Let me preface this post by saying that politics isn’t my thing. I will never be caught posting support or opposition for a politician or a law or regulation – especially if I know close to nothing about the topic – which is most things. You want to talk foreign affairs, taxes, educational reform, whatever it may be – I’m going to tell you that I don’t know enough to have a solid opinion and furthermore that most of you probably don’t either! (No watching a news segment and reading an opinion piece by some writer doesn’t count as “knowing the facts”.) That being said, the NYC restriction on the size of sugary drinks has gotten a lot of attention lately.
I was not planning on posting about it because from what I gathered via Twitter and the blog-o-sphere, RDs seem to be on the same page. Sarah, who blogs over at Food & Fitness Friend wrote up great article which I agree with – s0 I suggest checking hers out for sure! However, then while I was working late one night I wandered on over to Facebook (ohh yes, good old Facebook) and saw that a woman I did my DI with had a totally separate stance saying that this is invasive and that the government should not tell us what to eat. WOAH - I thought all of us RDs were on the same page here?? Guess not. So, me being the person who loves a good debate (when I actually know what I’m taking about) was like, “oh let me just shoot from my hips and reply to this status update at 1 am”. I know – always a good idea, right? Anyway- just thought I would share my response here! It’s my blog after all!
FB Status: “Should the government tell you what to eat” – with a link to an anti-NYC sugar sweetened bev post.
My Reply: I don’t think that limiting the size of soft drinks sold is equivalent to the govt telling anyone what to eat or drink, or even the same as the govt limiting how much individuals can eat or drink. I see this as simply being a way to create a more health-promoting food environment. 16 fl. oz is the equivalent of 2 soft drinks, and research from the Framingham offspring study has shown that those who (on average) consume >1 soft drink per day have a 48% increased risk of developing the metabolic syndrome over a period of 4 years vs. non-consumers. While the plan has been touted as “educational” in nature; those against it have said, “why not just truly educate instead?” should turn to the published literature on health education. It is obvious that education is insufficient for behavior change. I’m sure this size limitation (I dislike the term “ban” since that implies total removal) will take a while to gain acceptance, as did smoking bans, trans fat bans, etc. However, those are now more commonplace and seem to be positively accepted. Sure, one can make the argument that a smoking ban is legitimate because it negatively influences the health of others besides the smoker and consuming sugar-sweetened beverages is an individual choice that only negatively influences the person drinking them. However, I would argue against that as well. It is known that average added sugar intake in the US is much greater than it should be (~16% of total caloric intake, when dietary guidelines limit them to ~6-8% of total caloric intake). Approximately 1/2 of all added sugar intake comes from sugar-sweetened beverages (8% of total kcals). Therefore, SSBs represent a very real contributor to obesity. Research has also shown us that people (including normal weight people) consume more calories when they just SEE an overweight or obese person during meal time. Therefore, obesity can be seen as being a potential health risk factor to those who are not obese/overweight as well. Thus, public dietary guidelines which could decrease the obesity rates in the country are beneficial to all. Sorry, just kind of wrote a book there! I understand people not wanting the govt to “control their lives”, but I don’t see this proposal being all that invasive. I think the benefits certainly outweight any potential negatives. Totally open to hear what others have to say!
Reply to Me: Research also shows that those who consume diet drinks are just as likely to be obese/overweight. By singling out a specific food, we are avoiding the overall issue of overconsumption of calories and lack of physical activity. (Tanya insert – totally agree) At which point does government regulation of food choice and forcing companies to limit choices of food become to intrusive? Once started, it will continue as seen by their continued discussions of limits on popcorn and milkshakes. I disagree that education is unsuccessful. WIC is a wonderful example of that. If the message is not being clear to people, we should change how we educate. Not regulate through laws. I also question the motives since now NY will gain 2x the taxes from those purchasing 2-16oz. sodas.
My 2nd Reply: Evidence about diet soda and weight is just epi and correlation in nature, so not enough to justify it as being “bad” too. Recent evidence actually points to diet soda being as effective as water as a weight loss strategy from intervention work. WIC is not an educational program so cannot be used as evidence that education works. It is much more comprehensive than an educational program. Changing up the “way” health education is performed is probably not going to be cost-effective. Population based strategies – such as the restriction on SSBs – are generally more effective and less expensive than a high-risk strategy - such as educating those at risk/those consuming most SSBs, or whatever it may be. I totally agree that this is not the only “bad” food out there causing obesity….but 8% of total caloric intake in the country essentially coming from soda is a lot, so worth tackling I think. I am not a politically savvy person at all and thus why I will never be found discussing taxes, foreign affairs, etc because I know enough to know that I don’t know enough. When it comes to health/nutrition/weight management/effective behavioral change strategies though I think I am qualified…so from that stand point and that alone I see this as only have positive effects on the nation’s health. I just don’t see this as being intrusive, which is seemingly where we differ in opinion – which is fine….there are always a lot of good points to be brought up from all sides. I know I would never want to be a political figure trying to make positive change and keep everyone happy….just will never happen.
And there it ends. If I get another reply I will ignore it (Er’ I will TRY my hardest to ignore it despite my desire to have the last word) as I don’t have time to debate on FB. Plus I think I made all of my major points (as I’m sure no one wants me to run through the metabolic consequences of consuming too much added sugar). Except maybe this, which was part of my reply to Sarah’s post over on Food and Fitness Friend: “…I know Boston banned sugary drinks in public buildings with success, so I see no reason NYers should be so offended about the size allowed being reduced. I’ll have to track down the article, as I no longer have it saved, but research indicates that when sugary drinks were banned in Boston schools that it actually resulted in fewer sugary drinks being consumed outside of school than before their removal in school. So, like you, I am all for this….but again, could just be the nutritionist in me talking!” So basically, reducing portion sizes available at restaurants could possibly reduce SSB intake on other environments as well.
WoAh, okay, that was a long one without entertaining pictures. My apologies! Next week I have a lighter post with plenty of pictures coming. Promise! Here is a picture of my cute little nephews staying cool on the farm until then:
If you survived that post, what is your take on the NYC sugary drink size restriction. TOTALLY up to hearing opinions that differ, or views of folks who can comment on it from a stand point aside from health/nutrition. I just ask that you please be respectful in your comments/discussions with myself or anyone else who may comment. If you are not, your comment will be deleted….so play nice! Also, know that I probably won’t reply to comments as I don’t and I’m sure you all don’t have the time to debate back and forth when our difference of opinion may come down to something that neither of us can “prove” the other is wrong about.
HAPPY FRIDAY, enjoy your weekend, and as always thanks for reading!