Does Research Support NYC Mayor's Nutrition Regulations?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last month some citizens of New York were a tad overheated for reasons beyond the high temperatures. Public hearings over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on large size sugary drinks drew an overflow crowd. The mayor is no stranger to ridicule. The New York Times has dubbed him "New York City's nutrition nag." Since taking office the mayor has banned trans fats, required chain restaurants to post calorie information, applied constant pressure to decrease sodium and now wages an ongoing assault on sugary drinks.
Two recent studies suggest that Bloomberg may be right, that legislation may be necessary for people to improve their health. See if you agree.

New laws went into full effect in New York City restaurants in July 2008. Now trans fat content must be less than .5 grams per serving. City health officials monitored fast-food fat content purchases before and after the law went into full effect. Newly published study results in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicate  the introduction of local regulations were "associated with a substantial and statistically significant decrease in the trans fat content of purchases at fast-food chains, without commensurate increase in saturated fat."
Last month at the public hearings on sugary drinks, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's statements indicate some citizens know exactly why they are overweight. Markowitz denied oversized soda as the culprit to his own weight problems. Instead, he recognized choices such as too much pastrami, cream cheese and lox, and red velvet cake as bigger obstacles to his weight loss success. At the same time these unhealthy choices are being made, people are also drinking large bottles of sugary drinks like vitamin-enhanced water, other sugary sports drinks, and soda. All these factors together certainly contribute to difficulties in meeting healthy weight goals.
Previous research has found that sugary drinks contribute to the development of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome rates. A new study suggests there may be other reasons for these negative health developments besides just the additional calories. A study published last month in the European Journal of Nutrition found  that  healthy individuals that received four weeks of sugar-sweetened beverage supplementation experienced a metabolism shift away from fat and toward carbohydrates making metabolism less efficient. Over time, this shift can reduce the ability of the body to burn fat, which can in turn cause fat gain. 
So with all that we know about the harmful influence of sugar-sweetened beverages and the early results of decreased trans fat purchase after citywide legislation, could Mayor Bloomberg be on to something? Are mandates and legislation the only way to get people to change their habits to improve health? Aren't people able to make healthful changes on their own? I believe everyone has the ability but accept that not everyone is motivated or interested in making health a priority. For those that do want to make a change on their own, here are some resources that can be helpful.

Translating Those Trans Fats: Understanding and Avoiding these Unhealthy Fats

Eating for a Healthy Heart: A Heart-Healthy Diet Plan

Fats that Fight Cholesterol: Fat Can be a Friend or Foe

Sugar, Oh How Sweet It Is

What do you think? Are mandates and legislation the only way to get people to change their habits to improve their health? Are people able to make necessary changes on their own to improve their health? Who benefits from the legislation? What is the harm in such legislation?

Is legislation the only way to get the majority of people in a community to change their habits to improve their health?

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GEORGE815 10/8/2017
Ben Franklin said you can't legislate behavior. Report
Sorry to say but Mary Ellen is responsible for Mary Ellen. Those that tout that it costs so much money to treat the diseases associated with overweight. I agree. They are using MY money to treat those people. And just why is that? I also believe that Mary Ellen is responsible for paying for her own medical and health issues. Perhaps if we weren't so quick to offer a safety net for dumb decisions, we'd all be making better ones. What a concept! Report
People claiming that more education is what is needed are fooling themselves. We all know the info. People saying it's none of the government's business are also deluding themselves due to the strain on the economy caused by treating people with health issues directly caused by overconsumption of massive amounts of sugary beverages. People saying it curtails their freedom - How does it do that? Are you not able to buy just as many sugar-laden beverages as you wish? Yes, you are. Another delusion. Personal responsibilty - how much free well do you have in an environment full of marketing and positioning by BIG FOOD. All those arguments against this idea have come directly from the manufacturers of those unhealthy products in order to get the public to fight for them and their right to poison the world. The don't care as long as they make money. That is ALL they care about. Read this page and take a look at some of the other articles over there. Wake up to the tactics of corporations everywhere. They don't care about you!
Oh, statistics.

