The average adult human stomach can hold comfortably about 32 ounces (or 900 ml) at any given time.
In 2010, not deterred by two shocking documentaries, "Food Inc." and "SuperSize Me," and though one might have thought some sort of collective consciousness had been aroused, the Seven-Eleven chain launched its Double Big Gulp, which, at 64 fl.oz holds about twice the amount of fluid than the average adult human stomach.
A Double Big Gulp regular soda brings the equivalent of 800 empty calories (a whopping 59 teaspoons of sugar!). This is 30 percent of the daily recommended caloric consumption for an average male adult. All doctors agree that such an influx of sugar on a regular basis could most likely lead to a diabetic condition.
Replacing regular sodas with the artificially sweetened kind is not better. Indeed, more and more research is pointing at the potential dangers some artificial sweeteners represent. Potential dangers aside, independent studies have shown beyond reasonable doubt that even diet sodas do contribute to weight gain, with their "sweet" message sent to the brain leading to overeating and overstoring of excess calories in the form of fat (Purdue University study -- Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 122, No. 1, February 2008).
Physiologically this large drink will also contribute to some health issues, distending the stomach to twice its regular size. What's more, your stomach can process liquids at a rate of approx. 200-400 ml an hour according to research done by Shils et al. in 1994 (Enteral feeding, in Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 8th ed, ME Shils et al (eds). Philadelphia, Lea & Febiger, 1994, pp 1417-1429). This rate mostly depends on what else is in your stomach at the time of digestion as an empty stomach will digest the liquid fastest. Hence, the absolute quickest you could "process" the Double Big Gulp -- assuming you begin on a completely empty stomach -- would be approximately 4.75 hours.
The problem is, that while First Lady Michele Obama is fighting hard on the obesity front -- educating kids and adults alike, sending out messages about the healthy impact portion control can have on our current and future lives, promoting a lifestyle with more vegetables and less processed foods -- consumers are receiving contradictory messages from their environment, which is simply leading us to a state of national schizophrenia, or schifoodphrenia.
Indeed, how can an educated consumer who knows very well that "too much of anything is not a good thing" behave rationally, when even their favorite brand like Starbucks, consumed by so many celebs whom the average person likes to emulate, starts offering the famous Trenta: The latest über drink in the race to the largest, the biggest, the richest drink, at 972 ml or 31 oz (larger than the average capacity of the human stomach by 10 percent). With the Trenta, even the unsweetened version of an ice tea lemonade will still bring 230 empty calories, leading to a weight gain of 2 pounds of fat every month, assuming the consumer drinks one Trenta unsweetened lemonade per day.
The situation on the food front is even more worrisome. How can teenagers follow the lead of the First Lady when one of the most viral videos on YouTube these days features a bulky host baking a 45,000 (yes, 45,000) calorie dish with French fries, fried cheese sticks, cheese, sour cream, alcohol, chili, ham - all of this in a trough lined with bacon! How can we expect our youth to make the right choices when TV networks produce shows like "Man vs. Food," which has met quite a success with this category of viewers who share the latest insane episodes on their Facebook pages and spend evenings watching and re-watching this show?
In the case where parents become aware and make attempts at educating their children, what can they do when Pizza Hut launches a "cheese-filled-crust" pizza, that adds 238 calories per slice and a whopping 30 percent more saturated fat; when to attract more consumers national fast-food chains become so creative as to produce chili burger, lasagna pizza, French fries sandwiches, etc., hereby creating a generation of kids who can't discern between what's tasty and what is not, their only triggers to determine whether a dish is good being low price, fat/sugar or salt content?
There is no panacea to this national illness. However, if we look at initiatives that other states and countries have put in place to tackle their own rampant obesity problems, we can definitely find enough baby-step solutions, which, one day at a time, can make our country a healthier place:
- Ban on unhealthy foods and snacks during cartoon times on TV (France)
- Pay a village's inhabitants to eat its 5-veggie serving a day (Italy)
- Ban the sale of junk foods in elementary and middle school (California)
- Encourage the planting of gardens in pre-schools and kindergartens (across the States, Greece)
- Ban toys in fast-food meals (California)
- Ban fast-food joints near schools so as to encourage eating the healthy alternatives offered by the school (UK)
- Offer organic, tasty vegan options at schools (California and New York are leading the pack)
- Use consumer advocates to put pressure on fast food chains to stop selling their in-humane sized portions (McDonalds stopped its Supersize menu after the documentary SuperSize Me)
Let's unite. Together we can change the way we eat, one bite (or gulp) at a time.