Linkedin Twitter Facebook Email RSS Feed Our Blog

Archive for the ‘ Soda ’ Category

Court rejects NYC portion cap for sugary drinks

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Court rejects NYC portion cap for sugary drinks.”

You can also read it HERE.

New York City lost its final appeal to limit the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.

In a 20-page report, the New York State Court of Appeals issued its final decision on the Portion Cap Ruling. Justice Pigott wrote:

We hold that the New York City Board of Health, in adopting the “Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule,” exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority. By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the Board engaged in law-making and thus infringed upon the legislative jurisdiction of the City Council of New York.

The Portion Cap Ruling, commonly known as the soda ban, was to restrict the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and delis.

The decision is disappointing and a defeat to public health advocates urging the government to curb the sale of oversize sugary drinks thought to be a major contributor to America’s obesity crisis.

Dr. Mary Bassett, the commissioner of health for the city, issued the following statement:

Today’s ruling does not change the fact that sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic, and we will continue to look for ways to stem the twin epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes by seeking to limit the pernicious effects of aggressive and predatory marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.

Mayor Bill De Blasio also expressed his disappointment in the court’s decision. As written in Capital New York:

“We are extremely disappointed by today’s Court decision that prevents the city from implementing a sugary drink portion cap policy,” de Blasio said in a press release. “The negative effects of sugary drink over-consumption on New Yorkers’ health, particularly among low-income communities, are irrefutable.”

As a nutritionist and portion size advocate, I too was disappointed with the court’s decision.

Portion sizes have grown exponentially over the years and rates of obesity have skyrocketed. In the 1950s, a soda at McDonald’s was 7 ounces; today, the company sells a quart-size soda nearly five times larger than its original size. KFC sells a half-gallon size with nearly 800 calories.

As I told Food Navigator USA:

From a consumer perspective, this was not about banning soda. This was about how much is reasonable for one person. There are a lot of factors that contribute to obesity. One very major one is the fact that what used to be a normal size is now called “mini.”

Indeed, we need to change our food environment if we want to reduce obesity rates and encourage consumer to select healthier food choices. That means selling smaller size portions of foods and drinks that provide no nutritional value. In my opinion, curbing the sizes of sugary drinks was certainly a good place to start.

I applaud the health department’s efforts and hope that we can all work together to promote a healthier food environment for our children to grow up in.

Share |

Hawaii to cap sizes of sugary drinks

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “Hawaii to cap the sizes of sugary drinks.”

You can also read it HERE.

In New York City, we are patiently awaiting the court decision on whether or not a 16-ounce soda will become the default “large” at eating establishments including fast food restaurants delis, and movie theaters.

I am pleased that Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he would move forward with many of former Mayor Bloomberg’s initiatives, including a cap on the sizes of sugar sweetened beverages.

Now, it looks like Hawaii may cap the sizes of sugary drinks. The Hawaii State Senate recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces anywhere in the state.

As written in the bill:

The purpose of this Act is to promote the consumption of healthy beverages by ensuring that healthy options are available and accessible, and to reduce incentives to purchase and consume excessively large sugar-sweetened beverages.

Kudos to Hawaii!

Perhaps Bloomberg’s proposal initiated back in May 2012 was on to something. I recently wrote about the United Arab Emigrates’ proposed cap on super size beverages.

After all, does anybody really need to drink more than a pint of soda at one time? With obesity a major public health crisis in the U.S. and abroad, sodas that come in half-gallon containers may certainly be adding to the problem. Indeed, these jumbo sodas contain nearly 800 calories and 50 teaspoons of sugar, are pure liquid calories and contain more than a third of the calories many people should consume in an entire day.

And, as I’ve written before, obesity rates have increased in parallel with growing soda sizes and calorie labeling alone will not solve the problem. Consumers need an environment that encourages healthier choices. And the healthy choice must be the easy choice.

In the meantime, the NYC Department of Health continues to highlight the risks of drinking too many sugary beverages for children and adults. As part of its Pouring on the Pounds advertising campaign, the department recently introduced a new catchy ad, “A sip in the right direction.

In a continued effort to promote healthier New Yorkers, the health department is urging consumers to replace sugary drinks with water, seltzer, unsweetened teas, fat-free milk and fresh fruit.

