In an effort to reverse the supersize citizens of his city, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on the sale of large sodas. Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say by focusing on one product we could be missing the big picture in the obesity battle.
In 2009, a team of researchers from the UAB School of Public Health and Purdue University reviewed five randomized trials that studied the effect of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages on body weight.
"We found no significant effect on overall weight reduction as a result of reducing intake of sugar-sweetened beverages," explains Kathryn Kaiser, Ph.D., instructor in the SOPH. "Since this was published, two other randomized trials have been published, and neither showed large effects on weight change."
"My hope for the public debate and our leaders' focus is that we direct energy and resources toward the design and conduct of randomized trials that will definitively answer the questions about actions that can significantly reduce weight. From this type of effort, policies may be better informed," Kaiser says.
Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics in the SOPH, doesn't think limiting the sale of larger size sodas will do anything to combat the obesity epidemic.
"I think to say people drinking large sodas at events is the cause of obesity is short sighted and it is making a villain out of something that may not be the true villain," Judd says. "I think that while reducing consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is important, I don't think making it unavailable in certain settings is a way to accomplish that."
Judd adds that individuals are ultimately responsible for their own health and the actions they take related to it.
"People make their own choices and we can't force them into those decisions. A public health effort must be made so they can better understand the consequences of their choices," says Judd.
Kaiser and Judd have no financial interest in, nor have received payments from, any food or beverage company.
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