Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Court to hear lawsuit against cola ban

A New York court will today hear a petition filed by the American Beverage Association against the city's plan to crack down on supersized sugary drinks.
In September last year, the city's Board of Health overwhelmingly voted to ban restaurants, street carts and entertainment and sports venues from selling sweetened drinks in cups or containers bigger than 16 ounces.
The size limit is set to take effect, as planned, on March 12. Violations will incur a fine of $200.
However, last week New York City announced a three-month grace period from fines for breaking the law which the city sees as a groundbreaking step in its fight against the rapid spread of obesity.
"Health officials will not seek fines for non-compliance for the first three months," said City's lawyer Mark Muschenheim in a statement.
But the American Beverage Association, in the suit, filed in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, contends that New York City's Board of Health did not have the authority to ratify the rules unilaterally.
It also claims "the Board of Health's decision … usurps the role of the City Council, violating core principles of democratic government and ignoring the rights of the people of New York City to make their own choices".
The 61-page filing says, among other things, that the Board of Health adopted the ban, first proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, completely ignoring the public objection of 17 members of the City Council, the legislative body elected by the people.
Michael Bloomberg: A modern-day Don Quixote?
However, the mayor’s office dismissed the lawsuit as “baseless”, maintaining that the Board of Health “absolutely has the authority to regulate matters affecting health, and the obesity crisis killing nearly 6,000 New Yorkers a year”.
Runaway obesity rates are threatening not just New York.
report says that the number of obese adults will increase dramatically in every state in the country over the next two decades – and along with it related disease rates and health care costs.
Which means, by 2030 more than half the population in the United States will be obese – if corrective measures are not taken, starting now.
Obesity increases the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses.
Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index above 30, while overweight means a Body Mass Index of between 25 and 29.9.
The ban applies to any establishment, in New York City’s five boroughs, with a food-service license, including fast-food restaurants, workplace cafeterias, delis, movie and Broadway theaters, the concession stands at Yankee Stadium and the pizzerias of Little Italy.
Do you think New York City has acted fairly in imposing the ban? Let's hear your views. Please leave your comments below.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fast food linked to asthma

It is an established, and grudgingly acknowledged, fact that consumption of too much fast food leads to obesity – which has been called, by many health experts, as the scourge of the 21st century!
Over the past few months so much has been written about this burgeoning epidemic that today most people are aware of the hazards of rising consumption of fast food globally – on health, weight and environment.
However, a new study now says that eating fast food more than three times a week may also lead to asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis.
Researchers studying global dietary and disease patterns collected data from 500,000 children in more than 50 countries and found that poor diet may be to blame for rising levels of these allergy-related conditions.
On the other hand, eating fruits more than three times a week was found to be associated with a potential protective effect on severe asthma.
The study was Phase Three of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC).
Over the period of a year, 13- and 14-year-olds and parents of six- and seven-year-olds completed written questionnaires on the prevalence of symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjuntivitis and eczema and the frequency of food intake.
The study, which corroborated evidence that saturated fat levels in fast food lowered children’s immune systems, found that teenagers who tucked into burgers and the like three times a week or more were 39 per cent more likely to get severe asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis.
Younger children were 27 per cent more at risk.
However, three weekly portions of fruit and vegetables cut the risk by 11 per cent among the teenagers and 14 per cent in the younger group.
According to the World Health Organization, some 235 million people currently suffer from asthma and it is the most common chronic disease among children. And the number continues to grow.
In the United States, too, the number of people with asthma has been growing.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology put asthma sufferers in the United States at one in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8 per cent of the population) in 2009, compared with one in 14 (about 20 million, or 7 per cent) in 2001.
Asthma costs in the US grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, posting a 6 per cent increase.
Conservative estimates put sufferers of eczema at 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the world’s population.
A study in 2007 found that a substantial proportion of the US population had symptoms of eczema or eczematous conditions; 31.6 million met the empirical symptom criteria for eczema and 17.8 million met the empirical criteria for atopic dermatitis.
Although not life threatening, eczema can result in disability, skin damage and secondary infection adversely affecting the quality of life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Coca-Cola slammed over anti-obesity advert

A frame grab taken from a new commercial from Coca-Cola
No sooner did Coca-Cola put out an advertisement on Monday night on several American cable television channels – encouraging people to come together to fight obesity – than critics were quick to pounce on its back.
Activists and health experts criticized the soft drinks giant for trying to do "damage control" to combat the widespread belief that sugary beverages contribute immensely to the scourge of the 21st century – obesity.
The two-minute video is a first of sorts for one of the world's most popular cola brands. In it, the company talks about its range of beverages and how the soft drinks industry has voluntarily changed its offerings in US schools to primarily waters, juices and low or no-calorie options.
"All calories count, no matter where they come from including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories," the advert says.
"And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight."
However, critics are not impressed by the "public relations" gimmick. They see it as an attempt to take the heat away from the cola industry which has come under increasing fire from all directions. Legislators are proposing a tax on sugary drinks, schools are seeking alternatives to full-calorie soft drinks and New York city is on the verge of limiting the size of soft drinks that can be served in restaurants and public outlets.
"The company remains one of the major causes of obesity," says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and one of America's top experts on beverage consumption.
Michael Jacobson, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the new advert "is a page out of Damage Control 101, which is to try to pretend you're part of the solution rather than part of the problem".
According to latest statistics, two-thirds of adults and a third of the children in America are either obese or overweight – and, given the current lifestyles, these numbers are expected to increase in the next couple of decades.
A diet high in added sugars is linked to many poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.