Certainly a good idea!

Share |

Fighting Obesity in New York City One Cup at a Time

It has been a busy week in New York City surrounding discussions of Mayor Bloomberg’s portion-size restriction for sodas. Below is my blog post for Huffington Post on the topic. You can read it HERE.

I was pleased to participate in Mayor Bloomberg’s press event yesterday at Lucky’s Café on East 34th Street along with other public health activists. The mayor vowed that the city will appeal the ruling overturning the portion-size restriction for sugar-sweetened beverages that was set to go into effect. He also eloquently spoke about the health implications of consuming large sugary beverages for New Yorkers. The mayor mentioned that obesity is killing more than 5,000 New Yorkers annually and 100,000 people nationwide. Indeed, large portions of sugar-sweetened beverages are contributing to our obesity epidemic.

The proposed portion size cap was set to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks that are larger than 16 ounces in food establishments, including fast-food chains, restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, delis, and street carts. It would include the now-typical 20-ounce soda bottle from the corner deli and most oversized fountain drinks available in fast-food establishments and movie theaters. It would even include many “small” sodas served at such eateries.

The press release from Mayor Bloomberg’s office cites new research from the city showing a strong connection between the consumption of sugary beverages and obesity.

The release states that:

… neighborhoods with higher rates of consumption of sugary drinks tended to have higher obesity rates. Nine of the top 10 neighborhoods with the highest obesity rates city-wide were also the highest in sugary drink consumption. At the other end, the three least obese neighborhoods were also the lowest in sugary drink consumption.

From a nutritionist’s point of view, this makes perfect sense. Sugar-sweetened beverages are purely liquid calories, provide no nutrients, no health benefits, and contribute unnecessary calories to our diets. And, as I found in my research, portion sizes of soft drinks and other foods have grown considerably over time and so have our waistlines. The sizes of soft drinks have morphed into jugs and half-gallon containers large enough for a family of eight. In the 1950s, a Burger King “small” soda was 12 ounces and the “large” was 16 ounces. Today, its “small” is 20 ounces. In 1916, a Coca-Cola bottle was 6.5 ounces, and in the 1950s, a Coca-Cola ad advertised the 16-ounce size to be shared among 3 people. Today, many people complain that 16 ounces is too small. Indeed, our perception has shifted.

As I previously wrote here:

… the mayor of New York City is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much should be considered a reasonable amount to drink at a time. And 16 ounces is certainly more than a reasonable — that is a pint-size worth of sugar water. I do not see the proposal as a ban, but rather as an attempt to reset the norm for how much drink constitutes an appropriate portion. This is a much needed proposal in an era of oversized portions.

I was pleased to offer my support to the city’s portion size restriction. As I indicated in the press release from the mayor’s office:

“I am in support of the portion-size restriction on sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Lisa Young, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. “Large portion sizes of sugar sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Capping the size of sugar-sweetened beverages is an excellent way to fight obesity. Large portions of soda contain many calories and absolutely no nutrients. No one should be drinking a 64 ounce (half gallon) of soda. A 16-ounce soda (a pint size) is certainly large enough for one person.”

But consumers will only buy small portions if the price is right or if the large sizes disappear. The price is rarely right for small portions, however. Manufacturers rarely charge half price for a half portion, as it has to cover its costs. And the cost of food is cheaper than most other costs such as rent, labor, and supplies.

As I wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Daily News back in September after the proposal was approved by the Board of Health:

Large portions contribute to obesity because they obviously contain more calories than small portions: A small soda (16 ounces) at KFC contains 180 calories, while the Mega Jug (64 ounces) contains nearly 800 calories — and is more than one-third of an entire day’s recommended calories for some people. Bigger portions also encourage us to consume more and to thus underestimate how much we are really eating and drinking. And it is the destitute who are most frequently the victims of the ills that come with fast-food consumption.

Given the enormous health implications of obesity in New York and elsewhere, capping the portion sizes of liquid calories devoid of nutrients is a terrific place to start.
The city did indeed file an appeal of Judge Tingling’s ruling. It is unclear how long it will take before a decision is reached. While I do hope that the decision is made in favor of the city, regardless of the outcome, Mayor Bloomberg and the city accomplished a great deal. The proposal to limit supersize sugary beverages set the stage for a national discussion on the contribution of our food environment — in particular, large portions of sugary beverages — to the obesity epidemic. And, we can do something about it!