If you ask if it's the -only- way, you're sure to get a lot of negatives - including from people who are in favor of the idea. Report
Look, America was founded on the basic idea that every person has basic freedoms, and that as long as we respect others' freedoms, ours are guaranteed to us as well. In the last 25 years, we've seen a shift away from this idea of personal responsibility and freedom of choice. Instead, it is increasingly seen as the government's job to tell us what we can and cannot do. This is a dangerous trend that, if not corrected, can only end in one of two places. Tyranny or Revolution. Either way, we lose. So let's keep America free. If I, or you, choose to have sugary, unhealthy drinks, that is my right. Just as it is my right to choose an exercise/lifestyle program (Sparkpeople!) to help me be healthy! Report
Until healthier options are more affordable and more acessable for the average American, then we will continue to have problems with obesity. Plus parents should have never instilled the "clean your plate" method because it makes people unaware of when they are actually full. Report
I obviously want to be healthy and want my family and friends to be healthy but this is America and we are supposed to be FREE! Free to make our OWN DECISIONS on what to eat, what we do, etc. Government has no place in regulating this or other areas it is stepping into lately! If someone wants to be fat then they have every right to be. Of course it's their responsibility too and they should be responsible for the consequences of such a lifestyle (healthcare, etc). And in my case, I love diet coke! It's my one vice I'm not changing. I eat fairly healthy, workout daily, I am medically very healthy and if I want to drink pop, I think that's no ones business. Not everyone who drinks pop is overweight and same for eating junk food or McDonalds. Plus, it's been proven many times that doing tricks like this (or taxing candy or junk food more, etc) does not stop people from buying it! If they want it, they will eat it. Same for pop. All these regulations do is end up making food and drinks more expensive, which does not "help" us at all & just hurts the small businesses who are trying to become successful (by adding more cost and paperwork to meet the stupid standards and regulations/requirements)! Get out of our lives government!! Report
Is legislation the ONLY way to get the majority of people in a community to change their habits to improve their health? No. However, since very little ELSE is happening to sway people toward healthy choices I am very much in favor of legislating such things.

Forgeddabout "freedom of choice":

Every day there are BAZILLIONS of dollars being shoved into the advertising and marketing of unhealthy food choices. Only MINUSCULE attention and media coverage is granted toward healthy food choices. If you don't think this affects our supposed FREEDOM of choice, think again:

Businesses are not going to throw away this kind of money unless it brings a powerful return on their advertising dollar. And it does. Why? Because what we have come to believe is delectable and drool-worthy has been shaped toward the high-fat, high sugar, highly processed food that these corporations are pedaling. We buy more of it and these corporations are happy to take our money for items we have supposedly "freely" chosen.

There are many ways to shift our system toward promoting health and wellness. One of which is legislation. Another of which is government subsidy for growing, promoting healthier foods instead of paying farmers to grow more corn and other products which contribute to our detriment rather than our wellness. There are probably other methods as well. Government public advertising which is as clever or more so that McDonald's or Taco Bell's promoting freggies as delectable, cool and drool-worthy!

Swimming upstream against the current media flood of unhealthy food choices is killing our country and changes need to be made if we as a society are going to thrive.

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong Report
This really, really bugs me. This is the Nanny State in spades, and it is opposed to everything our country is about. Report
Seriously? Are we then going to tell people they are allowed to purchase only one "limited portion" beverage. Or shall we say they may only eat half of that monstrous "Triple-decker baconater" that they bought to go with the limited portion beverage?
When will we make individuals responsible for their own actions and get the gov't out of the parenting business? Report
Being better educated is always good. Education efforts should continue.

Providing improved nutritional information on foods is important to making informed decisions. This includes the legislation that gives us the information we were missing on restaurant meals. What we didn't prepare ourselves, we had limited idea of what was in it before so it was often difficult to make a truly good decision.

Government oversight to control safety and integrity of the food chain..... like processing plant hygiene and proper food storage from farm to final purchase point (store/restuarant)..... is very important.

BUT government acting as my nanny and telling me what I can and cannot eat is wrong (and violates the whole spirit of the founding fathers etal). It also will not work for many reasons..... did they not learn anything from Prohibition?
(That also makes it a total waste of time that would be better spent on doing their real work.)

Want to do something that will work and do some good - then - go for $$$ measures, rewards for good decisions and penalties for bad decisions and higher penalties if you make so many bad decisions that they end in bad results. You are free to make bad decisions but if you do system should see that you pay for them not me. Reward people for making good decisions and you will find even the uneducated will make more good choices.
One simple example:
On food stamps ..... prohibit their use for buying junk THE WAY THE PROGRAMS USED TO FUNCTION. Goodness, what idiots made the change so that welfare funds can now be spent on alcohol and in stripjoints rather than on good food? And some of the current blockheads (like unfortunately my governor) are trying to make arguements against restricting the use of welfare payouts. @#$^%&^
They want to legislate how large a soda I can drink but if I'd just go on welfare they'd give me money so I could be drunk instead and not care. That's messed up.
Another simple example:
An internationally well respected hospital provides very nice medical benefits to its employees (, a wish-I- worked-there kind of nice). They have alot of components that foster wellness and exercise and assist with weightcontrol coaching/assistance. They also have a monetary component that controls the %split between the company-versus-personal share of the insurance premium cost. It is a more complicated formula than just this but essentially if you are morbidly obese you must pay a higher amount than if you are not. I know some nurses, doctors, and janitors who've gotten much more motivated to feed their families better and to make serious use of the wellness benefits in the plan in order to keep their healthcare costs down. Report
It does seem like the majority of us do think that the government shouldn't control and legislate your choices.
I do see that it does say volumes about this seemingly being the only way to make people think and wake up. I do think it is better to have the stats on menus and on the board is fast food is a step ahead.

