City's Anti-Obesity Soda Ban Won't Affect Obesity

Categories: Health, Politics
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Not on city property you don't, Mean Joe...
Gavin Newsom's executive order forbidding soda machines on city property from hawking sugary soda is interesting for three reasons. One, the next photographer to snap a shot of Baby Montana with a soda is famous. Two, it warrants mentioning that Newsom doesn't seem to think city workers are up to making decisions on what they should drink -- when they are up to making decisions on, you know, running our city. And, third, nutritionists tell us that, while Newsom is pitching this as an anti-obesity move, it clearly fails in that measure.

"In principle, it's a good thought," says U.C. San Francisco critical care nutritionist Irma Ishkanian of the mayor's anti-soda jihad. "By replacing sodas with soy milk or milk or juices you give people more calcium and nutrients. But as far as obesity, if you have two cans or bottles of juice, you're still having just as many or more calories. It's not really helping with obesity."

While no one could claim the health benefits of a bottle of Fanta Cream Soda and 100-percent orange juice are similar, their sugar and caloric content aren't as far apart as you'd think. And there is no distinction between "healthy calories" and "unhealthy calories." Notes Pat Booth, UCSF's associate director of nutritional services, "calories are calories -- from juice, soda, or any other food."

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In other words, the mayor's attempt to combat city residents' obesity by encouraging juice consumption instead of sodas is like telling someone to work on his alcoholism by forgoing beer in favor of gin and tonics -- which have some health benefits.

By the way, if you're looking to combat obesity, the best thing to drink is water. And the water running in San Francisco's taps is among the best in the world. If that's too boring -- a complaint Booth hears a lot -- there are low- or no-calorie flavored waters, seltzer, or you can buy a lemon or lime for a pittance and squeeze it into your glass.

You'll save money and lose weight.

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