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Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Time to Take a Step Toward Solving the Obesity Crisis

We’re facing an out-of-control-obesity epidemic and all anyone can do is point fingers and blame the individual for eating too much or not exercising enough. While people do need to take some level of responsibility it’s impossible to change your behavior if you’re surrounded by fast food restaurants, limited amounts of healthy food and live in unsafe neighborhoods that make walking and biking a high-risk activity. The obesity epidemic is such a huge problem that policymakers, public health advocates and individuals alike are often paralyzed about where to start. According to, “Ounces of Prevention – The Public Policy Case for Taxes on Sugared Beverages,” in the current issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, a tax on sugared beverages is as good a place as any.

The authors, Dr. Brownell and Dr. Frieden, state that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks and energy drinks is associated with increased body weight and poor nutrition and leads to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. (My favorite part of the article? “Studies that do not support a relationship between consumption of sugared beverages and health outcomes tend to be conducted by authors supported by the beverage industry.”) They suggest levying a tax of these types of drinks will help stem the gluttonous consumption. Dr. Brownell’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity estimated that “for every 10 percent increase in price, consumption decreases by 7.8 percent.” This and similar studies suggest that if people have to pay more for their sugary drinks, they’ll switch to more healthful beverages, reducing their caloric intake and weight gain.

Some people will argue that it’s not fair to single out sugared beverages as the root cause of the obesity epidemic. I agree that it’s not the only reason people are busting out of their belts, but it sure has contributed to the problem and it’s an easy place to turning things around. New York and Maine have proposed a “soda tax” and California should too.

What do you think?

~ Nicole
Photo credit: The Art of Manliness


Chris Lanson said...

Obesity seems to be one of the primary reasons for health concerns these days. Most diseases are a result excessive weight gain and this is the reason as to why doctors constantly emphasize on the importance of keeping weight under control.

Anonymous said...

Chris is so right. The amazing thing is that while everyone seems to understand that obesity is an issue, there's very little willpower for taking some of the actions that will begin to address it... like a soda tax, menu labeling, etc.

It is a crisis and it's not enough to tell everyone to eat wisely, when 90 percent of all food marketing is inviting them to eat in excess, eat too many calories and drink empty calories. Time to change the food systems and recapture a sense of reality.