As many are aware, the New York City Board of Health recently approved Major Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) over 16 ounces in size sold at city restaurants, delis, sports venues, movie theaters, and street carts. This “soda ban” is set to go into effect on March 12, 2013. It has been justified on the grounds that it will make headway in combating obesity in NYC. It piggybacks on a number of other anti-obesity policies enacted in the City, including a transfat ban in restaurants, a requirement that chain restaurants post calorie information, initiatives to help low income residents buy fresh produce, and nutritional standards in schools. In this Blog, Katie Booth conducted a thorough legal analysis of whether the ban could be overturned, concluding that a plaintiff’s chances of waging a successful lawsuit are slim. Meanwhile, robust commentary in the media and health journals has debated the legitimacy of the ban and government’s role in regulating SSBs and combating obesity.
So what do we know about obesity in the U.S. as a phenomenon, its causes, and possible interventions that work to combat its spread? Although the problem is far from simple, it’s useful to briefly compile the current evidence.