Our opinion: OK, we're not joking: Put down the soda

March 31, 2011 9:39:00 AM

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The first quarter of the year is almost over. Have you drunk 20 gallons of soda yet? 

 

We wish this was an April Fool''s joke, but it isn''t: Each Mississippian, on average, consumes 82 gallons of soda per year. Even scarier: If you don''t drink that much soda, then someone else in the state is making up the difference for you. 

 

This stark fact was among several released in February by a report in the medical journal Lancet, which labeled Mississippi the state with the "deadliest eating habits." 

 

Mississippi''s obesity problem, our disproportionate drain on Medicaid system and our ridiculously poor eating habits are hardly a secret. Still, the 82 gallons of soda puts things in perspective, as does another figure in the study: Every Mississippian eats $588 worth of fast food each year. (We''re the poorest state in the union, too. But just think if we spent all that money on a membership to a health club or the Y.) 

 

A separate study, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, breaks down our unhealthiness by county. From this view, our area looks a little better. Lowndes County is the eighth healthiest county in the state, Oktibbeha ranks fifth, and Clay comes in at 13th. (Desoto and Lafayette counties are first and second, respectively.) 

 

The county rankings take into account things like education, income and access to health care. Around here, with two universities, relatively decent employment and three hospital systems, we''re going to come out ahead. We''re smart enough to know better. We also have a little disposable income to buy fresh vegetables and get to the doctor. 

 

Still, we''re among the best of the worst, and our bad habits are hard to break. We know we''re tilting at windmills here. We like our veggies with healthy doses of oil, butter, salt and a chunk of bacon thrown in, just to be sure. That''s if we don''t just fry them outright. 

 

And, we clearly like our soda. 

 

Still, it''s never too late to become more responsible. Reaching for a soda? Try a glass of water instead. Starting tomorrow, April Fool''s Day, let somebody else drink your share.