I also strongly object to the places where people are getting hassled about either growing or sharing veggies and fruit from their own yards.

I can see that some of the foreign Sparkers that commented here is true... that either the person pays for these habits in terms of health, insurance or the government. Report
Aren't you glad you live in "the land of the free"? Report
Right on! Sad to say, some people just don't know what is best for themselves or don't care. This is a drop in the bucket of obesity, but its a better start and effort than most cities are making. Go Bloomberg!! Report
Let's take a moment and get back in touch with the issue here... the piece of legislation under scrutiny doesn't change ANYTHING about what you can buy in New York: you can still buy all the sugary drinks you like, in any quantity you like, as frequently as you like. This is really just a ban on giant cups.

If you need your 64 oz of Mountain Dew in a giant cup, that's still possible - pour five cans into a bucket and you won't even know the difference. You might even be a bit more in touch with just how much you consume from the ultra-giant-sized container when you've got to up-end the better part of a six-pack to fill it, which is the whole point anyway. It's just a TEENSY bit less convenient, in hopes of making a TEENSY change in behavior. A tiny first step.

The way some of the comments read, you would think Bloomberg is rounding up soda drinkers and shooting them in the streets. Report
Sugar is not the enemy, inactivity is.
Aren't artificial sweeteners much worse for our bodies than good, old-fashioned, natural sugar??
America = freedom of choice.
Education not legislation. Last time I checked this was still that land of the free and I should have the option if I want.

Well, I'm not a US citizen and neither doe I live in the US of A. I have to say though, apparently this is the way to go, sorry but that's what it looks like from over here where I live (and yes, please call an old fashioned old world socialist if you feel like it, I actually take that as a compliment!). If you look at the percentage of overweight and obese people it seems that apparently you do need somebody to look out for you. I would actually applaud it if we got mandatory school-lunches back here in Germany.
My point comes down to this: The USA seem to have a culture of eating out (just think about it, here on Sparks one of the goals is to get you to cook meals from scratch and pack your own lunch), when the choices for eating out seem largely fast-food joints (and not the good ones) and the overweight and obese percentage of the population starts rising, something has to be done! From an economic stand-point an overweight or obese person is more likely to cost the system (or state) money than somebody who has a healthy body weight. I guess if you behave like children where your food and health is concerned, then you need to be treated like children. Report
In Canada they have banned smoking in most public places.I am from London ON and they even want to ban smoking at outdoor events.Does this stop people from smoking? No it does not.The law in NYC will not stop folks from drinking sugary drinks either.It may stop people from eating out as much which may effect the economy. Report
If we continue as we are, the government will tell us how long we would have to go to the bathroom and we need to do. ( I'm sorry if this is an inappropriate comment.) Report
Provide the nutrition information and let me make my own informed choice! Report
Is he right about the sugar in the drinks? Who cares, when he is so very wrong about turning his little fiefdom into a dictatorship? Do I trust corporate advertisers--no--but I trust government interference even less. Mayor Bloomberg, please take your Nanny State and move it to Cuba.. Report
Any Time You Are Forced To Do ANYTHING Because of A Government Mandate It's Like Socialism. I'm Not Into That. We Are In AMERICA! God Gave Me Choices And The Government Can't Take Those Personal Rights Away From Us. As If We Can't Think For Ourselves. Healthy Food Can Cause Weight Gain Also. Report
I'm a big fan of the nutrition information posted on menus. It really helps to make informed decisions about what you're eating. I'm NOT a big fan of banning something outright. It should be MY choice what I want to do with my body, not the government's. (Also, we tried this before with didn't work so well.) Report
Government control of what we eat and drink is the LAST thing we need! How bout if the food industry goes under and we start farming like real humans are meant to do ! Report
It is normal to react to this approach with skepticism. We like to picture ourselves as free agents who will make the best short term decisions in our long term interest.

Current research shows that belief is not backed up with data.

