At last weekend's Community Health Fair, people stopped to stare at an array of Mountain Dew products, each size can or bottle paired with a bag of sugar cubes to dramatize the amount of sugar people are consuming.
"People are really surprised at the amount of sugar that is there - the visual puts it into perspective," said Rhonda Christensen of the Iowa State Extension office in Buena Vista County, who presented the display at the fair and speaks on nutrition for a variety of educational events.
"A lot of the kids tell me they will take that 64-ounce bottle when they hang out with friends and over the course of an evening drink the whole thing," she said. For the record - sugared pop averages a teaspoon of sugar for every ounce, or a whopping 64 sugar cubes worth in that large bottle.
"Sometimes we actually have kids measure out the granulated sugar. That's an eye-opener," Christensen said.
In addition to sugar and caffeine, the carbonation in pop can be unhealthy in too heavy a dose, as well as damaging to the teeth.
"A big problem is that pop tends to replace the milk, juice or water that our bodies need," she said.
Her display also looks into portion sizes in fast food. "It's become a super-sized world, and people don't even realize the meal they buy has grown so much in portion size that it is several meals' worth, let alone less than nutritional."
Even a seemingly healthy bagel has grown to be the size of four normal portions of bread, she says.
A study has found that Iowa is among the lowest states in the nation in consumption of fruits and vegetables, and Extension will be pushing to remedy that.
"You don't get the fuel your body needs from things like pop. A lot of people look at our display and say their kids really need to see it, but so many adults work jobs where they consume pop to get the caffeine to stay awake. It isn't just one age group at risk."