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PR- 091-13
March 12, 2013


Sugary Beverages are a Leading Contributor to Obesity Epidemic

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer today visited Lucky’s Restaurant on East 34th Street to thank the owners for recognizing the health impacts of sugary beverages and deciding to limit the size of those beverages.  A leading contributor to the obesity epidemic that is killing more than 5,000 New Yorkers each year, sugary drinks play a unique role in the obesity crisis. They have no nutritional value, contain “empty calories” and are consumed in addition to calories from food. Yesterday, the City released data showing the strong correlation between sugary drink consumption and obesity; neighborhoods with higher rates of consumption of sugary drinks tended to have higher obesity rates. Nine of the top 10 neighborhoods with the highest obesity rates city-wide were also the highest in sugary drink consumption. At the other end, the three least obese neighborhoods were also the lowest in sugary drink consumption. New York City’s ground-breaking proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages has already transformed the way people view obesity and the impact of sugary beverages.  The Mayor was joined by Lucky’s Café owner Greg Anagnostopoulos, Council Member James F. Gennaro, Montefiore Hospital CEO Steve Safyer, President and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone Geoffrey Canada, Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan Andy Ackerman, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University Lisa Young, Greater New York Hospital Association Senior Vice President Lorraine Ryan, Pastor and President of the Borough of Brooklyn Ecumenical Advisory Group Brian Carter, and President and CEO of the Children’s Aid Society Richard Buery.

“When our Administration implemented calorie counts and worked to eliminate trans-fats in restaurants, we were taken to court,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “But today, both reforms are recognized as models. Already our proposal to limit the size of sugary beverages has changed the national conversation around obesity and we are confident that yesterday’s court decision will be reversed on appeal. Obesity is killing more than 5,000 New Yorkers annually and 100,000 people nationwide – and we are determined to tackle its leading causes.”

“Nearly 60 percent of adult New Yorkers and nearly 40 percent of our kids are overweight or obese,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs.  “Each faces a higher risk of disease and tragically a greater risk of early death. We know that sugary drinks are the single largest contributor to the obesity crisis – the City’s portion cap regulation is a bold and meaningful intervention to confront an intractable epidemic.”

“Re-introducing human-sized portions is a key part of the City’s comprehensive approach to addressing the obesity epidemic. Sugary drinks are a leading cause of this epidemic, and they increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” said Health Commissioner Farley. “Studies have shown that people will consume more when given larger portions – often without even realizing it.  Give credit to Lucky’s for doing the responsible thing by bringing their portion sizes back to a reasonable scale.” 

“Mayor Bloomberg is taking an important step toward discouraging the unhealthy choices that parents know our kids are confronted with on every trip to the movie theater or a fast food restaurant. It's one a very much support,” said Public Advocate de Blasio. “The court's decision is disappointing, but I hope the City will succeed on appeal.”

“When more than half of adults in New York are overweight or obese, I’d say we have a crisis on our hands,” said Manhattan Borough President Stringer. “Government has an obligation to protect public health and to utilize new and innovative strategies in its effort to combat obesity, heart disease and diabetes. That’s why I am proud to support Mayor Bloomberg’s bold proposal to limit serving sizes of sugar sweetened beverages. As we fight to eradicate food deserts and bring better nutritional education to our public schools, a limit on sugary drinks is a bold start, and I'm confident that the courts will decide it is compliant with the law.”

“Mayor Bloomberg has done more for the public’s health than any other mayor in our city’s history,” said Steve Safyer, Montefiore Hospital CEO. “He has taken a bold and critical step to help stem the obesity epidemic that is crippling our city and nation. As CEO of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, I see first-hand the impact that obesity is having on our citizens – especially children – by increasing the risk of significant chronic diseases, which in turn prevents them from achieving their full potential. Visionary efforts often face challenges, but we must join together to support meaningful change like the Mayor’s plan to limit the size of sugary drinks to improve public health and strengthen our community.  Combatting obesity will require many approaches, and this is an important and innovative initiative.”

“Research by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan at the Museum and throughout the city – none funded by the City – confirms that parents and teachers are shocked to learn about the high sugar content in soda, and that after CMOM’s program, most if not all participants reported a decrease in soda consumption and an increase in water consumption,” said Andy Ackerman, Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. “Just last week, 30 teachers in a CMOM training at a NYCHA Head Start in Harlem had no idea about sugar content in soda.”