We are easily manipulated by corporate advertising to make poor decisions. I would ask everyone who screams that government has to no right to guide their decisions,
consider rather they are really making their purchasing decisions free of outside profit seeking interests at this time, interests that could less about our long term health or the health of our children. Report
While I understand, vaguely, the motivation - I believe legislating food choices is all wrong. If it's a question of what I can buy to eat or drink by my choice, all I can say is "get out of my private business". Report
Businesses run by the natural effects of supply and demand. I think that public education efforts will really be more effect and more positive than legislation. There is just something that ruffles American feathers when the government gets too involved in personal choices. Report
While it would be good for people to eat healthier, I am totally against the govt telling me what I can and can't eat. Report
While it would be good for people to eat healthier, I am totally against the govt telling me what I can and can't eat. Report
I believe broad range nutrition programs would work as well, especially if they have a lot of media support. I am against the government telling what we can or cannot eat, last I knew this was a free country. That means having the freedom to choose to be unhealthy too. Also people who to exercise regularly and eat healthy can have an occasional treat without derailing there health level. Again, I do not believe our government should be telling us what to eat or how healthy to be. Report
I am opposed to my government deciding what is good for me. There is little difference in my mind between my government deciding what food I should eat or whether I should be sterilized to prevent reproduction because of my skin color. It is too easy for a government to go too far where they have no business just because they think they can. Report
The poll at the end of that article asks if banning unhealthy foods is the only way to get people to change their habits. I voted no, it's not the only way. There are also other ways to get people to eat healthy, as was tried by Jamie Oliver in that community in Minnesota. However, from the poll one shouldn't conclude that Spark users think that legislation against unhealthy eating should be ruled out. Glenn Report
I agree with LKG9999, making an incentive for companies would be a good way to encourage them to make healthier products. Or requiring the cost of a healthier item to be lower than the unhealthy alternative- this might encourage consumers to buy the healthier option. Regulating drink sizes is crossing the line. Report
Education is wonderful; running a "campaign" is a fantastic idea. That's why those very initiatives are ongoing just about anywhere you can name in the country. Whether or not they enjoy much participation or public visibility, well that's another story.... But one thing that's always true about educating and campaigning in the health arena is that those initiatives don't do squat if the physical, social and POLICY environment in which you live don't support the healthy behaviors you're learning.

Without top-down support for one-time, flash-in-the-pan interventions like running a TV ad, or teaching a kid not to drink soda, what chance do you really have to alter behaviors?

Especially when the odds are so stacked against change. Like someone below mentioned, most of us are struggling financially, and that can make the calorie-to-dollar ratio of junk food mighty appealing. The problem with that statement is that calories in beverages don't sate your hunger (hence the term "empty calories".) Wasting your dollars on soda makes even LESS sense if you don't have much to begin with, if you consider that you won't be making a dent in the hunger sensation.

It sickens me to know that people are making sacks of money by selling downright dangerous beverages (dangerous, yes) with impunity, and here so many of us are defending our "right" to poison ourselves with them.

Like I said before... in 30 years, if these kinds of policy initiatives can survive the overpowering needs for blind indulgence and gratification so characteristic of our American society (and the deep pockets feeding them), you'll see these products share the poisonous reputation we've learned to assign to cigarettes and lead paint. Report
I'm all for trying to get people healthy. We all know that sugary drinks are like drinking a meal. It's not like that information is not being provided to us. However, that's not the point. The point is should government be telling me what I can eat or drink or do to my body? Quite frankly, in my opinion, the answer is no. I'm an adult, I make my own decisions, and government can keep out of it, thank you very much.

Now if I'm being supported by a government program like foodstamps and they don't want me to buy soda, they shouldn't allow soda to be purchased. If I have a child getting lunches at school, yes, get involved and control what kinds of food and sizes. But the rest of it can hang for all I care. I know why I'm overweight and I'm making the change myself without government interference to make myself better. Other people can make that decision too. Report
this is just another freedom lost. they start taking away little freedoms here and there and eventually we will be in deep doodoo.
making thinkgs illegal or heavily regulated doesn't teach any one anything. Report
I suspect that if government offered some $$ incentives for individuals and companies to follow healthier guidelines, that *might* have a larger impact than legislating the size of drinks. My company offers a reduced cost on monthly health insurance premiums by participating in a a program that promotes healthy eating, exercise, and preventative medicine. Of course I'm already doing that for my own payoff: better health overall.
Instead of dictating what size entree's people can buy, they should be looking at fixing the 15% jobless rate, the lack of paying jobs, the homeless Americans who can't get benefits while illegal aliens get them, and fixing the economy.

