In this day and age, we are bombarded with images and information about health on perhaps more than a daily basis. From Weight Watchers commercials, to FDA recalls, to “studies have shown that [fill-in-the-blank food] can help your [fill-in-the-blank organ],” health and body image is everywhere. The next craze that is now taking over the news circuit is New York City’s ban on soft drinks.
Now, calm down. Mayor Bloomberg isn’t on a crusade to eliminate all traces of soft drink fountains, vending machines, etc. Rather, the NYC Board of Health has determined it will limit the serving size of the sugary beverages; anything larger than sixteen ounces (slightly larger than a can, slightly smaller than a typical plastic bottle) will not be permitted for sale in public restaurants, event venues, theatres, office cafeterias, etc. CBS news reports that this ban doesn’t restrict customers from buying more than one sixteen ounce serving, but that it will make it harder for people to consumer more because excess is not readily available.
Going along with the theme of this week’s Consider issue, I thought I’d take a closer look at this food habit that is linked to our nation’s problems with obesity. I read in a Yahoo news report that the “single biggest source of calories for Americans” is pop/soda/soft drinks, and, on average, we drink “about two cans of the stuff every day.” Some, in protest of this statistic, remark that they drink diet, which is the “healthier” alternative because it doesn’t have all the sugar that some call “empty calories.” This is not exactly true, and shouldn’t be surprising because it isn’t new news that aspartame—the most common sugar substitute in these drinks—is bad for you. Nevertheless, this same Yahoo news article describes seven tangible side effects to this unhealthy habit of choosing diet over regular soft drinks that range from hangovers to cell damage (and includes obesity!). However, not all of these side effects are solely linked to diet soft drinks, but soft drinks as a whole.
It’s hard to say whether the accessibility, or the steady flow of health related information like this really makes an impression and motivates people to change their habits. Or does it really take a law to make people inadvertently change their habit? I think it’s a toss up because, psychologically, if something is restricted it becomes more desirable. Yet, if we live in a world that keeps offering more and more of a bad thing, I think it will be harder and harder to make healthier choices.
By: Rachel Blanzy
(Photo by ‘Camera baba’ aka Udit Kulshrestha under a Creative Commons License)