Should Shaquille O'Neal sell soda?

Becky Oberg's picture

NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal is selling a line of sodas, in spite of his professed concern for diabetes, according to a press release from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

Seven-Eleven and AriZona Beverages have teamed up to sell Soda Shaq, a line of cream sodas that come in Vanilla, Blueberry, Strawberry and Orange, according to a press release from the companies. The sodas contain no no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. They are flavored with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract and pure cane sugar, and have 90 calories per serving. Each can is 23.5 ounces.

"Fans can satisfy their sweet tooth without the guilt from the very first clean and refreshing sip," reads the press release.

CSPI disagrees, explaining that each can contains at least three servings. That's a total of 270 calories and 17 teaspoons of sugar per can. In comparison, a 20-ounce bottle of Cherry Coca-Cola contains 260 calories and about 11 teaspoons of sugar.

Ironically, O'Neal told CNN he tries "to stay away from the sodas" to prevent obesity and diabetes.

CSPI is asking the retired basketball player to reconsider his soda promotion.

"Clearly, Shaq knows better," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson in a press release. "He has said he avoids soda himself, and worries about obesity and diabetes. But he's now using his name, face, and reputation to make those health problems even bigger. It's shameful hypocrisy, presumably motivated by money. ... I'm sure this deal is a financially lucrative arrangement, but in all other respects this is Shaq's most flagrant personal foul since his cameo in Freddy Got Fingered,"

Dr. Anthony Iton of The California Endowment, a private foundation dedicated to access to health care and disease prevention, said he agreed.

"Given the nation's persistent and devastating health crisis of obesity and diabetes, I would urge superstar athletes to remember the special responsibility they have as powerful role models to their young fans, especially when it comes to endorsing sugar drinks," said Iton, who is senior vice president of The California Endowment. "Beverage companies like using sports figures because it links sugary junk drinks like soda with fitness and athletic achievement. It helps neutralize concern over obesity, diabetes, and other health problems linked with soda consumption—problems that African Americans happen to suffer from disproportionately."

According to the American Diabetes Association, 18.7 percent of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have diabetes. African Americans are 1.8 times more likely to have diabetes as non Hispanic whites.

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