Posted tagged ‘obesity’

The Big Gulp

March 12, 2013

It is difficult to see the New York Appeals Court decision to strike down Mayor Bloomberg’s sugar drink size limit as much more than a victory for the Sugar lobbying group.  As a point of law, maybe the fact that the City’s health department had no authority to regulate 7/11’s played a role.   As a result, the ban applied only to restaurants (beverage  servings greater than 16 ounces).  The Court said the law was “arbitrary and capricious”.

The law’s intent was to make it more difficult for New Yorkers to consume large quantities of sugar containing drinks.  This was an indirect attack on obesity and a direct effort to decrease health care costs.  Hmmm.

Restricting these “big gulp” beverages was a symbolic gesture.  It did nothing to put common sense into the caloric content of many other foods and drinks widely available in New York City.  It did nothing to control what consenting adults (and children) do within their own homes.  And, of course, it did nothing to save New Yorkers from obesity when they traveled outside the city.

So with all those limitations, who cares that the Court said “no”.

Most nutritionists tell us that weight control is a balance of energy expended with food ingested.  If one eats more, then one must exercise more.  Very simple.

In the real world, however, this message seems to be drowned out with other messages.  Just walk down any street in New York City, or in any Walmart, or any public gathering across the country.  Weight control and obesity are not characteristics Americans manage well.

So this is not a New York City problem?

Obesity is an American health problem.  If simply being fat was a fact and not a health problem this entire discussion would be unnecessary.  What people eat or drink is their own business.  Government intrusion is unwanted and a very dangerous precedent.

There is, however, wide evidence that high sugar and high calorie drinks and foods are correlated with increased body weight and obesity.  High body weight and obesity are associated with health issues.  US health care costs are the highest in the world and getting higher each year.  In part, all Americans are paying more for their health care insurance coverage because so many fellow Americans have weight related diseases.

Hmmm.

The Big Gulp may in the end be nothing more than a shot across the bow.  It is, however, powerful statement about what citizens ought to do themselves, without any government requirement.  Mayor Bloomberg has demonstrated the guts and intelligence rarely found in public officials.  Three cheers for the Mayor.