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Should supersize soft drinks be banned?

Even in small amounts, sugary soft drinks aren’t the ideal way to quench your thirst. And the jumbo-sized versions are considered a threat to health by many people. In May 2012, the New York city administration prohibited the sale of supersize, high-calorie soft drinks in cinemas, stadiums and restaurants with effect from the following year. The softdrinks industry – took the city to court and convinced a judge to block the ban. In Europe there has been no significant political discussion along these lines. Should we ban the sale of maxi soft drinks here too?


Six out of ten inhabitants of New York City are obese or overweight and the city’s health commissioners maintain that regular consumption of supersize soft drinks, sold in containers up to 2 litres, are largely to blame. In May 2012, the city administrators banned the sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink that was larger than 16 fluid ounces (about 470 ml). Representatives of the beverage and food industries took the city to court and in March 2013, a few hours before the ban was due to come into effect, a judge blocked the ban. The city took the case to the state appeals court that upheld the blocking order. This means that the sugary drinks can continue to be sold in supersize containers. Many New Yorkers didn’t relish being told what they could and couldn’t drink, but city administrators and health commissioners are still determined to find a way of limiting the size of a softdrink bottle or beaker to 16 ounces, that’s 0.47 litre.

Half a litre of cola is sold as a “child’s size” –
obesity and overweight are problems
in Europe too

In Germany, for instance, that amount of softdrink, a 0.5 litre beaker, is often the smallest size sold in cinemas and some fastfood restaurants. The Cinemaxx cinema chain advertizes half-litre beakers as a child’s size and its competitor Cinestar also offers a 0.5 litre beaker as part of its children’s menu. They seem to be overlooking the fact that as little as a quarter of a litre a day can push a child’s weight and body fat up badly – as studies have shown. Sugary drinks don’t make you feel full, they simply add calories. One litre of a soft drink can contain as much as 100 grams of sugar; that’s as much as in 33 sugar lumps. If you drink sugary softdrinks and don’t want to put on weight, you’re going to have to reduce calories somewhere else – maybe by eating smaller portions, or no more snacking – or burn up more calories through exercise. Another problem is that so much rapidly absorbed sugar in your body will boost production of insulin and that in turn triggers a feeling of hunger.


In Germany, according to statistics collected by the Robert Koch Institute, two thirds of men and half of all women are overweight. Around a quarter of adults are clinically obese. And around 15% of children and teenagers under 17 are overweight, one third of them severely overweight.” Softdrinks like colas or orange and lemon lemonade are definitely part of the problem”, says Jakob Maske, speaker of the Professional Association of Children’s and Young People’s Physicians (bvjk), “It would make sense to limit cup size in Germany, the optimum would be 0.3 litre,” he suggests.

Healthy alternatives for quenching your thirst

Everyone should drink at least 1.5 litres a day, but sugary softdrinks are not a healthy choice. The light versions of many softdrinks contain sweeteners instead of sugar. This reduces the calorie content, but still doesn’t make them ideal thirst quenchers. “What happens is that receptors on the tongue get used to the level of sweetness. especially children tend to refuse savoury foods and if they could would eat only sweet things,” warns Maske. And even light softdrinks contain flavourings and colorants. Most of these are not a cause for concern, but they have no nutritive value. The healthy alternatives are mixes of fruit juice and water made of three parts of water and one part fruit juice. Pure fruit juices are high-calorie foods, so they’re not suitable to drink when you’re thirsty. This applies even more to fruit nectars which can have extra sugar added. The answer is to choose water and unsweetened herb teas.


Source: Stiftung Warentest