :| I suppose same goes for taps in public places, but I don’t use those either (for drinking water).

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