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Banning Sugary Drinks a Start in Obesity Fight

Media release
July 7 2006

No Magic Bullet – But Banning Sugary Drinks a Start in Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Agencies for Nutrition Action (ANA) is extremely disappointed that two health professionals have chosen to criticise the plan to ban sugar-laden soft drinks from schools to help control the obesity epidemic.

Associate Professor Wayne Cutfield and Dr Paul Hofman, diabetes physicians at Starship and Auckland University have publicly criticised the idea as “misguided and based on weak obesity evidence”.

However organisations such as ANA are sticking to their guns.

Dr Rachael Taylor, Senior Lecturer with the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, and Associate Professor Robert Scragg from the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland, believe they are right.

“There is no magic bullet in terms of what contributes to obesity development in children or adults and most behavioural factors, even if very important, still only contribute a small amount,” Dr Taylor says.

“Diet is extremely complicated and varied between and within individuals. This is probably the most important point that people seem to forget. We are never going to cure obesity at a population level from a single dietary change.”

However, she says, the fact remains that beverages contribute 26 percent of the sucrose in New Zealand children’s diets. They are the single largest contributor of sucrose with 45 percent coming from powdered drinks and 33 percent from soft drinks.

“Soft drinks contains no useful nutrients and do have adverse implications for teeth. I don't think anyone expects removing soft drinks from schools will
cure obesity but it will create a more healthy environment to match that which is taught in the curriculum,” Dr Taylor says.

“Children often face a school (and wider) environment that is in conflict with the healthy eating messages promoted in the curriculum.”

Dr Taylor says the worrying statistics relating to childhood obesity – with one in three New Zealand children overweight or obese – means we urgently need to address the problem through a variety of means.

“Reducing consumption of sugary drinks is a healthy message to be promoting.”

ENDS

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