Research Backs Up Bloomberg’s Soda Ban: Smaller Portion Sizes Decrease How Much People Eat

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing an unprecedented ban on large sizes for soda and sugary drinks at restaurants, delis, sports arenas, and movie theaters. These drinks would be limitedto 16 ounces, although stores would still be able to sell cans and bottles that are larger.

This marks the latest effort to fight the nation’s growing obesity crisis. “The percentage of the population that is obese is skyrocketing,” Bloomberg said Thursday on MSNBC. “We’ve got to do something.” People would still be able to get refills or order more drinks, he explained, but restricting the portion size could help curb consumption.

And research backs up Bloomberg’s thinking behind portion sizes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that restaurant portion sizes are more than four times larger now than they were in the 1950s, and the average adult is 26 pounds heavier. A soda serving size has had the largest increase:

Additionally, people rely more on their eyes than their stomachs to estimate calories, leading them to eat more than they should when they have larger portion sizes. A study found that when participants were given self-refilling bowls, they ate more soup than others who were eating from normal soup bowls. But the people with self-refilling bowls did not think they had eaten more, so researchers found that a larger portion increases the amount someone eats and lessens a person’s self-monitoring of how much they eat.

By 2030, an estimated 42 percent of Americans are expected to be obese. It will take dramatic changes to slow the soaring obesity rate, but even a small decrease in this number could save $550 billion in health care costs. Even if it may face difficulties in practice, Bloomberg’s idea to limit portion sizes for sugary drinks is an important place to start to try to address the nation’s obesity rate.

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