February 12, 2012

Leah Woodburn, dietician for the Pediatric Clinic at the West Virginia University Health Services Center, on soft drinks:

"Typically, West Virginia children drink between one to three sodas every day. If we could do just that one thing, get kids to drink less soda pop, we would see a significant decline in childhood obesity rates.

"Each soda has about 80 grams of sugar in it. Eighty grams of sugar equals 20 teaspoons of sugar. A 20-ounce Orange Crush contains 20 teaspoons of sugar and 250 calories.

"We frequently see obese children who drink two chocolate milks at breakfast, two chocolate milks at lunch, then go home and have a soda as soon as they get off the school bus.

"Just 500 extra calories every day, for seven days, equals one pound weight gain. That's a pound a week from two sodas a day. Think about that."

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West Virginia leads the nation in diabetes, heart attacks, and obesity, among others. One in four West Virginia 11-year-olds has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. One in five kindergartners is obese.

As one public health official said, “This is a public health emergency.”

Learn about the problem, meet people who are trying to bring those numbers down, and learn what you can do.

This ongoing project has been created with the help of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The stories can also be viewed in chronological order at www.theshapewerein.wordpress.com

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