COMMENT ON PROPOSED AMENDMENT OF ARTICLE 81 OF THE NYC HEALTH CODE
By Ruth Kava, Ph.D.,
Senior Nutrition Fellow
The American Council on Science and Health
July 24, 2012
1995 Broadway, Second Floor
New York, NY 10023
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is a consortium of leading physicians and scientists who are concerned that the public receive accurate, science-based information about public health matters. Our objective is to restore science and common sense to personal and public health decisions, in order to foster a scientifically sound and sensible public health policy for the American people.
The proposed regulation to establish the maximum size of sugary beverages offered and sold in New York City food service establishments is based on the supposition that such restriction will lower the calorie consumption and thus the prevalence of obesity among New Yorkers.
We concur that obesity is a significant health threat, and that obesity in the young points to earlier acquisition of morbidities such as type 2 diabetes than has previously occurred. Yet recent data indicate that in New York City, at least, the proportion of young school children that are obese has actually declined somewhat in the last few years. We note that this welcome decline has occurred without the institution of governmental restrictions on beverage size.
Further, consumption of excess calories from any source, not just calorically sweetened beverages, will lead to weight gain and should be discouraged. But calorie consumption from a variety of foods has increased substantially over the last few decades.
For example, while calorie consumption from caloric sweeteners increased by approximately 9.5% between 1970 and 2009, energy intake from added fats and oils and dairy fats increased by 45% over the same period of time. Thus a focus on sweeteners as the major cause of obesity seems inappropriate. Indeed, a focus on a single source of calories, or a single food is inappropriate, likely to be ineffective, and might even be counterproductive.
Although increasing portion size has likely been a contributing factor to increased food consumption, studies that have demonstrated this effect have typically been performed under controlled conditions. It has not been shown that a mandated restriction on size of beverages sold has an effect on calorie consumption. Indeed, it is certainly possible that consumers who want larger sizes will simply purchase more than one of the allowed smaller containers, thus circumventing the intended goal of reducing calorie consumption.
The proposed restriction constitutes an unwarranted experiment on New Yorkers, without their consent and should not be imposed upon them.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevdention. Obesity in K-8 Students New York City, 2006-07 to 2010-11 School Years Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2011;60(49):1673-1678.
2. USDA/Economic Research Service. Average daily per capita calories from the U.S. food availability, adjusted for spoilage and other waste. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-%28per-capita%29-data-system.aspx accessed July 1, 2012.
3. Wansink B, Painter JE, North J. Bottomless bowls: Why visual cues of portion size may influence intake. Obesity Research 2005;13(1):93-100.