All News & Blogs
In July, Eric Moore sips a large beverage during a protest against New York City's proposal to limit portion sizes
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 9/13/2012
NEW YORK--The era of the supersized cola may come to an end in New York City today, when health officials are expected to approve an unprecedented 16-ounce limit on sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, delis and movie theaters. But will it actually translate into better health?
Doctors and nutrition experts said the regulation's success or failure may depend on more than just the modest number of calories it might slash from people's diets. It will hinge on whether the first-in-the-nation rule starts a conversation that changes attitudes toward overeating.
"Ultimately it does come down to culture, and it comes down to taking some first steps," said Dr. Jeffrey Mechanick, a professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine who has studied the effect of government regulation on the obesity epidemic.
"There are so many factors that are acting in this complex disease. Obesity is not just a disease simply of people drinking too much sugary soft drink," he said. "Just attacking one thing, individually, isn't going to do much."
But if the rule is part of a broader social and scientific assault on the dangers of too much sugar, he said, it could be tremendously effective. He likened it to the drumbeat about the dangers of smoking, which took decades to translate into results.
"People talk about it. It gets ruminated at social parties. It gets ruminated in politics and the media. And all of a sudden, you have an awareness," he said.
City health officials say that by restricting portion sizes for sugary beverages, they are taking on one of the leading culprits in the national fat problem.
Since the mid-1970s, Americans have increased their daily intake by 200 to 300 calories while getting less exercise--a couch-potato lifestyle that has left the country with epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes.
The standard soda has gone from a 12-ounce can in the 1980s to a 20-ounce bottle today.
"This is the largest single driver of the obesity epidemic," said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. "It is the largest source of added sugars to our diet."