Does soda seriously, truly, without a doubt make people fat? Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) hopes to settle the question once and for all. On Thursday he introduced an amendment to the massive farm bill inching its way through the senate mandating that the government study the link between sugary beverages and obesity. The study would also investigate how public health proposals about the cost and size of sugary drinks (we're looking at you, Mr. Bloomberg) affect obesity.
Through a release from his office, Lautenberg explained:
“We know that soda is a major source of bad calories for Americans, and it’s time for the federal government to determine whether these beverages are contributing to our nation's obesity problem. Obesity is not merely an inconvenience—it’s a serious health hazard. With roughly one out of every three American children suffering the health impacts of being obese, we owe it to our kids and our country to learn more about what is causing this plague. We need to know what impact sugary drinks have on obesity and if proposals that encourage Americans to drink fewer high-sugar drinks will reduce obesity.”
The CDC places the number of overweight Americans as obese or overweight at 90 million, and says obesity kills over one hundred thousand Americans every year. The United States' childhood obesity rate of 31 percent is the highest in the world.
The introduction of this amendment as part of the farm bill displays just how wide a net the legislation casts. Associated Press reporter Jim Abrams explains, "Senators are likely to use the bill as a vehicle to take up unrelated issues."
Given the top dollars that several major beverage companies spend on lobbying, though, it seems unlikely that Lautenberg's amendment will carry through without a hitch.
Several major health organizations have endorsed Lautenberg's amendment, his office says, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Public Health Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.