I do hope that while we are waiting, restaurants and other eating establishments follow Lucky Café’s lead and voluntarily offer smaller sodas. We as consumers should also pay closer attention to the sizes of our food portions. We should think twice before buying the larger size, even if we get twice as much for just an extra quarter. And, in the end, we must remember that portion size matters.

Share |

Does drinking soda cause depression?: Not so fast

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post on soda and depression. You can also read it here.

As a nutritionist counseling clients on diet and health, I got numerous calls this week about the latest study on soda. And this one offers up more bad new for soda. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, suggests that drinking soda — including diet soda — is associated with an increased risk with depression. For the good news, drinking coffee was tied to a lower risk. The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting in March. (This is the same time Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on selling sodas larger than 16 ounces is set to take effect in delis, fast-food restaurants, and other eating establishments in New York City.)

This was a large study involving over 250,000 people ages 50-71. Subjects who drank more than four cans or cups per day of soda were up to 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who did not drink soda. And the risk appeared to be greater for people who drank diet soda.

If you love coffee, here is some good news: People who drank four cups of coffee daily were nearly 10 percent less likely to develop depression than those who did not drink coffee.

So, what do we make of this study?

The study doesn’t show that soda causes depression, but rather found an association between the two — soda drinkers were more likely to be diagnosed with depression. It is important not to confuse the two.

Here is what I told the New York Daily News when called to comment on the study:

It’s hard to tell from this single study what the exact connection between sweetened drinks and mood might be — but either way, you’re better off cutting back, says Lisa Young, Ph.D, R.D., an NYC-based nutritionist and adjunct professor in the department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at NYU.

“I’m not a fan of diet soda, but I don’t think it’s the soda alone that’s causing depression,” she told the Daily News. “The thing about soda is, you don’t often drink it alone — you drink it with junk food. You’re not getting enough fiber and protein with that sugar, and your blood sugar not being stable could throw off your mood.”

Diet soda drinkers who are focused on weight loss might also be blue from feeling like they’re struggling with their weight, she said. “You’re getting that false sense of sweetness, so you’re never really satisfied,” which could lead to continued cravings, she said. “[The soda] could be safe, but I think it puts you into this pattern of not really eating healthfully.”

As you may know, I am not a fan of soda — both regular and diet soda — and I think it is worth limiting for reasons other than depression. Regular soda provides unnecessary calories and sugar, while diet soda contains unnecessary chemicals. A 16-ounce soda contains far too many liquid calories — nearly 200 empty calories, all of which come from sugar. This is one of the reasons I am an avid supporter of Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sugar-sweetened beverages, as I wrote for the New York Daily News and for HuffPost.

So, what should one drink, I am often asked by clients and friends.

I’d suggest water, flavored seltzers, and herbal teas. And, if you love coffee, I guess you can get some encouragement from this study. Just hold the sugar and those pastel-colored sugar substitute packets.

Share |

Back to the Future: A Return to Smaller Beverage Sizes

Here is my latest blog post for Huffington Post.

New York City’s Board of Health recently approved Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the sizes of sweetened beverages. The regulation restricts the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and delis.

I published an opinion piece in support of the proposal for the New York Daily News.
My piece, “Smaller sodas, healthier lives” can be found herehttp://soc.li/GHG9r5G

As I write: “This campaign makes sense at a time when the debate about soaring medical costs has taken center stage in the presidential election. Obesity is estimated to cost $190 billion a year.… The mayor’s proposal does nothing more than swing the pendulum back in favor of more modest food portions.

Those portions have increased steadily over the years, so much so that we have grown accustomed to oversize portions and have come to expect them.

Portion sizes are now two to five times larger than they were in the 1950s.”

.
Just how big have food portions become? The timeline below, which is based on my research in my book The Portion Teller Plan, highlights how our frame of reference has shifted.

