Entries in Size (4)


New York's Proposed Cap on Soda Size Gets People Fizzing

Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Are large sugary drinks a health risk or a civil rights concern? That's the debate set off by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugar sweetened beverages to 16 ounces or less.

Advocates on both sides of the issue faced off at a public hearing Tuesday in Queens. Beverage companies, their advocacy groups and some consumers vehemently object to the ban. Aside from the obvious reason that it will cut into profits, they claim it will limit choice and amounts to "nanny state" policing of personal nutrition.

"While we feel the mayor has good intentions, his proposal seems arbitrary," said Eliot Hoff, a spokesperson for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a group that receives a portion of its funding from the National Beverage Association. "We believe that we can choose what we drink and how much we drink."

Should the proposal be adopted, it would only apply to establishments under the supervision of the Department of Health, which includes restaurants and movie theaters but not grocery and convenience stores. So any business that receives a letter grade from the city could not sell super-sized drinks under the proposed rules -- but the 7-11 or bodega right next door could continue to sell Big Gulps or giant-sized beverages.

This did not sit well with many of the 100-plus people who attended the hearing, including most of the elected officials who spoke on behalf of their constituents. Even as he expressed admiration for the Mayor's ongoing commitment to health, Daniel J. Halloran, councilman for the city's 19th District in Queens, warned that small business owners would be unfairly penalized by the ban. He called the initiative "absolutely ridiculous, unenforceable and hypocritical."

Others objected to consumers being forced to buy two smaller drinks at a higher cost if 16 ounces didn't quench their thirst. This, they said, will stretch the already tight budgets of New Yorkers.

"Families who typically share one large drink will no longer be able to do so and will definitely wind up paying more," said Hoff.

On the other side of the aisle, groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said it's about time someone addressed the ballooning portion sizes of sweetened beverages.

"For more than 100 years, the soda industry has had free reign and for many years it was not a problem because people mostly drank in moderation," said Michael Jacobson, CSPI's co-founder and executive director. "Now container sizes have jumped and the marketing of these drinks -- especially to adolescents -- has exploded to more than $2 billion a year."

The current default container size for a soda is a 20-ounce bottle, more than triple the 6.5-ounce size that was once standard. And that's tiny compared to McDonald's 32-ounce serving, Burger King's 42-ounce serving and the 54-ounce soda sold at Regal movie theaters. When you factor in sports drinks, sweet teas, vitamin waters, and energy drinks, Jacobson and other health experts who attended the hearing say it's no surprise the average person drinks 40 gallons of sweetened liquids per year.

The Bloomberg proposal has no precedent; this is the first time a U.S. city has so directly attempted to limit sugary-drink portions. Even the experts in support of the size limit say it's impossible to predict whether it will help cut sugar and calorie consumption or make an impact on the percentage of obese New Yorkers.

However, Bloomberg and his supporters say the data are on their side. They point to the success of other ongoing initiatives such as the posting of calorie counts on menus and the trans-fat ban as models of how effective the super-size ban could be.

"If people shifted from one 20-ounce serving to a 16-ounce serving just once a week, this could potentially prevent an estimated 2.5 million pounds of weight per year," Jacobson said.

Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for food policy and obesity at Yale University, cited research linking increasing portions of sugared beverages -- as well as soup and foods such as macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, pasta, and potato chips -- to a 25-50 percent increase in overall consumption. Worse, he said, liquid calories don't create the same feeling of fullness as solid foods do, so consumers often don't make up for the excess by cutting back at subsequent meals.

People also tend to consume food in the size of the bag, bottle or box it comes in, a phenomenon known as unit bias. When packaging is larger, people consume more. With the steady growth in package sizing over the last few decades -- especially soda bottles -- this has consumers subconsciously eating more than they intend.

However, many obesity researchers say limiting drink sizes is a useless gesture that gives a false sense of accomplishment.

"It's never been definitively shown that the obesity epidemic is due to drinks larger than 16 ounces," said Nikhil Dhurandhar, an obesity researcher from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. He did not attend the hearings but is familiar with the Bloomberg plan.

He said there is no way to compartmentalize eating and that limiting or removing a single food from the diet is no guarantee it won't be replaced by another source of calories.

Indeed, studies by the Centers for Disease Control have not indicated a definitive link between soda consumption and obesity. And a recent study published in the Journal of Behavior Nutrition and Physical Activity found that when schools eliminated unhealthy foods and beverages from campus, children did make healthier choices -- but obesity rates didn't decline and were no different from schools without such bans.

