Added Sweeteners Could Be Main Contributor to Obesity Epidemic

Here’s another reason to give New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg a pat on the back for wanting to ban the sale of large sodas and sugary soft drinks:

Young Hispanic women, a group who are at high risk for continued weight gain and obesity, felt hungrier and more desire for savory foods after ingesting a sugary drink in an experiment to test how high-calorie foods stimulate the brain’s appetite control center.

The sugar in the drinks activated brain regions involved in reward and motivation for food, which “suggests that added sweeteners could be one of the main contributors to the obesity epidemic,” said lead researcher Kathleen Page, MD, assistant professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

In fact, just looking at images of high-calorie foods stimulates the brain’s appetite control center and results in an increased desire for food, according to the study presented today at The Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

“We thought this was a striking finding, because the current environment is inundated with advertisements showing images of high-calorie foods,” Page added.

The largest driver of increases in obesity and caloric consumption is sugary drinks, according to New York city officials when the Mayor announced his proposed ban last month.

Americans now consume 200 to 300 more calories daily than 30 years ago, they said.

Men given 18 ounces — compared with 12 ounces — of beverage drank 26% more while women drank 10% more, with no decrease in food consumption and no difference in reported fullness or thirst, city health officials said.

Yes, there are concerns about freedom of choice, vociferously voiced by the Beverage Association and others.

But we have to do something to combat widespread obesity.

These kinds of public health mandates have worked to curtail smoking, and I think they could work for weight loss, too.

I’m behind Mayor Mike’s larger-than-16-ounce-drink ban, and I hope it becomes a nationwide trend.

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