Select Dates in the Supersizing of American Fountain Drinks

1954                        Burger King offers a 12-oz Small and 16-oz Large soda.

1955                        McDonald’s offers a 7-oz soda.

1961                        McDonald’s adds 12-oz soda.

1962                        McDonald’s adds 16-oz soda.

1973                        McDonald’s adds 21-oz soda.

1988                        McDonald’s introduces 32-oz Super-Size.

1989                        Wendy’s adds the Super Value Menu including Biggie

drinks.

1999                      McDonald’s introduces 42-oz Super-Size.
The 32-oz Super-Size is downgraded to Large.

2001                       Burger King introduces a 42-oz King soda.

2004                      McDonald’s phases out the 42-oz Super-Size.
The largest size is the 32-oz Large.

2006                      Wendy’s add the 42-oz Large size.

Wendy’s drops the term Biggie for its 32-oz soda, calling it Medium.

2007                       McDonald’s offers a promotion of the 42 oz Hugo (previously called Super Size).

2011                        KFC introduces the 64-oz Mega Jug.

2012                      According to company websites, the following sizes are now available:

McDonald’s: 12-oz Kids, 16-oz Small, 21-oz Medium, and 32-oz Large.

Burger King: 16-oz Value, 20-oz Small, 30-oz Medium, 40-oz Large.

KFC: 16-oz Small, 20-oz Medium, 30-oz Large, and 64-oz Mega Jug.

Wendy’s: 12-oz Kids, 16oz Value, 20-oz Small, 30-oz Medium, 40-oz Large.

As I wrote in the NY Daily News,  “Bloomberg is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much is a reasonable amount to drink at a time. Sixteen ounces is certainly more than reasonable — a full pint of sugar water. Instead of viewing this as a ban, let’s see it as an attempt to reset the norm for how much soda truly constitutes an appropriate portion.

.
It is now time to return to the more reasonable sizes of the past, when obesity rates were much lower. Given the health consequences and enormous cost of our obesity epidemic, restricting large sizes of unhealthy sugary beverages is an excellent place to begin.

Share |

Diet industry supports Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit oversized beverages.

Here is my latest post for Huffington Post.

You can also read it below.

One week before the Board of Health is schedule to vote on Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the sizes of oversized drinks, Weight Watchers and other diet companies including The South Beach Diet, Jenny Craig and Bob Greene of The Best Life Diet are supporting the proposal.

I have previously written about my support for the proposal and also testified at the hearing.

As reported in the New York Times, David Burwick, the president of Weight Watchers North America said, “There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about obesity but very little action.”

As reported in Metro NY, Mayor Bloomberg said “As the size of sugary drinks has grown, so have our waistlines, and so have diabetes and heart disease.” And, Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley added that “In a city with large sizes of high-calorie snack foods and beverages at your fingertips around the clock, it is no wonder many New Yorkers struggle to maintain a healthy weight.”

I could not agree more!

Here are 5 good reasons:

1. Portion sizes have exploded in recent years.

2. Large portions contain more calories than small portions.

3. Large portions encourage us to eat more.

4. Large portions encourage us to underestimate how much we are eating.

5. Sugary sweetened beverages are empty calories and have no nutrition benefits to offer.
The Board of Health is scheduled to vote on the ban on Thursday, Sept. 13 and would go into effect six months after, on March 13.

Stay tuned!

Your thoughts?!

Share |

Public Hearing on Sugary Drink Ban in NYC

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post on the hearing for the ban on oversized drinks in New York City.

Here is the link.

It was a busy afternoon at the Gotham Center in Long Island City, the headquarters of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Today was the public hearing on Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to restrict the sizes of sugary beverages to no more than 16 fluid ounces in New York City food establishments. The Board of Health will vote on the proposal in September.

Advocates lined up at the public hearing to speak in favor of the ban on supersized beverages, while opponents complained that the ban was unfair and violated public freedom.

Channel 7 News featured a brief clip of my speech (below is my full speech) and that of several others. More than 60 people pre-registered to speak out while walk-ins were also permitted to sign up speak. It was standing room only.

Speaking in support of the ban was Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition professor from the Harvard School of Public Health, who called soda in large amounts “metabolically toxic,” and my colleague, public health lawyer Michele Simon, founder of Eat Drink Politics, who succinctly said that “it is the soda industry … that has taken away the choice of reasonable portions.”

A spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association complained that they were being singled out and said the ban “unfairly targets restaurants and small business owners…” and a spokesperson for the NYC American Beverage Association said the ban is “distracting us from the real issues” as they made sure to mention that they are responsible for 8,000 jobs in NYC.

Here is my five-minute speech in its entirety (a bell goes off if you speak more than five minutes) in support of the proposal:

“Good afternoon. I am Dr. Lisa Young. I am a nutritionist [in private practice], author of The Portion Teller Plan, a user-friendly weight-loss book on portion control, and an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University.

I am in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks that are larger than 16 fluid ounces in food establishments such as restaurants, movie theaters, delis, and street carts. It would include the popular 20-ounce soda bottle from the corner deli and oversized fountain drinks available in fast-food establishments and movie theaters.

This campaign makes sense at a time when food portions have increased and so have rates of obesity. Obesity is currently a major public health concern in New York City and is caused by an imbalance of energy intake (calories in) and energy expenditure (calories out).

Sugary, sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic. The mayor’s Task Force on Obesity states that “Americans consume 200-300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, with the largest single increase due to sugary drinks.”

As a researcher tracking portion size trends, food portions have increased steadily over the years, and so have the waistlines of Americans. We have grown accustomed to oversized portions, and we have come to expect them. My research found that portion sizes are now two to five times larger than they were in the 1950s. When McDonald’s opened, for example, the only size soda available was 7 ounces. When Burger King first opened, the company offered a 12-ounce small and a 16-ounce large. Burger King’s small is now 20 ounces and its large is 42 ounces. I think it is time to return to those more reasonable sizes.

In a new paper co-authored with my NYU colleague Dr. Marion Nestle, and due to be published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, portion sizes in the first decade of the 21st century continued to increase despite public health initiatives encouraging the food industry to reduce portion sizes. It is now time for action.

Large portions may contribute to obesity in several ways. They contain more calories than small portions. For example, a small soda (which is 16 ounces) at the fast food chain KFC contains 180 calories, while the Mega Jug (which is 64 ounces) contains nearly 800 calories (and 50 teaspoons sugar). This cup holds a half gallon of soda; it is far too much soda for one person. Indeed, it contains more than one-third of the calories recommended for an entire day for certain segments of the U.S. population.

Large portions also encourage us to consume more and to underestimate how much we are really eating. Sugar-sweetened beverages, in particular, provide no nutritional value whatsoever. As a registered dietitian counseling clients on healthy eating, I advise eating a small portion of foods low in nutritional value.

Mayor Bloomberg is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much should be considered a reasonable amount to drink at a time. And 16 ounces is certainly more than reasonable — that is a pint-size worth of sugar water. I do not see the proposal as a ban, but rather as an attempt to reset the norm for how much drink constitutes an appropriate portion. This is a much needed proposal in an era of oversized portions.

As an educator and clinician, I would absolutely continue to advocate for better education and public health campaigns. The NYC health department found that 15 percent of patrons improved their choices by looking at calorie counts on menu boards. Indeed, we need to take this a step further. And Mayor Bloomberg is taking action.

Given the health consequences and enormous cost of our country’s obesity epidemic, it is time to return to eating less. And restricting the large sizes of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages is an excellent place to begin. Thank you.”

It is my hope that by this time next year, it will be hard to find oversized cups on the streets of New York City.

Thoughts? Would love to hear them.

Share |

Size Matters, at least in NYC!

This is an invited post I wrote for Huffington Post on Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on soda sizes in NYC.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-lisa-young/new-york-soda-ban_b_1563758.html

Feel free to take part in the debate: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/04/new-york-soda-ban_n_1567816.html?ref=healthy-livi

New York City Hopes to Ban Supersize Sugary Beverages

Oversized beverages, including 7-Eleven’s Big Gulp and just about all medium and large size beverages sold at fast-food establishments, may no longer be available to consumers in New York City if Mayor Bloomberg’s ambitious proposal to limit the portion sizes of sweetened beverages is passed by the city’s board of health in June. In fact, the “small” soda at McDonald’s may soon become the largest option available. And even Burger King’s 22-ounce “small” would be banned. According to the mayor, it is time for food eateries to start shaving down their portions.

