By Teresa Welsh |
Don't underestimate New York City Mayor Michael A. Bloomberg. And don't be surprised if, five years from now, 32- and 64-ounce Cokes are hard-to-find relics. We won't miss them nor should we: If there are 100 things we should do to make a dent in rates of obesity in children and in adults, the first 10 of those things should be strategies to reduce consumption of soda and other sugary drinks.
Sugar-based drinks are nutritionally worthless, yet they represent the single-largest source of calories in the American diet. Consider that for a second: Our biggest source of calories is devoid of beneficial nutrients and is a prime culprit when it comes to fueling America's epidemic of obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and other health problems. By crowding out healthier beverages and foods it causes even more harm. Just about any physician who specializes in the treatment of obesity tells his or her patients that a key step to weight loss is to cut down, or out, sugar-sweetened drinks.
In New York City, $4 billion in direct medical costs are due to obesity. Why shouldn't the city try to save some of that money by preventing unnecessary weight gain in the first place? New York City's public health officials are doing exactly what their colleagues around the country should be doing: identifying a pressing public health menace and using their regulatory authority to reduce exposure to it.
I'm sure that if you look back to 2006 some people likely laughed at Mayor Bloomberg when he and his health department tried to rid the city's 20,000 restaurants of artery-clogging artificial trans fat. Yet he not only accomplished that in New York City, he started a movement that quickly swept the country and spurred major changes in the food industry. Now artificial trans fat—or partially hydrogenated oil—is increasingly hard to find in the food supply, and we're just waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to pound the last of the nails into its coffin.
It's my hope that, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, we may soon see the obituary for the 64-ounce soda.
About Michael Jacobson Co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Dawn Sweeney President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association
Art Carden Assistant Professor of Economics at Rhodes College.
Patrick Basham Co-author 'Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade'