NYC's Diet Advice: Stay Away From Soda

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Image Courtesy of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygeine

The ever intrepid New York City Health Department launches a new campaign this week: Stop drinking soft drinks or else you are "Pouring on the Pounds."

It explains the rationale for the campaign in a bulletin.  In short, as described in the press release:

"On average, Americans now consume 200 to 300 more calories each day than we did 30 years ago. Nearly half of these extra calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks. When Health Department researchers surveyed adult New Yorkers about their consumption of soda and other sweetened drinks, the findings showed that more than 2 million drink at least one sugar-sweetened soda or other sweetened beverage each day - at as much as 250 calories a pop.... The Health Department advises parents not to serve their kids punch, fruit-flavored drinks or "sports" and "energy" drinks.... If you order a sugar-sweetened beverage, ask for a "small."....if you enjoy sugar-sweetened beverages, make them an occasional treat and not a daily staple."

What? Soft drinks add empty calories that nobody needs? These sound like fighting words! Some early reactions to the ads:

Here's what the New York Times has to say. Still reeling from the American Heart Association's recommendation to reduce sugars from soft drinks (see previous post), the American Beverage Association has issued this statement:

The messages being spread about beverages by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are so over the top that they are counterproductive to serious efforts to address a complex issue such as obesity. Like most foods, soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are a source of calories. Simply naming one food source as a unique contributor minimizes a disease as complex as obesity. The key to energy balance and maintaining a healthy weight is counting calories in and calories out, not focusing on specific foods or abstaining from any one food or beverage in particular. While we support the campaign's desire to help people lead healthier lives, we do not believe the campaign imagery represents a serious effort to address a complex issue such as obesity...Further, the beverage industry provides an array of beverages with a wide range of calories, including zero calories...all of which can be part of a balanced lifestyle [my emphasis].

Yes! Drink water! Preferably out of a tap!

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Image Courtesy of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygeine

Presented by

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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