Top Stories of 2012: Soda Ban, Benefits?

Soda has been one of the food industry's hottest topics this year. Here's another one of The Lempert Report's most popular stories of the year.

December 27, 2012

This year, New York City's Mayor Bloomberg announced his idea to ban the sale of any sugary beverage over 16 ounces in any of the city's restaurants, delis, movie theaters, or even street carts. But New Yorkers could cross the street to the local corner shop and buy larger cans and bottles; The Lempert Report believes that if a ban like this is ever to be put in place, the ban needs to span equally in all retail venues in the city.

Sure diners could order a refill or order more drinks, but the initial portion size would be no more than 16 ounces; current research demonstrates that plate size and portion size do contribute to consumption. The smaller the plate the less calories you will consume, and the smaller the portion you are given, the less likely you will go back for seconds.

According to a study published in the journal Obesity, by 2030, 86.3 percent of adults will be overweight or obese – based on the current trajectory. That leaves 13.7 percent in the normal weight category. Clearly something drastic needs to happen, and we believe that sugary drinks are a great place to begin.

The proof is there! The Harvard School of Public Health reports, that in the Framingham Heart Study, men and women who had one or more soft drinks a day were 25 percent more likely to have developed trouble managing blood sugar and nearly 50 percent more likely to have developed metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure; high insulin levels; excess weight, especially around the abdomen; high levels of triglycerides; and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol); one step short of full blown diabetes and boosts the odds of developing heart disease.

Sodas are also a prime source of fructose in the Standard American Diet (SAD); a recent study from UCLA, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Physiology, the study found that fructose corn syrup sabotaged learning and memory (note: the study focused on fructose generally, not specifically on high-fructose corn syrup, although obviously HFCS contains fructose). Of course anything regarding HFCS sparks controversy – but it seems like limiting our soda intake would do us a lot of good.

At this point Bloomberg’s plan is just an idea and would have to pass various legislation to actually see the light of day. His intent (as it was with banning smoking and trans fats) is good - but this plan is fragile at best by not treating all retail outlets the same. While it is certainly easier to limit the size of soft drinks at a movie theater (versus in a supermarket), the benefits of at least testing the concept are worth it - although starting out with a small town may be more realistic than starting in New York City.

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