Mexico and the United States are engaged in a grand competition…. to the bottom. The prize of having the most obese persons per capita belongs to the United States once again, but I don’t think congratulations are in order. The Mexican government realizes this dilemma and has taken steps to correct the situation…. baby steps. In January, 2014 they passed a sugary drink consumption tax of about one peso per liter. This tax has raised more than $2 billion dollars since its inception, reduced Coke consumption by 6% and saved an estimated 18,900 lives. California and Colorado are to join New York in implementing such taxes but this may be a case of too little, too late.
People are addicted to sugar. Recent studies have determined that this addiction occurs early in life. Babies fed coke in their milk bottle (as happens too often, especially in the poor rural communities of Mexico) establish a chemical “set point” as to how much they crave the chemical. It is this set point that regulates how much the body craves sugar for the rest of their lives. The higher the set point, the higher the sugar consumption, the fatter the person.
The sugary soda companies know this and, sad to say, have taken advantage of it, much like the Tobacco Industry took advantage of the addictive nature of nicotine to lure customers to their doorsteps. When they found out that cigarettes caused cancer, they suppressed that information and continued marketing their product for another twenty years before Mother Jones Magazine called them out and put a stop to their advertising practices. They used to claim that a cigarette would calm your nerves, reduce your weight and sooth your stomach. They don’t do that anymore, but they still sell cigarettes.
There are about 70,000 deaths from Type II Diabetes (more properly called overeating disease) every year in Mexico, about the same as in the United States. The death rate is higher per capita because most Mexican diabetics do not even know they have the disease. World wide, the death rate is 100 million annually. One of the main symptoms of Diabetes is excessive thirst. If a person with high blood sugar chooses to quench their thirst with a crisp, cold, refreshing Coca Cola, it could put them into a diabetic coma. A person thus afflicted, if left unattended, could die. The Mexican diabetes death rate accounts for more deaths than the Drug Wars that continue to rage; wars that are directly attributable to America’s uncontrollable addiction to other chemicals.
Country-wide, Mexico claims that 80% of its tap water is safe. In small towns like Isla Piedra and Barron, Sinaloa, Mexico, however, the tap water is not potable so the residents turn to bottled liquids and Coke is their liquid of choice. The average Coke consumption in Mexico is half a liter of Coke per person per day. That’s 600 glasses of Coke per year, or two Cokes a day. In Chiapas (the poorest Mexican State), the consumption is a whopping 3,285 glasses of Coke per year per person. Chiapas is a deeply religious state that tends to reject government oversight and the outside world in general. They do not smoke or drink alcohol. During their religious ceremonies within the Catholic Church, Coca Cola is offered as the Blood of Christ during the sacraments.
Coca Cola was first distributed in the United State in 1886. The original recipe was based upon a wildly popular French concoction of red wine and cocaine, advertised to not only cure your headache but stimulate your sexual organs. The combination of alcohol and cocaine in the body makes a tertiary chemical called cocaethylene, which is more euphoric than cocaine. This beverage was popular among such Parisian luminaries as Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle and Pope Leo XII.
When American Civil War veteran John Pemberton was introduced to the drink in Paris, he found it helped sooth his Civil War injuries. So when he got back to Georgia, he went about reformulating the recipe, substituting sugar for wine, as Georgia was a dry state. His concoction included not only sugar, but caffeine from kola nuts and and cocaine from coca leaves, hence the name, Coca Cola. The drink was so popular, it became the first American product that was exported globally.
In 1903, the temperance movement forced Coke to remove the cocaine from its product. It took another twenty-seven years for Coke to perfect the de-cocainization of the coca leaf and the modern recipe came into use. It wasn’t until 1980 that Coke ceased importing coca leaves from Bolivia, although this was probably due more to the political situation in Bolivia than any attempt on Coke’s part to reform its recipe. While the exact recipe remains a secret, a single can of Coke still has coca leaf extract, caffeine and 38 grams of sugar in it. In Mexico, the local distributors use sugar derived from sugar cane (instead of beet sugar) so it tastes sweeter even though the recipe is the same.
Determined to preserve its market dominance during the depression, the Coca Cola Company not only required their regional distributors to exclusively handle their product, they offered to paint shop exteriors, school cafeterias and passing busses with the iconic Coke logo, all for free. Between 1950 and 1960, Coke contacted key regional people and offered them the exclusive right to distribute the product.
In Mexico, that person was none other than future president Vincente Fox. In 1977, the Coca Cola Company admitted to bribing hundreds of government officials around the world to secure their exclusive distribution rights. They have since reformed but by 2008, Coca Cola still had a 70% share of the World’s sugary drink franchise. In Latin America, the advertising campaign was so effective, it’s now almost impossible to find Pepsi or any competitor.
The problem that we are now encountering, especially in underserved, poorly educated populations, is that Coke has an amazingly deleterious affect on the dental health of children. Clean water is always in short supply and with breast feeding on the decline, the safest and least expensive substitute is Coke. It is no wonder that Coke’s other product line, the one that is just pure water, is more expensive; you can’t get addicted to water.
So from a very early age, children in homes without running water are offered Coke twice a day by their parents; and they do not brush their teeth afterwards. Worse yet, infants are given Coke in their bottles. When the kids fall asleep, bottle in mouth, the liquid tends to pool around their incisors, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to proliferate. Tooth decay sets in and the child is doomed to a life of suppressed smiles, tooth pain, extractions, quack dentistry and worst of all, obesity and diabetes.
But that’s not Coke’s problem…. or is it?