photo credit: Bigstock
photo credit: Bigstock
Some sugary contain as much as 16 teaspoons of sugar

New York’s Mayor Bloomberg may have lost the first round in attempting to limit the amount of sugary beverages people mindlessly drink, but the battle is certainly not over!

Like Bloomberg, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an independent nonprofit consumer health group based in Washington, DC believes that you can have too much of a sweet thing, and launched a petition to the FDA asking that sugar be regulated.

In his letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CSPI Executive Director, Michael Jacobson states that recent studies are beginning to demonstrate that the refined sugars (cane and beet sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, plain corn syrup and dextrose) are harming more than dental health. He also states that food and beverage manufacturers who aggressively market

high-sugar foods and beverages have made little effort to reduce the sales and/or the sugar content of their products.

Because the same lack of commitment has been demonstrated related to sodium intake – even though the

Institute of Medicine and state and local health officials are urging regulatory action to lower sodium consumption, CSPI recommends that the FDA to “fulfill its responsibility for protecting the public’s health.”  CSPI urges the FDA to

  1. adopt regulatory and voluntary measures to reduce the amounts of added sugars in beverages to safe levels;
  2. encourage industry to voluntarily reduce sugar levels in and the marketing of other high-sugar foods; and
  3. mount, perhaps together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture, a high-profile education campaign to encourage consumers to choose lower-sugar or unsweetened foods and beverages.

Harvard School of Public Health’s Walter Willett, agrees with the CSPI action because he believes that it’s much easier to overconsume sugar in liquids than solids. Of the 16 teaspoons of added sugar in a 20-ounce soda, he said, “You can gulp it down in a minute or two.”

Whether or not you agree with Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to limit the size of the sodas sold in New York restaurants, his action points to a public health issue as explosive as opening a can of Coke after it’s been shaken. It would be great if food manufacturers themselves could take this on through voluntary guidelines, but while that’s not happening – simply saying it’s a matter of lifestyle choices does not work when sugary drink intake has risen from 1970s levels – about 4% of US daily calorie intake, to 9% of the US daily calorie intake by 2001.