Beverages Of Choice, Marital Leakage, Etc.

Embarrassing news for cows: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill report that sweetened soft drinks have surpassed milk as a source of calories in the American diet. Between 1977 and 2001, caloric intake from soft drinks rose 135 percent, even as intake from milk fell 38 percent. Larger serving sizes and an increase in servings per day contributed to these gains in soft-drink consumption, the researchers note. On the bright side, per capita energy intake from fruit drinks doubled during the same period. Is milk consumption down because the aging of the U.S. population leaves proportionally fewer people in the prime milk-drinking years of childhood? That plausible hypothesis is confounded by another of the findings: The sharpest decline in milk consumption came in the 2-18 age bracket. In 1977, kids of that age got 13.2 percent of their calories from milk; by 2001, the figure was 8.3 percent. It doesn’t help matters that soft drinks are now widely available in school vending machines. A Gallup Tuesday Briefing says 68 percent of students age 13-15 can buy soda at their schools, as can 84 percent of kids age 16-17.

Bring a canteen of water from home the next time you fly. The Environmental Protection Agency recently tested the drinking water on 158 randomly chosen passenger airplanes, and 12.6 percent of them flunked. The samples that didn’t meet EPA standards contained such treats as E. coli bacteria.

When you see an ill-matched couple, you may wonder how they ever got together. We get one possible explanation in a spot for Labatt’s beer that urges people to drink in moderation: Cupid was blotto. The spot opens with glimpses of various unlikely couples, including a prim young lady and her leather-jacketed beau on their way into the Tunnel of Love (see the clips below). It then cuts to a groggy Cupid as he awakens (amid all-too-many empty beer bottles) with an obvious hangover and asks himself what on earth he did last night. Capping off the vignette is Labatt’s moderation motto, “Know when to draw the line.” Axmith McIntyre Wicht of Toronto created the commercial.

Some automobile passengers have too much faith in the driver. A report from the federal Department of Transportation says 81 percent of drivers use their seat belts (or, at least, claim they do so)—exceeding the 76 percent of front-seat passengers who use the belts. Mandatory seat-belt laws have given an upward push to the overall incidence of usage. Eighty percent of people in cars now buckle up, vs. 58 percent in 1994 and 71 percent as recently as 2000. The rate is higher when a car is on an expressway (88 percent) than when it’s on ordinary streets (79 percent). Motorists in vans and SUVs are more likely to use their belts than those in pickup trucks (83 percent vs. 70 percent).

It’s the age of the “leaky marriage.” Marriages that pair a divorced person with a never-married person are becoming more common, according to a study by Hiromi Ono, a sociologist at University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. She refers to these unions as “leaky” because “emotional and financial resources often drain out of the current relationship to help support and maintain ties to children and ex-spouses.” Some people will attempt to “plug” the leaks by curtailing such ties. “But sometimes the leaks are so large that the new marriage sinks.” Among the intriguing tidbits from the research: “Divorced men are more likely than divorced women to marry someone who has never been married before”; divorced women who remarry are more likely than their male counterparts to maintain links to their kids and former in-laws. As you’d expect, leaky marriages are problematic for the children. “Kids in remarriages, even biological children of the remarried parents, tend not to do as well in terms of educational attainment and achievement as kids in first marriages.” The pressure of child-support payments to one’s previous spouse is a major factor here.