Monday, 11 June 2012

FIGHTING OBESITY IN A BIG CITY.

A fair request should be followed by the deed in silence.

When it comes to beverages, you can't do much worse than soda and other sugary drinks. Some experts think sugar-sweetened drinks are a major reason for the obesity epidemic in the United States. They also have been linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and stroke.

As part of his battle against obesity in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban the sale of extra-large sodas and other sugary drinks. The ban would apply to restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and street carts. The maximum size for these drinks would be 16 ounces. The city's Board of Health must vote on the proposal. Approval is likely.

Is this good policy or government limiting our individual rights? We could debate this question forever. In my opinion, Bloomberg's heart is in the right place. He is trying to do something to curb the rise in obesity.

But this particular law, if it passes, won't make a difference. A person who wants to drink more soda will just buy two smaller drinks rather than one extra-large drink. And this mandate does not apply to grocery or convenience stores.

A study done by Harvard researchers suggests an option that doesn't involve government. You make the personal choice to drink water over sugary drinks.

The researchers collected information from 82,902 female nurses about their health and diets. At the start of the study, none of them had type 2 diabetes. In the next 12 years, 2,718 women developed the disease. The results of the study were published in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers estimated that drinking a daily glass of plain water instead of a sugary drink was linked with a 7% decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. A glass was defined as 8 to 12 ounces. Fruit juices were not a good substitute for soda. They led to a similar risk of type 2 diabetes compared with plain water.

Even if you are not worried about type 2 diabetes, limiting sugary drinks is a great idea. It can help you to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Soft drinks have a lot of sugar and a lot of calories. A 12-ounce can of the most popular sodas contains sweeteners equal to 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories.

That may not seem like a big deal, but these calories add up. For example, if you drink 2 cans of cola each day instead of plain water or diet soft drinks, the calories could lead to a weight gain of more than 2 pounds in a month. In the course of a year, that might mean a weight gain of more than 20 pounds.

Substitute at least one glass of plain water daily instead of having a sweetened soft drink or fruit juice. If you are tired of plain water, try flavored calorie-free water.

Another strategy is to dilute your fruit juice if you drink more than a couple of glasses per day. For example, fill each glass with one-half orange juice and one-half water. After you get used to that, try just one-quarter juice and three-quarters water.

Diet drinks are another option. But there is some concern that having diet drinks instead of sweetened ones might not avoid weight gain. Why artificially sweetened drinks without any calories would act this way is unclear.

By the way, just drinking more water and not reducing your amount of sugary drinks doesn't work. In this study, women who drank a large amount of water had the same diabetes risk as those drinking less water.

The 16-ounce limit in New York City won't gain any traction around the country. It is a token gesture. However, we do need to find some way to reward people who choose healthier foods and avoid obesity. The challenge is to create a fair system to accomplish this goal.

Begin where you are; work where you are; the hour which you are now wasting, dreaming of some far off success may be crowded with grand possibilities.