When they can do all that, THEN they can look at health problems in the US. Quite frankly, alot of people who are obese will tell you that they are stress eaters, and that it's cheaper to buy junk food than nutritious food. When your budget is limited, you have to make it go as far as it can...which means more junk. Do the math. Report
The legislation proposal for drink sizes is completely ridiculous. Dear God, the government is going to tell you how much food someone can sell to you and how much you can buy. The fact that this is even being considered is a sad testiment to the direction of this country.

Wake up people, you are responsible for your own life. We don't need government to babysit us. Report
I find that I am limiting all sugary drinks. I have 20 oz of water that lasts me all afternoon. Report
I agree with the Mayor however, the Goverment should not mandate what we eat or drink. People are informed enough to know what is a good food choice and a bad one. Why not do a campaign that shows healthier options or choices we can make? Report
I do not think the government has the right or should have the right to infringe on free choice. They need to focus on government business and keep their nose out of ours. Report
In those areas where the government is providing the nutrition (i.e. school lunches) it is appropriate for the government to determine what the nutritional content is. Attempting to control individual choices is not. It is very easy to say I shouldn't have to pay the cost of other people's poor choices, but the reality is that unless the government stops providing health care completely you will always be paying for other people's poor choices (smoking, poor nutrition, gun shot wounds, lack of exercise, engaging in high risk sex, etc., etc.).
Limiting the size of a beverage that can be sold will only increase the number of beverages purchased (increasing profits for fast food, grocery stores and convenience stores). The trans fat ban was dealing with a different type of issue that was more likely to have an effect on the amount of trans fat purchased. No one goes to a fast food place and orders trans fat...they order a product it is in without knowing that it is there. This type of area is much more conducive to making an impact than when you try to directly dictate what someone orders. Additional changes in this type of nutritional content would be a good idea (reducing saturated fats in products, reducing sodium, etc.).
I am very in favor of requiring restaurants to post nutritional information so that people are aware of what they are consuming. I wish that they would make this universal and not just large chains in certain areas. Report
I worked at a school in administration - one of the science projects of the kindergarten class was to cook a steak using a coke. After seeing that done - I realized I really don't need to put that in my body. Report
They can reduce the size, but not the amount people consume. So they will drink more smaller bottles or glasses. I don't think there is a win, win situation here except to go back to making pop in returnable bottles again and that's it. No cans. No plastics. Everything is too convenient now. Report
This approach worked wonders on lowering smoking rates from the 80's to early 2000's. Passing restrictive legislation and levying point-of-sale taxes to reduce usage are proven tactics in public health promotion.

No doubt, at this moment thousands of New Yorkers (and other Americans) are saying that restricting the consumption of legal products is "tyranny". Smokers said the same thing about raising cigarette taxes, banning smoking from restaraunts, bars and public places, and making smoking in cars with children illegal. 30 years later, however, the culture has caught up with the environment and the majority of citizens, smoking or not, understand where smoking is acceptable and where it is inappropriate.

(I would add on a personal note, to specifically address the pervasive "it's my life, I can make my own choices" argument, that it is just as much MY right NOT to pick up the tab when one's health inevitably goes down the pooper as a result of unhealthy behaviors that lead to obesity and its associated expensive chronic disease states. Jussayin. Those costs average out to between $4,879 - $8,365 for obese women and $2,646 - $6,518 for obese men annually - George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services)

Imagine the reaction to someone lighting up a butt in a crowded restaraunt today - quite a difference from the cries of public disapproval at the onset of tobacco legislation 30 years ago. Give Bloomberg's initiative 30 years for the culture to catch up, and you'll see the same reaction to someone walking down the street drinking an entire day's worth of calories from a 64 oz bucket of Mountain Dew.

Until then, we can expect some freak-outs from shortsighted folks who don't understand the dynamics of population medicine. Report
I believe that legislation can not make people change their habits, but I do think that regulating what size soda you get is a great idea. I love that they post calorie content in NY, and I love that they regulate trans fats in foods. If you want more soda, bring it with you from home, not only is it cheaper in the long run, but people can stop complaining too. It's just soda... you want more, order two cups. Cigarettes for example, have increased dramatically in price in order to keep people from wanting to spend money to buy them. So why wasn't there an uproar over that? Both high sugar content and nicotine are unhealthy... I wish every city had a mayor like NY's... someone who actually cares about his citizens' health. Report
I think the government should keep their nose out of people's business and just worry about governmental issues. Report
I am all for increased education, I am not a fan of legislating healthy choices. I believe if people make the choice, as I have on their own, not through regulation, that they will have far greater sucess in the long run. Report
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