Tuesday, 12 June 2012

New York City Bans the Big Stuff - Sugar

You have probably heard on the news cycles that Mayor Bloomberg of the city of New York is trying to ban the sale of sugary drinks in all sizes larger than 16 oz. The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery stores or convenience stores. And although I applaud his enthusiasm I think he is missing the point.

There is some research to support his platform (sort of). Some researchers believe that the effects of obesity push people towards a form of addiction, one that itself pushes against free choice. According to research by Paul M Johnson and Paul J Kenny of America's Scripps Research Institute, consistent overeating reduces people's sensitivity to the brain's dopamine reward responses that eating normally prompts, making people eat more to compensate for their absence. According to their influential 2010 paper:
"A defining characteristic of overweight and obese individuals is the fact that they will continue to overeat despite the well-known negative health and social consequences. Indeed, many overweight individuals express a desire to limit their food consumption, yet struggle to control their intake and repeatedly consume past energy requirements. Development of feeding behaviour that is insensitive to negative outcome is analogous to the compulsive drug-taking behaviour seen in human drug addicts that is similarly impervious to negative consequences."
But although this may all be true - I can't see how banning larger size sugary drinks will help.  If it needs to be viewed as an 'addiction' than we can't say "here is crack but you are only allowed to smoke up to 16 oz at a time unless you bought multiple servings, or purchased it at the grocery store or where there are free refills...and in that case knock yourself out"  If it is an addiction than lets take that seriously.

I will admit that even with all my hootin' and hollerin' about healthy eating I do enjoy the occasional Cola.  Carbonated beverages are my vice.  Even just soda water with tons of lemons and limes.  We do have 'healthy' or at least 'healthier' choices around the house for when my bubbly drink craving hits - soda water to add to juice (try with orange, cranberry, pomegranate or grape juice), and if it is on sale we occasionally get bottled or canned Frizzante (Italian fizzy juice).  I use to have the occasional Coke. There use to be a difference with buying a Coke in Canada vs. the US in that Canada coke didn't have high fructose corn syrup, that is no longer the case but is still a common mistake with high-fructose corn syrup labeled in Canada as 'glucose/fructose'.  There should just be a skull and cross-bones.  If you are a die hard Coke drinker (and yes I do partake occasionally) there are Coke versions you can get without HFCS - Mexican Coke is still made with plain ol'sugar and the Kosher labeled version sold in the spring around passover.  No, not even remotely 'good' for you but if you want an occasional treat of a Coke, best to make it the least deadly eh?

That being said - it would seem to me that Bloomberg's time and energy could be better spent banning HFCS from New York City!! He already managed to ban restaurants from using trans-fats so it only makes sense to me that banning another known toxin would make sense.  But banning larger size sugary drinks is like making drug illegal unless bought in bulk and never sending the addicts to rehab. No new healthy behaviour is being taught just the where and how to buy the drug.

Hopefully the bans may at least encourage people to look with a critical eye at the huge portions they consume or encourage people to learn more about the implications of consuming large quantities of sugar.  It has inspired me to write a post about sugar.  I will have that up in the next week.

Interestingly, last week Walt Disney announced that it will no longer permit junk food advertising to accompany its children's television programmes, following a similar ban already in place in several European countries, while last year the UAE banned all junk food from its school canteens.

lt's a start eh? What do you think about what Bloomberg is doing?

1 comment:

Robert Maxwell said...

As for advertising to children, it is already happening to certain extent in Canada. In Quebec it is illegal to advertise anything during children's tv programming (including junk food). This is based on the logic (sound logic, I might add), that children are not in a position to make purchasing decisions and advertising to young ages suggests that marketers are attempting to reach the parents through an innocent and impressionable intermediary, i.e. the child. I think this law needs to apply to all over provinces as well. Advertising noxious sugary cereal with cuddly mascots during children's programming, as far as I am concerned, is somewhere on the level of 'pond scummy'.