Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley released new data today showing the strong correlation between sugary drink consumption and obesity. The data, from the New York City Community Health Survey, looks at the relationship between sugary drink consumption and obesity by neighborhood and shows that in each of the five boroughs, those neighborhoods with higher rates of consumption of sugary drinks tended to have higher obesity rates.
Nine of the top 10 neighborhoods with the highest obesity rates city-wide were also the highest in sugary drink consumption. At the other end, the three least obese neighborhoods were also the lowest in sugary drink consumption. These data support other research implicating sugary drinks as key drivers of weight gain and obesity and strongly suggest sugary drinks may be responsible for the differences among city neighborhoods in obesity rates.
“This new data is the latest evidence that sugary drinks are helping to drive the obesity epidemic, which falls hardest on low-income communities,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Obesity is killing more than 5,000 New Yorkers each year and demands bold steps to fight this crisis; this week New York City will do precisely that.”
“As a health epidemic, obesity is preventable and reducing the amount of sugary beverages people consume is a key way to turn this tide,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “New York’s regulation has already put a conversation about obesity and sugary beverages on the map and we are confident that it will have an even greater impact on health once it goes into effect this week.”
“This analysis suggests that sugary drink consumption is contributing to obesity not just in national research studies, but also in our local neighborhoods,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “Reducing sugary drink consumption is critical to reducing obesity and obesity-related illnesses, which kill more people in New York City than anything except smoking. This is what the portion cap on sugary drinks is all about.”
The data shows that in neighborhoods across the city, obesity and sugary drink consumption are closely related, particularly in communities already suffering from health disparities. The prevalence of daily sugary drink consumption is more than two times higher among adults living in neighborhoods with high obesity prevalence than in those with the lowest obesity prevalence (42 percent versus 17 percent). In Bedford-Stuyvesant-Crown Heights for example, where the adult obesity rate is at 33 percent, 47 percent of adults reported on the survey that they drink one or more sugary drinks per day. On the Upper West Side, where the obesity rate is 12 percent, only 14 percent drink one or more sugary drinks per day.
The Community Health Survey (CHS) is an annual telephone survey of approximately 9,000 adults, ages 18 years or older. The new analysis combined CHS data from three years (2009-2011). In this study, sugary drinks were defined as sugar sweetened soda, iced tea, sports drinks and fruit punch. Obese is defined as a body mass index greater than or equal to 30 based on self-reported height and weight. Sugary drinks are associated with increased risk of diabetes, and as obesity rates have risen in New York City, so has the rate of diabetes among adults and children. Between 2002 and 2011, the percentage of New York City adults who have diagnosed diabetes increased 31 percent. Today, 11 percent of adult New Yorkers now have diagnosed diabetes. In addition, adults who consume one or more sugary drinks daily are more likely to be obese than those who do not drink sugary beverages at all (28 percent versus 22 percent).
In response to the obesity crisis, New York City is the first in the nation to propose a limit on the size of sugary beverages sold in food service establishments to 16 ounces. The new regulation is set to take effect on March 12 and gives establishments three months to comply. The Health Department will work closely with food service establishments over the next 90 days to make sure businesses are compliant. The regulations will apply to any food service establishment that is regulated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene including restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. Food service establishments who have questions can call 311 and ask for “beverage portion rule.”
For more information about the sugary drinks regulation visit www.nyc.gov.