HBO’s The Weight of the Nation offers viewers a chance to visit with a wide variety of Americans affected by the growing issue of obesity—including the diabetic and overweight, those who have lost weight and those who have gained.

Though every experience was different, the takeaway from each story was strikingly similar: When provided with accurate information about nutrition and exercise, Americans are capable of making educated choices that will lead to a happy and healthy lifestyle.
The series proposes that this process need not be dramatic or meteoric, but rather a compilation of small, ordinary adjustments that will lead to extraordinary change.

Unfortunately, the series does its viewers a disservice by over generalizing and using the term “sugar-sweetened beverages” which inaccurately describes the majority of soft drinks, energy drinks, juice drinks and similar products in the United States.

More than ninety percent of sweetened beverages in the United States are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is chemically distinct and derived from a different source than common table sugar—the naturally occurring sugar found in sugarcane and sugarbeets.

But the issue goes beyond just inaccurate terminology. Per-capita consumption of real sugar (sucrose) has declined nearly 40 percent since 1970—when this obesity crisis evolved. The claim that half of the increase in calories in the United States comes from sugar is not only misleading, it is patently false.

Rightly, the show did note the importance of a balanced diet. Making sure people have access to accurate information about nutrition is essential. Like an individual’s journey to creating a healthy lifestyle, we may not see a major difference by tomorrow, but we have to start somewhere.

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