You may have remember hearing rumblings of a soda ban in NYC, last Thursday (Sept 13 2012) the “New York City Board of Health approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters, the first restriction of its kind in the country.” For more details on the announcement, you can read the NY Times write-up Health Panel Approves Restriction on Sale of Large Sugary Drinks.
So what does this mean for soda drinkers in New York?
What is included in the ban – limited to 16oz servings
- regular sodas
- sugar sweetened drinks (like sweetened ice tea)
What’s not included in the ban – no limit on serving size
- fruit juices
- dairy-based drinks like milkshakes
- alcoholic beverages
- no-calorie diet sodas
Why the ban is a good idea
Limits size: Limiting the size that you can purchase is better than banning the entire product. I see the size limit as a way of trying to educate people that there is a “reasonable amount” of soda that should be consumed in a sitting. While people won’t like it, maybe they will try to curb their thirst with healthier options, like water instead of sipping on sugary soda all day.
Raises Awareness: The size restriction will start to raise awareness that drinking large quantities of sugar sweetened beverages is not a good idea. When you drink soda, it causes your insulin to spike, giving you a burst of energy followed by a crash when the sugar is gone. When your body releases large amounts of insulin, which is a storage hormone, your body stores fat. And chronically high insulin is also a warning sign of Type 2 Diabetes.
Lead to weight loss?: Reducing the amount of soda that people drink may start to put a dent in the obesity epidemic. I don’t think that anyone can hang their hat on this containing it, but you have to start somewhere. This is a step in the right direction but we need added awareness and education so that consumers know what that 16oz soda is doing to them, the detrimental effects of drinking sugar sweetened beverages (soda and others) in general, and what consuming them in excess does to your health.
Why the ban is a bad idea
We told you so: People don’t like being told what they can and cannot eat. This is a slippery slope too, which sounds like a good idea when you agree with the substance being regulated (here with the sugar sweetened beverages I completely agree). However, we don’t want to demonize food because a government or state claims that it isn’t healthy. In some ways the ban is restricting a consumer’s freedom of choice. However you can still buy soda and sugar sweetened beverages, but it will be in regulated sizes. If you want your 128oz Big Gulp you just have to get a few (EIGHT!) sodas instead of being able to fill a single serving bucket with that sugary substance.
Missing Diet Soda: Diet soda isn’t included in the ban, and neither is real fruit juice. Both of these things can be just as bad from an obesity perspective. Just because sugar from fruit is natural, doesn’t mean that your body perceives it any differently that the sugar or HFCS sweetened drinks that will have size limits. For diet sodas, fake sugar tricks your brain into thinking it’s starving, since you get the sugary taste and then wham, no calories?? Your body has no idea what to do with that information and often times causes weight gain instead of the desired weight loss – that’s why you’re drinking a diet soda in the first place right?
Lacking Education: While the ban infers that there are reasonable quantities of sugary drinks to consumer, I don’t necessarily agree that 16oz is a reasonable size and there isn’t any education about why the sugary drinks are be limited to a certain size. Research and biochemistry show that sugar is causing our nation’s obesity epidemic and causing millions to struggle with Type 2 diabetes, at all ages, even kids are getting what used to be referred to as “adult onset” diabetes! We need to educate people so that they know how to make better choices.
Where’s the money? The soda and beverage industry is obviously upset here since this law will limit their product and infers that there is something about these products that needs to be regulated and is therefore dangerous or bad in some way (think about what else is regulated: alcohol, cigarettes…) Plus the state of NY is touting their product as unhealthy and needing restriction. There is some concern from businesses related to sales, but wasn’t that the case when they banned smoking in bars as well? We’ll have to see what the size restriction does to the beverage market and if it makes a dent in profits.
This is a really interesting social experiment, we’ll see how people do and how upset they get when their soda consumption is limited based on the size of the cup you can purchase. Overall, there are pros and some very real cons. If the state of New York was trying to reduce the amount of grass-fed butter I could buy since its high in saturated fat, I’d be upset….because fat doesn’t make you fat. So if we’re wrong about sugar and sodas causing obesity and diabetes, we could be attacking the wrong front.
If they can do it in New York, then can we do it anywhere, right? Do you see this as a trend that will be coming to your city sometime soon? What do you think is an effective way to discourage the consumption of sugar in our population, both in the form of drinks and highly processed and refined foods? You can educate people but honestly many times the ones that are most at risk just don’t care. I think this is a step in the right direction, and will have more positive effect than negative effect on the public, but in the grand scheme of the obesity epidemic, I’m not sure that it’s even going to make a dent in the 5,000 lives that are lost each year in New York related to obesity.