The proposed ban would restrict the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks that are larger than 16 fluid ounces in food establishments such as restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, delis, and street carts. It would include the popular 20-ounce soda bottle from the corner deli and, of course, oversized fountain drinks available in fast-food establishments and movie theaters. The ban would not affect diet drinks, fruit juice, dairy-based drinks such as milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages. Nor would it affect beverages sold in grocery stores.

It is no surprise that the beverage industry is up in arms about the proposal, and feels that the city’s department of health is unfairly singling out soda. Indeed, the ban would affect the sales of their product. According to the New York Times, the New York City Beverage Association criticized the city’s proposal:

“The New York City health department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top,” the industry spokesman, Stefan Friedman, said. “It’s time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity.”

According to the New York City Department of Health, sugary, sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic both in New York City and in the rest of the country. In a phone interview, Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City’s health commissioner, indicated that the extra calories from sweetened beverages have indeed contributed substantially to rising obesity rates throughout our country.

This is not the first time the New York City Department of Health has tried to help us trim our portions. In January, they launched a portion-size education campaign — “Cut Your Portions. Cut Your Risk” — featuring ads on subways encouraging New Yorkers to trim their portions to reduce their risk of health problems. As I previously wrote, the city’s health department has been very proactive in fighting obesity and other public health issues.

So, what should we make of this new proposal to ban oversized sugary drinks?

This campaign makes sense at a time when food portions have increased and so have rates of obesity.

As a researcher tracking portion size trends, food portions have increased steadily over the years, and so have we. We have grown accustomed to oversized portions, and we have come to expect them. My research found that portion sizes are now two to five times larger than they were in the 1950s. When McDonald’s opened, for example, the only size soda available was 7 ounces. When Burger King first opened, the company offered a 12-ounce small and a 16-ounce large. Boy have we grown! Burger King’s small is now 22 ounces and its large is 42 ounces. I think it is time to return to those more reasonable sizes.

Large portions may contribute to obesity in several ways. Large portions contain more calories than small portions. For example, an 8-ounce soda contains 100 calories, while a 64-ounce Double Gulp without too much ice contains nearly 800 calories. Large portions also encourage us to consume more and to underestimate how much we are really eating. Sugar-sweetened beverages, in particular, provide no nutritional value whatsoever. As a registered dietitian counseling clients on healthy eating, I advise eating a small portion of foods low in nutritional value.

If food companies do not sell large sizes, consumers will not buy them. Of course, you can get around the ban by purchasing several drinks. Indeed, four 16-ounce sodas would amount to just one 64-ounce Double Gulp, but it’s going to cost a lot more money. And will consumers want to pay for them?

Part of the portion problem is that the current price structure encourages us to buy bigger sizes. All too often, the bigger the portions, the less we pay per ounce. At a local 7-Eleven, the cost of the smallest size available (20 ounces) is roughly five cents per ounce, but the largest size (64 ounces) goes down to just two cents per ounce. It is hard to resist such a bargain.

As an educator and clinician, I would absolutely continue to advocate for better education and public health campaigns. I would urge such campaigns to begin at home and continue in the schools for our children to receive training on nutrition and health — in particular, on the relationship between calories and portion sizes. But education has not proven to be the answer thus far. Research looking into the effectiveness of the posting calories on menu boards has not been very promising. The health department found that 15 percent of patrons improved their choices by looking at calorie counts on menu boards. Indeed, we need to take this a step further. And Mayor Bloomberg is taking action.

Given the health consequences and enormous cost of our country’s obesity epidemic, it is time to return eating less. And banning the large sizes of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages is a good place to begin. The city has unveiled other such public health campaigns, and it appears that they may actually be working. Smoking has declined and so have rates of childhood obesity in New York City. I applaud the health department for its efforts in fighting to improve the public health of New Yorkers and hope other health departments around the country follow New York’s lead.

Share |

NYC’s Portion Campaign Continues

A month ago, the NYC Department of Health launched a new campaign on portion sizes–Cut Your Portions. Cut Your Risk–featuring ads on subways encouraging New Yorkers to trim their portions to reduce their risk of health problems. As I previously wrote , the city’s health department is very proactive in fighting obesity and other public health issues, and this campaign is urging New Yorkers to be more aware of portion sizes when deciding what to eat or drink. The campaign makes perfect sense at a time when food portions have increased and so have rates of obesity.

