By Rosario Pajuelo

Concerns have been growing over the link between high consumption of soda and sugary drinks and obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Now the animated short film, The Real Bears, which encourages Americans to pour out their sodas, has been viewed more than 1.3 million times since its launch last week, the Washington DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest said this week. The video, created by ad guru Alex Bogusky for CSPI and featuring an original song by Jason Mraz, spread rapidly on Facebook and Twitter after USA Today called it “the video that Coca-Cola does not want you to see.”

Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker who stunned the nation with the 2003 documentary Super Size Me called The Real Bears “one of the most brilliant counter-campaigns ever created.”  Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food author Michael Pollan called the film “weirdly compelling” and Corby Kummer of the Atlantic wrote “wow.”  And msnNOW.com wrote of The Real Bears that “this warning against drinking sugary soda is ultimately uplifting, kinda touching and—dare we say it—very sweet.”

The New York Times’ Mark Bittman observed via Twitter that “anti-soda marketing begins to catch up.” Fitness expert Jillian Michaels, publisher Arianna Huffington, Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and the Today Show’s Joy Bauer were among the thousands of people who tweeted about the film.

The film features a family of polar bears under constant assault from soda advertising.  Boy Bear’s weight gain makes fishing more difficult.  Sis suffers from tooth decay.  Pop Bear fares the worst, losing a hind leg to a diabetes-induced amputation.  But in the end, the family decides to take back their health and happiness by dumping their soda into the sea.

The film is probably not for the youngest of viewers, or the most squeamish.  A steamy bedroom scene (okay, not so steamy) might not be appropriate for children; nor will a harrowing sequence in Doc Fox’s primitive polar operating theater.

CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson hit out against claims from Coca-Cola executives that there is no scientific evidence that connects sugary drinks to obesity. “Of course there is scientific evidence that connects sugary drinks to obesity … and yet another set of studies has come out making the connection even clearer,” Mr Jacobsen said.

Each additional sugary drink consumed per day increases the likelihood of a child becoming obese by about 60%.  Drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases one’s risk for type 2 diabetes by 27%, CSPI said. Diabetes, in turn, in has complications that include erectile dysfunction and amputation.

The film is available at TheRealBears.org.

In September, the New York City Health Board voted to cap serving sizes of sugary drinks sold at restaurants and other food vendors it regulates to 16 ounces, as proposed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

And in October, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that linked sucrose-sweetened beverages to obesity metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. The 6-month study was conducted by M. Maersk et al, at Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine MEA, Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

In the trial, 47 overweight people were assigned to four test drinks in a dose of 1 liter per day for six months, sucrose-sweetened soft drink (regular cola), isocaloric semi skim milk, aspartame-sweetened diet cola, and water.

Those drinking the sucrose sweetened beverages gained more fat than those drinking any of other three beverages. The researchers concluded "Daily intake of SSSDs (sucrose sweetened soft drinks) for 6 mo increases ectopic fat accumulation and lipids compared with milk, diet cola, and water. Thus, daily intake of SSSDs is likely to enhance the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases."