Heart & Stroke Foundation's campaign aims to reduce sugary drink consumption

Published on May 19, 2017

The Heart & Stroke Foundation’s Julie Nicholas (centre) speaks during the launch of the Count Your Cubes Sugary Drink Challenge. Joining her are (from left) Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Hygienists Association president Nicole Kielly, Canadian Cancer Society NL executive director Matthew Piercey, Dr. Rob Cochran of the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association and Dr. Lynn Dwyer, president-elect of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association.

©Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

If you’re reading this while drinking a can of soda, a sports drink or even a bottle of juice, take a look at the nutritional facts printed on the side.

How many grams of sugar are in your beverage? Chances are if it’s one of the drinks listed above, it’s more than 30 grams.

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong.

Every four grams is the equivalent to one sugar cube.

Starting Monday, the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation will kick off a campaign aimed at educating the public about exactly how much sugar they’re putting in their bodies by way of commonly consumed beverages.

Ultimately, the goal of the Count Your Cube Sugary Drinks Challenge is to reduce the consumption of liquids that studies suggest will result in more than 63,000 deaths and cost the Canadian health-care system more than $50 billion over the next 25 years.

“Increasing public awareness is important because sugary drinks are the single largest contributor of sugar in the diet,” said Julie Nicholas, the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s director of health promotion and government relations.

“We know that excess sugar is associated with many adverse health effects, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and many chronic diseases.”

Nicholas said it’s especially important in this province, which leads the country in obesity rates at 30 per cent, with 46.6 per cent of youth between the ages of 12 and 19 overweight.

Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association president-elect Dr. Lynn Dwyer says companies that produce the beverages try to suggest the obesity is due to inactivity and lack of exercise. While that is certainly a factor, it’s only part of the problem, she says.

“Just to put things into perspective, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that it would take 75 minutes of bike riding for a 110-pound child to burn off the calories in just one 20-ounce bottle of soda.

“That’s a lot of work for just one bottle of pop. That same bottle of soda, if consumed once each day, increases that child’s risk of becoming obese by 60 per cent and it increases their risk of developing diabetes by 26 per cent.”

Other partners include the provincial division of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association and the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Hygienists Association.


Challenge issued

Over the course of a month, participants are asked to keep track of how many cubes of sugar they’re consuming each day. In the first week, they make no changes to their drink diet. In the subsequent three weeks, they’re challenged to consume fewer sugar cubes than the first week by making healthier beverage choices.

At countyourcubes.ca, people, families or groups can take part by either creating an online account or by printing a copy of the tracker. At the end of the challenge, they can email or fax their tracker to the Heart & Stroke Foundation for a chance at prizes.

The deadline for submissions is June 30.



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