Not surprisingly, the campaign drew criticism from food industry groups selling the very foods the city’s health department is suggesting we limit. As reported in Crains, the American Beverage Association, called the ads “scare tactics.” They further indicated that they are offering “real solutions” including smaller portioned containers and calorie labels on the front of the package.

While several smaller sized containers have indeed been introduced, soft drinks marketed for individual consumption are still much too big. For example, 7-Eleven’s “Double Gulp” soda is 64-ounces, contains nearly 800 calories and 50 teaspoons of sugar, if you don’t add too much ice. While this soda is marketed for one person, it is really sized to be shared among eight people. Further, while the standard Coca-Cola bottle found in vending machines was once 6.5-ounces, today it is 20-ounces.

The Center for Consumer Freedom also took offense to the campaign. They wrote “By now you’ve probably heard of the latest round of food-fear ads from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. … the City now implies that larger sodas and cheeseburgers are causing amputations, and people to ride obesity scooters.” They further indicate that The ads ignore decades of research into the causes of obesity, choosing instead to confuse correlation with causation. In that spirit, we tried our hand at irrationally demonizing products with the horror of upward-sloping lines.”

As reported in the New York Times, the city’s health department explained its approach with the following statement: “When science tells us that smoking does not cause lung cancer or that obesity is not driving an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes, we will stop depicting those facts in ads. Until then we are going to accurately convey the facts in our advertising — advertising that has helped to successfully reduce smoking in New York City to a historic low of 14 percent, saving thousands of lives.”

Recently, in the Huffington Post, Sandra Mullin and Nandita Murukutla from the World Lung Foundation wrote a compelling article “Hard Hitting Messages That Work: NYC’s Public Health Education Campaign” in response to the recent series of stories in the New York Times questioning the city’s efforts to combat obesity with a series of hard hitting messages. Their conclusion: “New York City’s efforts are grounded in rigorous message testing and a logical premise that years of deceitful marketing cannot be undone with feel-good messaging. To stem obesity and the tobacco epidemic, health departments need to build on what’s worked whether it is palatable or not. Good medicine is often hard to swallow.”

While the ads may make you look twice and it may not be pleasant to view (i.e. an amputee in a wheelchair), they do make one take notice of potential health implications of obesity and overeating.

The NYC health department has unveiled other such public health campaigns , and it appears that they may be working. Smoking has declined in New York City and so have rates of childhood obesity in NYC. I applaud the health department for its efforts in fighting to improve the public health of New Yorkers and hope other health departments around the country follow New York’s lead.

Share |

Pouring on the pounds

The NYC Department of Health just launched another soda education campaign, this one describing how drinking just one 20 ounce soda a day translates to eating 50 pounds of sugar in a year. This campaign, along with some of the other soda campaigns, serve as a stark reminder to New Yorkers about how sugary drinks can lead to obesity, which can cause diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Subway posters map how far you’d have to walk to burn off the calories from just one sugary drink. For example, to burn off the 650 calories of a medium frozen vanilla coffee one would need to walk 8 miles, from the Goethals Bridge to the Verrazano Bridge.  That is a lot of walking!!

Tom Farley, the commissioner of the Department of Health unveiled the new campaign at Food Day on October 24. As he states: “The majority of New York City adults are now overweight or obese, as are 4 in 10 elementary school children and the health consequences are staggering. Sugary drinks are the largest single source of added sugar in the diet, and a child’s risk of obesity increases with every additional daily serving of a sugary drink.”

I could not agree more. This is an excellent campaign and limiting soda is a great place to start. Soda contains absolutely no nutrients, and is just a source of empty calories. And to make it worse, serving sizes of sodas have grown in recent years adding to further calories.

HEALTHY TIP: There are many healthier alternatives to sugary drinks. Instead of soda, it is best to choose: water, seltzer, unsweetened iced tea, or low-fat/fat-free milk. And, if you do want to indulge in that occasional soda, be sure to watch your portion. Choose an 8-oz serving instead of the 64-oz size.

For additional information search for “Pouring on the Pounds” and “Eating Healthy” on NYC.gov or call 311.

Share |
Join our mailing list
Visit our Blog | RSS Feed lisa.young@nyu.edu © 2014 Dr. Lisa Young