Full disclosure: I love the Olympics and watch as much as I can every two years.
It is very motivating to see how a strong work ethic, some talent and focused training can create such incredible performances. Especially good are the stories of athletes inspired to become Olympians by watching the Olympics at an early age. The Daily Mail has an article about Joseph Schooling, a young boy from Singapore, who met his idol Michael Phelps at 14 years old and then went on to beat him in the 100m Butterfly in Rio eight years later. Amazing stuff.
The inevitable stories of athletes over-coming challenges to get to the Olympics are great as well. Today’s NY Times has a story about how an American High Jumper once had to live in her car. Even Ryan Lochte and his stupid antics can’t tarnish this great institution.
So what’s the problem? It’s the advertising. Envision that we have millions of people watching the Olympics perhaps being inspired to seek a Gold Medal or perhaps just inspired to get off the couch and stop playing videos games to take a swim or a jog around the block. But then, what do they see in between the games? Advertising for huge amounts of Sugar. Sugar that will inevitably make them fat and sick.
The three major advertisers that I remember seeing most are Coca Cola, PowerAde and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. A 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains 39 grams of total sugar, which is about 9 1/3 teaspoons of sugar. In March 2015, the World Health Organization recommended that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake (approximately 12 teaspoons. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
You read that right. A single can of Coca Cola contains approximately 3/4 of the daily sugar intake recommended by the WHO and 50% more than what they recommend for added health benefits. A 20 ounce PowerAde, owned by Coca Cola, has 7 teaspoons of sugar almost as much as a can of Coke. While admittedly a bigger portion, this is the typical size of sports drink that you see people drinking. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have 8 grams of Sugar or 2 teaspoons per Cup or 4 teaspoons in a typical package of 2 cups. By the way, the Peanut Butter cups were being pitched by Olympic skier Lindsay Vonn.
What’s the message we are sending? If you work hard and stay focused you too can become an Olympian. But in the meantime, eat a whole bunch of sugar and get fat and sick. Don’t worry though because these great athletes you are watching are telling you it is okay.