"the dramatic underpricing of sugar-sweetened beverages, their widespread availability, and the ceaseless marketing of these products constitute a stumbling block to good health and are a clear and present danger to the future of our children.”
But New York's not the only place pushing for a tax on sweetened beverages. A member of the California State Assembly has introduced a bill to tax soda pop and other sugar-sweetened beverages. The money raised by this tax would be devoted to childhood obesity prevention. The California Centre for Public Health Advocacy estimates that the tax – one cent on every teaspoon of added sugar or other caloric sweetener – would raise $1.5 billion per year.
In Washington State, the Governor is also pushing for a tax on pop, bottled water, and candy.
A study just published in one of the leading medical research journals, the Archives of Internal Medicine, provides evidence that such a tax could be effective: Researchers looked at the diet and health of 5115 young adults aged 18 to 30 years over a 21 year period, from 1985 to 2006. They also looked at food prices over that time. A 10% increase in the cost of pop and pizza resulted in a 7% decline in caloric intake from pop and a 12% decrease in calories from pizza.
It turns out New York is on the cutting edge of more than just salt reduction. The New York City Public Health Dept. posted this video on youtube that has had almost 600,000 views. Be careful, though, it's pretty gross.
New York has also introduced the green cart program to promote fruit and vegetable consumption in the city's low income neighbourhoods. Starting last year, New York licenced 1,000 vendors to operate old-style fruit and veggie carts in specific areas. The idea is to increase access to healthy food that study after study has shown is least available in the poorest neighbourhods. Many of these same neighbourhoods are also sites of the fastest rising obesity rates in the city. Although many of the vendors are very busy (one was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), the New York Times points out that not everyone is happy about the new program:
“It may be good for health, but it’s bad for business,” said George Katehis, manager of the Splendid Deli Restaurant at 387 East Fordham Road. “A guy might buy a piece of fruit there instead of coming in here for a soda.”
Two new studies, both published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, point out the importance of weight loss for reducing high blood pressure - and the type of diet is important, too. In one study, researchers compared an Atkins low carb-type diet versus a low fat diet plus orlistat, a weight-loss drug, in 146 overweight or obese people. Both groups lost weight and had improved cholesterol as well. But the low carb diet group also saw reduced blood pressure.
The other study, called ENCORE, found that the DASH diet, recommended by the American Heart Association, combined with regular exercise, promoted lower blood pressure for people who are overweight or obese. Heartwire has more here.