Friday, April 19, 2013

Get me a Huge Soda Please

Sugar sweetened drinks were in the news recently. New York sought to limit access to sugar sweetened drinks by banning sales of drinks larger than 16 ounces. When that plan was announced, many asked how this effort would change anything. If the cups/bottles had to be smaller, wouldn’t people just buy two or three cups/bottles to obtain the volume of soda to which they were accustomed? Well, a New York Supreme Court Judge invalidated the ordinance recently, calling the limitation “arbitrary and capricious.” Maybe there are some rights for American Citizens?

After New York enacted their ordinance, Mississippi municipalities considered similar bans. There, the legislature stepped in and passed a law that clarifies any such restriction would have to be statewide, thus removing discretion to regulate soft-drinks from cities and towns. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill into law in March, it became law immediately. Mississippi has the nation’s highest obesity rate in the country, with almost thirty-five percent of the adult population meeting that threshold. The Center for Disease Control has a map on its website illustrating obesity rates across the country.

Meanwhile, MedPageToday reports that sugar-sweetened beverages accounted for 184,000 deaths worldwide in 2010. Many of those were in Latin America and the Caribbean. However almost 25,000 of the total were in the United States. The actual causes of death related to the sugar consumption included diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers. At this rate, sugar sweetened beverage deaths approach the prescription drug overdose death rates.

Risk and Insurance reported in January that comorbidities significantly contribute to the cost of workers’ compensation claims. In fact medical costs in cases with comorbidities are about $6,000.00 higher. A “comorbidity” is any medical condition that complicates the care for the work accident, The study concluded that obesity comorbidity rates tripled in workers’ compensation claims between the turn of the Century and 2009. The comorbidity rates for drug abuse and hypertension are even worse; each quadrupled in the first decade of the new Century. 

With about 155 calories in the average 12 oz soda, calories can mount quickly; that’s about 13 calories per ounce. There is debate as to the appropriate daily caloric intake, but the range of 1900 to 2500 calories is stated by a variety of authorities. This means that one 12 oz. soda is between 6% and 8% of total daily recommended intake. One convenience-store offers a “super” sized soda that is over 40 ounces; one of these is about 525 calories, to 21% to 28% of the entire day’s recommended caloric intake. 

So is the “super” sized soda the villain? The Mayor of New York insists that it is, and vows to appeal the Court’s recent invalidation of his ordinance. Is Mississippi on the right track, moving toward statewide efforts to address sugary drinks? Will the comorbity of obesity continue to grow, along with our individual waistbands?

Compelling questions that will continue to be in the news in months and years to come. I will take my "Big Gulp"® to go please, and can I get an self-service egg roll with that?!

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