New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced his proposal to prohibit many places in the city from selling soft drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces – an announcement which has been met with a wide variety of responses, from applause to anger.
In the pro camp are nutritionists, dieticians, and health professionals who are concerned at the growing obesity rate in the country. They feel that regulations like this will be an alert to consumers that anything larger than 16 ounces just isn’t good for you. In the con camp are, well, a lot of angry soda drinkers, who feel that regulating what size drink they can buy is akin to having your hand slapped away from a plate of cookies by your mother or the nanny.
A big contender in the con camp are the soda companies, such as Coca Cola, that are the most affected by Bloomberg’s proposal. Soft drink sales have declined in recent years, so cutting back drink sizes could have a large affect on companies that are already suffering. (Coca Cola has soda fountains in 70 percent of the country’s chains and restaurants, so will be the hardest hit.)
Many who are speaking out against Bloomberg’s proposal feel that it’s unfair to have their food or drink consumption regulated by the government, and worry that this is the first of many regulations made to what, and how much, consumers can eat. Bloomberg has assured the public that limiting sizes on soft drinks isn’t going to prevent people from buying, for example, two 16-ounce drinks to make up for their missing 32-ounce options. The restrictions are put on what the restaurants can sell, not what people can buy.
According to nutritionists, the trouble with sugary drinks, including soft drinks, is twofold. First, our brain doesn’t register the calories from drinks that same way that it does calories from food – so if we drink 400 calories our brain won’t tell us that it’s full the way that it will if we eat 400 calories of food. Secondly, most people, even those who are counting calories diligently, don’t factor in calories from beverages. With serving sizes (even in cans and bottles) being so huge (and sometimes confusing), consumers usually don’t take the time to read labels and understand exactly what they are putting into their bodies.
According to one expert, drinking a 20-ounce bottle of soda in addition to eating a regular diet can cause you to gain 26 pounds a year. This isn’t too surprising, considering that a 20-ounce bottle of soda contains around 3 servings – far more than our body should be processing.
Whether or not other cities follow Bloomberg’s example, or his proposal is even approved, health care professionals agree with the thinking behind the idea. Their advice to the public (especially those suffering from weight problems) is this: large or small, sugary drinks are better to be avoided altogether.