The buzz in the health world yesterday was the proposal by the New York City mayor to ban the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages that exceed 16 ounces. This proposal comes after previous failed proposals to tax sugary drinks and make them unavailable to those who use food stamps. While some agree with this proactive attempt to fight the rapidly increasing epidemic of obesity, many believe the restriction is a barrier to their rights. The bill includes the removal of any sugar-sweetened beverages (defined as having greater than 25 calories per 8 ounces) from establishments that serve prepared foods. Grocery and convenience stores would not be included in the proposal. Additionally drinks that contain milk or dairy substitutes will be exempt from the bill.
Are sugar-sweetened beverages the culprit for obesity?
Not entirely. Recent studies and expert reports suggest the causes of obesity in American are multi-factorial and include dietary patterns (excessive calorie intake), environment, intake of certain medications, and genetics. Although the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages of some Americans does contribute to excessive calorie intake, a recent study found that soda intake was actually on the decline. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that soda intake declined during the years 1999 to 2008. Over the studied time period the only added sugar beverages to increase were energy drinks.
How many calories can you really save?
I always educate my clients that sugar-sweetened beverages are "empty calories" because they provide minimal nutrition and short satiety, while still providing calories. The amount of "empty calories" provided by a 12 ounce can of soda is 140 and in 8 ounces of juice is anywhere from 90 to 160 calories depending on the type of juice. That means you are drinking anywhere from 6.4 to 7.8 teaspoons of sugar! In a previous post on sugar we discussed the recommended intake of sugar.
How much weight can I loose?
In general if you cut back your daily calories by 500 calories you will loose 1 pound per week. Therefore if you subtract (or replace with a sugar-free option) one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened soda from your day, you can expect to loose 1 pound every 3.4 weeks. Although this does not appear to be a great amount of weight - in a year this amounts to 15 pounds. If your sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is greater than 12 ounces of soda this amount will be even greater!
I do not agree that the new proposed ban on sugary drinks will substantially improve obesity. Although I concur on the need to be extremely proactive on the fight to improve obesity, people must desire to make the dietary changes themselves and should not feel forced upon the changes. Americans need to be educated on proper nutrition and understand the repercussions on poor dietary choices.
Bottom line: I strongly support the fight for obesity, however I do not suspect this proposa lwill evoke behavioral changes. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that consumers reduce their intake of food and drinks with added sugars and replace them with less caloric dense drinks such as water, moderate amounts of 100-percent fruit juice, and low fat milk.