There is no question that excessive soda consumption has helped trigger a dramatic increase in obesity and related illnesses like diabetes in New York City,” said Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske.New York’s hospital community applauds Mayor Bloomberg for working to improve the public's health.”

“Cutting down on the consumption of sugary drinks is a major step in the right direction towards making New York a healthier city,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Without the Mayor’s initiative to limit the size of these sugary drinks, obesity will continue to be a growing problem in our communities. The Mayor's proposal is a key part of our city’s effort to address what is a public health hazard.”

“Portion control is a good idea for all New Yorkers. In the past few decades, we've seen an explosion in the size of food and sugary drinks that simply do not have any nutritional value and pose a serious health risk for children and adults,” said Council Member Gennaro. “The consumption of vast amounts of sugar and other "empty" calories poses a clear health threat. I stand with Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Farley in their efforts to tackle the epidemic of obesity by searing into the city's collective consciousness that consumption of sugar in large amounts is detrimental not just to their health, but to the health of their families as well.”

“Obesity and diabetes are among the most serious health crises facing our children today. Oversized portions and soft drinks full of sugar contribute to this endemic problem,” said Richard Buery, President and CEO of the Children’s AID Society. “We need to make it easier for young people to make better choices about their health and wellness. That’s what Children's Aid does in our programming: our cooking, nutrition and gardening programs educate children and families about their options, and we ensure that healthy choices are available for children at each of our program sites. Helping children and families make better choices is exactly what the city's beverage policy is designed to do. Together, we can take bold action on this public health crisis and we are grateful to be working in partnership with a Mayor and City that are paving the way for national solutions.”

“I am in support of the portion-size restriction on sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Lisa Young, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. “Large portion sizes of sugar sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Capping the size of sugar-sweetened beverages is an excellent way to fight obesity. Large portions of soda contain many calories and absolutely no nutrients. No one should be drinking a 64 ounce (half gallon) of soda. A 16 ounce soda (a pint size) is certainly large enough for one person.”

The obesity rate has grown rapidly over the last several decades and has become a major public health problem. In the early 1960s, it affected only 13 percent of Americans; by 2009-2010, 35.7 percent were obese. Being overweight or obese is one of the leading causes of preventable premature death and is estimated to be responsible for the deaths of more than 5,000 New York City residents per year through diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

The obesity epidemic has led to an increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, which can result in blindness, kidney failure and amputations. One in three adult New Yorkers either has diabetes or a condition known as pre-diabetes, a state where blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes and the person is at risk for developing diabetes in the future. In New York City, it is estimated that there are 2,600 annual hospitalizations for amputations related to diabetes and 1,400 new dialysis patients due to diabetes each year. In addition, applying national estimates to the New York City population, over 100,000 adults 40 years and older with diabetes have retinopathy (eye disease) which if untreated, may lead to vision loss. Obesity also increases the risk of some cancers, heart disease, arthritis and other health problems.

Obesity statistics are even more startling among New York City youth. Despite recent progress with childhood obesity, roughly 20 percent of New York City public school children are obese and another 20 percent are overweight.

The obesity epidemic strikes hardest in communities already suffering from health and economic disparities, particularly black, Latino and low-income neighborhoods; black New Yorkers are almost three times more likely, and Hispanics twice as likely, as whites to die from diabetes. The Bronx, in particular, is facing an obesity crisis. While the citywide rate of overweight and obesity is 58 percent, in the Bronx 70 percent of adults – about 630,000 people – are overweight or obese.

The price of obesity goes beyond human suffering. Nationally in 2006, direct medical costs related to obesity were $147 billion. Nationwide, higher rates of death among obese employees cost roughly $44 billion annually. Loss of productivity due to disability among active workers ($39 billion) and loss of productivity due to total disability ($65 billion) from overweight and obesity add to this toll. In New York City, health care expenditures for obesity are roughly $4.7 billion annually. Estimates of future costs are even more concerning: according to one study, obesity-related direct expenditures are expected to account for over 21 percent of the nation’s direct health care spending in 2018.


Marc La Vorgna / Samantha Levine   (212) 788-2958

Sam Miller (Health)   (347) 396-4177


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