Last week, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg called for a ban on larger-than-16-ounce servings of sodas and other sugary drinks in New York City restaurants, delis and other venues.
Today, the Walt Disney Company told the New York Times it would no longer advertize sodas, candy, sugared cereal and fast food on any of its children’s programming – which includes The Disney Channel, ABC Family, and Saturday morning cartoons on ABC. (Due to long-term contracts with advertisers, these ad restrictions won’t take effect until 2015.)
Both measures tackle current obesity rates head-on. And because overweight and obesity cause over 100,000 cancers in the US every year, we at the American Institute for Cancer Research welcome both developments.
Our Expert Report and continuous updates examine the scientific evidence on diet, weight, physical activity and cancer risk. One of their conclusions is that sugary drinks are a cause of overweight and obesity; this is why AICR recommends that individuals avoid sugary drinks.
Based on that advice, our policy report lays out what steps must be taken to reduce the global cancer burden. In it, AICR calls on government to “Use legislation, pricing and other policies … to promote healthy patterns of diet and physical activity.”
Mayor Bloomberg’s stance on this issue is a bold one, but one that is grounded in research showing that people eat more when they are served larger portions. This is only one of several ways our current food environment encourages weight gain, and bold steps are exactly what we need if we are to reverse the dangerous trends leading us to more cancer, more heart disease, more diabetes and earlier death.
Given that behavior patterns get set early in life, the AICR/WCRF policy report specifically urges government to “Restrict advertising and marketing of ‘fast food’ and other processed foods and sugary drinks to children, on television, in other media and in supermarkets.”
The Walt Disney Company’s decision to suspend the advertising of unhealthy food and drink to children should be applauded, and we encourage other producers of children’s entertainment to follow their example.
Have we reached a tipping point? The First Lady’s public awareness campaign tackling childhood obesity; Mayor Bloomberg’s crackdown on calorie-laden “Big Gulp” beverages; and one large and powerful company’s pledge to adopt a more responsible approach – together, these developments suggest that real change is the air. We should have no illusions about how difficult it will be to get the US population eating smart, moving more and weighing less, but we’re delighted to see policy recommendations being matched to the kind of real-world action that can effect profound, life-saving change.