New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg riled the beverage industry with his proposal to ban large sugary beverages at food establishments, in an effort to combat obesity.
Many health experts who have weighed-in on the subject say the Mayor may have been well intentioned, but the plan probably won't meet its objective. Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) say by focusing on one product the city could be missing the big picture in the obesity battle.
In fact, in 2009 a team of researchers from the UAB School of Public Health and Purdue University reviewed five randomized trials that studied the effect of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages on body weight.
“We found no significant effect on overall weight reduction as a result of reducing intake of sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Kathryn Kaiser, Ph.D., instructor in the SOPH. “Since this was published, two other randomized trials have been published, and neither showed large effects on weight change.”
Kaiser says energy should be directed toward the design and conduct of randomized trials that will definitively answer the questions about actions that can significantly reduce weight. That, she says, has a better chance of producing effective policies.
“I think to say people drinking large sodas at events is the cause of obesity is short sighted and it is making a villain out of something that may not be the true villain,” said Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics at UAB. “I think that while reducing consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is important, I don’t think making it unavailable in certain settings is a way to accomplish that.”
Consumers posting comments on our original story about the proposed ban were, for the most part, also skeptical.
“Another example of failing to consider second, third, etc. order consequences of a policy,” Earl, of Arlington, Va., wrote. “Folks wanting 20 or 24 ounces will buy two 16-ounce drinks. Hence, yet more calories.”
Judd said she thinks that individuals are ultimately responsible for their own health and the actions they take related to it.
“People make their own choices and we can’t force them into those decisions. A public health effort must be made so they can better understand the consequences of their choices,” Judd said.