New York City policy against sugary drinks gains backing of weight loss groups

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 5th September 2012

New York City’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his health team together with Weight Watchers President Dave Burwick yesterday announced Weight Watchers’ support for New York City’s plan to limit the size of sugary drinks sold at food service establishments to 16 ounces or less.

Sugary beverages are believed to be a leading driver of the obesity epidemic, which is worsening around the country. The proposal will be voted on by the New York City Board of Health on September 13th. Nearly 60 percent of New York City adults and 40 percent of children are overweight or obese and one in eight adult New Yorkers has diabetes.

The City also released statements of support from weight loss experts, including the creator of the Best Life Diet, the creator of the South Beach Diet, the CEO of Jenny Craig, the creator of the Dukan Diet and the creator of Picture Perfect Weight Loss. The Mayor made the announcement at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, a Make NYC Your Gym location, where he was joined by Weight Watchers member and Queens resident Rachelle Conley who recently lost 91 pounds and attributes much of her successful weight loss to ending her consumption of sugary drinks, as well as Council Member Gale Brewer.

“It’s time to face the facts: obesity is one of America’s most deadly problems, and sugary beverages are a leading cause of it,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “As the size of sugary drinks has grown, so have our waistlines – and so have diabetes and heart disease. As weight-loss experts can attest, men and women struggle every day to lose weight, or even to just not gain a few pounds – and portion control is key to success. Our proposal for reasonable portion sizes won’t prevent anyone from buying or drinking as much soda as they want, but it will help people keep from inadvertently taking in junk calories simply because the small drink they ordered was actually very large.”

“New York City has led the way in bold health interventions – eliminating trans-fats, posting calorie counts and banning smoking in parks and restaurants – that have had profound and positive consequences, ” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “With our proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages, we have a potential game-changer when it comes to fighting the obesity epidemic that is destroying so many lives.”

“There has been a lot of discussion about obesity, but little action, which is why we at Weight Watchers support what this administration is doing to help New Yorkers live healthier,” said David Burwick, President, North America, Weight Watchers. “It is only with this kind of commitment and community-based support that major strides can be made against obesity. We hope that more mayors, health departments and businesses will follow New York City’s example to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

“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,” said Health Commissioner Farley. “Today we are proud to have the support of Weight Watchers, a leader in sensible approaches to healthy eating and weight loss. Reducing sugary drinks is the simplest dietary change that people can make to lose weight or avoid gaining weight. We hope that our proposal will help New Yorkers do just that.”

“Sugar-sweetened beverages are little more than liquid candy, but many people don’t seem to realize this,” said Arthur Agatston, MD, and creator of The South Beach Diet. “A position paper in Pediatrics on sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and its role in adolescent obesity showed that soft drink consumption among kids has increased by 300 percent since the mid-1980s, with 56 to 85 percent of schoolchildren consuming at least one soft drink daily. A child who drinks just one sugary soft drink every day will consume the equivalent of a 50-pound bag of sugar by the end of a year. Given all the hidden added sugars in foods, reducing sugary beverage consumption—and ideally saying no to sweetened beverages altogether – is one of the easiest ways to cut out excess sugar and help prevent a host of obesity-related ailments down the road. With less sugar intake New York City will be a healthier place.”

“Jenny Craig is fully committed to combating the global obesity epidemic, and with it the overwhelming health issues caused by weight-related diseases,” said Dana Fiser, CEO of Jenny Craig. “Along with Mayor Bloomberg, we support all efforts that will help get America healthy. Through our clinically proven, comprehensive program, we educate about the importance of portion control and moderation. We also teach our clients that the majority of sugary drinks are filled with empty calories and lack nutritional value. By learning to adopt healthier eating patterns and make more informed choices, our clients will be primed for a nutritionally balanced life, and the health benefits that come along with it.”

“We should be working to create good choices for kids and families, not sitting back while super-sizing pours our health down the drain,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “This proposal is one step toward making it easier for more New Yorkers to make a healthier choice. Research shows that a whole lot of folks will do exactly that, cutting down on fattening, unhealthy soda. And, let’s be clear: those who want to drink more will still be able to go ahead and have two.”

Obesity and being overweight is a rapidly growing and major public health problem that, according to the World Health Organization, accounts for the death of least 2.8 million adults each year. In the United States, obesity is a leading cause of preventable death, second only to smoking.

New York City is not exempt from this crisis: 5,800 New Yorkers die annually as a result of obesity and one in eight adult New Yorkers now has diabetes. By borough, the combined overweight-obesity rates are: 69.7 percent in the Bronx, 61.8 percent in Staten Island, 60.3 percent in Brooklyn, 57.2 percent in Queens and 47.4 percent in Manhattan. And despite recent progress with childhood obesity, 20.7 percent of New York City children grades K-8 are obese.

New York City’s portion size proposal – which will be voted upon by the Board of Health on September 13 – would limit the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces or less at restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. Sugary drinks are high in calories, served in large sizes and yet deliver no nutritional value. They do not create a sensation of fullness, so people typically do not cut back on other calories when they consume extra calories through sugary drinks. The long term weight gain and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease associated with sugary drinks has been documented. In 2010, experts from Harvard University and three other leading nutrition research institutions in the United States and Canada concluded that because sugary drinks are important contributors to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, consumption “should be limited and replaced by healthy alternatives such as water.”

In addition to limiting the size of sugary drinks, New York City has a comprehensive approach to changing itd food and exercise environment and is committed to increasing awareness among New Yorkers about good nutrition, healthy food options and exercise opportunities – such as Make NYC Your Gym and BeFitNYC – as well as improving the availability of healthy food and educating New Yorkers about the importance of a healthy diet.

About the Obesity Task Force

In December 2011, Mayor Bloomberg charged Deputy Mayor Gibbs and Deputy Mayor of Operations Holloway with significantly strengthening the City’s anti-obesity efforts by convening a multi-agency task force that would recommend innovative, proactive solutions to address the obesity crisis in New York City. The Obesity Task Force was convened in January 2012 and conducted its work over the following several months.