Balance Your Diabetes With Some Light Jogging

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Last night on YouTube I saw my first ad for Mixify, the newish initiative by Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and the American Beverage Association that’s meant to help you with “balancing your mix of foods, drinks and physical activities.”
The key word there is “drinks.” Regardless which diet you follow (or don’t), it’s fairly well-accepted that sugary sodas hurt health without much benefit. Soft-drink sales are nosediving, and Mixify is an attempt by soda companies to reverse the trend. Judging from the marketing materials, the aim is to get customers to believe they can drink Coke guilt-free as long as they "balance" it with physical activity.
Health-policy experts have hailed the initiative as “better than nothing.”
“They could make a bigger impact if they didn’t oppose the sizing issue and soda tax,” Sonya Hauser, assistant professor of The Sage Colleges of Nutrition, told the Albany Times-Union. "It’s classic PR like fast food chains giving away pedometers. They’ve been vilified with the obesity epidemic. They want to change perception by getting you to think all you have to do is exercise more, not eat less of their stuff.”
In one ad, the voiceover says, “Just finished an afternoon of frisbee? Maybe you’ve earned a little more”—as a boy sips from a glass of soda.
Actually, you haven’t, if “more” refers to Coke. As I’ve reported:

“Calories consumed in liquid form don’t provide the same signals of fullness that calories consumed in solid form do,” Sue Babey, a senior research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, told me. “They tend to be consumed on top of all the calories in solid form.”

A 2013 study in the British Journal of Medicine found that drinking just one soda a day increases an adult’s likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent and a child’s by 55 percent. And a meta-analysis published in 2010 found that drinking one to two sweetened beverages a day increases diabetes risk by 26 percent.

Just this week, yet another study found that the more money people spend on soft drinks, the larger their risk of suffering a heart attack.
An editorial in the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa—where Mixify recently held a kick-off event—puts it well:

The Mixify website suggests that kids "chase a wild animal" to stay active. Putting aside the fact that suggesting kids chase a wild animal is a pretty weird form of exercise, it's not necessarily burning off that Coke. A half-hour of running hard will burn off only about eight ounces of regular soda. And 30 minutes is a long time to chase a rabbit.