Regardless of where they stood on the issue, just about everyone who attended the hearing conceded that Bloomberg's proposal was likely to pass when it comes up for vote this September by a panel of health experts handpicked by the mayor himself. If the rule is adopted, it will go into effect in March 2013. Establishments that violate size limits can be fined by up to $200 per violation.

In addition to the public health policy experts represented at the meeting, a slew of celebrities, including chef Jamie Oliver, filmmaker Spike Lee and former president Bill Clinton have publicly supported the Bloomberg initiative.

Still, some said the ban could be a slippery slope.

"What will they be telling me next," councilman Halloran wondered. "What time I should go to bed? How many potato chips I can eat? How big my steak should be?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Does Brain Size Matter in Clues to Alzheimer’s?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Does the size of our brain correlate with Alzheimer’s disease? It very well may, according to a new study in this week’s issue of Neurology that suggests the thickness of various parts of the brain could predict the onset of symptoms consistent with early Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease -- a debilitating condition that affects memory thinking and behavior. This accounts for 50-80 percent of dementia cases in the elderly.

To determine whether the thickness of various regions of the brain might point to Alzheimer’s risk, researchers embarked on a three-year study in which they looked at 159 individuals with an average age of 76 who were Alzheimer’s-free at the beginning of the study. The researchers used brain imaging on these patients to assess the thickness of nine regions of the brain, chosen based on research that suggests these areas shrink in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

They found that 19 of them had enough shrinkage in these areas to qualify as high risk. A total of 116 were deemed to have average risk, and 24 were low risk.

The group was given memory and problem solving tests at the beginning of the study and over three years. The results of these tests showed that over 20 percent of the highest-risk individuals had scores consistent with cognitive decline, whereas there were only seven percent in the average risk and zero percent in the lowest risk group.

The researchers also found that 60 percent of the individuals at highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease had abnormal levels of protein in the cerebrospinal fluid, another marker for Alzheimer’s disease.

Study authors were hopeful that this approach could open up new avenues to detect Alzheimer’s risk more quickly.

“This new streamline MRI technology is useful for screening people for silent Alzheimer’s disease, in hopes that we can target a segment of the population to enroll in large clinical trials for treatments as they become available,” said  Dr. Bradford Dickerson, study author at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Dr. Susan Resnick of the National Institutes of Health, who wrote an accompanying editorial, noted that “The ability to identify cognitively normal individuals at higher risk for subsequent cognitive decline is an important step toward implementing and evaluating the new criteria for preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.”

Still, Dickerson cautioned that the research is preliminary and more work needs to be done.

“Further research is necessary to implement the use of these MRI biomarkers in combination with challenging cognitive tests as a screening tool to identify people at greatest risk” Dickerson said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


The More Facebook Friends You Have, the Bigger Your Brain?

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The more Facebook friends you have, the bigger bits of your brain are, British neuroscientists say.

Using brain imaging, researchers from University College London found that brain areas linked to social skills were larger in college students with sprawling social networks than in Facebook users with fewer friends.  The team also found a strong correlation between the size of students’ online and offline social circles.

“We have found some interesting brain regions that seem to link to the number of friends we have -- both ‘real’ and ‘virtual,’” Ryota Kanai, lead author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, said in a statement.

The results of the study, which was originally conducted with 125 college students, were later replicated in 40 more participants.  The researchers cautioned that correlation does not mean causation but said they hoped to clarify how friends -- and Facebook -- shape our brains.

“The exciting question now is whether these [brain] structures change over time,” said Kanai.  “This will help us answer the question of whether the Internet is changing our brains.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Penis Size Linked to Finger Length, Researchers Find

BananaStock/Thinkstock(INCHEON, South Korea) -- The longer a man's index finger when compared with his ring finger, the longer the length of his penis, according to Korean researchers.

The research team, led by urologist Dr. Tae Beom Kim from Gachon University in Incheon, Korea, measured the fingers and penises -- both stretched-out and flaccid -- of 144 men who were anesthetized before undergoing urological surgery.

Men's ring fingers are usually longer than their index fingers.  But Kim and colleagues linked a larger gap in finger length -- a lower 2D:4D ratio -- to a longer stretched-out penis.

"Based on this evidence, we suggest that digit ratio can predict adult penile size, and that the effects of prenatal testosterone may in part explain the differences in adult penile length," the researchers reported Monday in the Asian Journal of Andrology.

The length of the penis when stretched is believed to correlate to its erect length, the team reported.

Earlier studies suggest the 2D:4D ratio is governed by prenatal exposure to the male and female sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen.  Women tend to have ring and index fingers of roughly equal length -- a result of less testosterone exposure in the womb, report the Korean researchers.

But men who have relatively long ring fingers are thought to have been exposed to high levels of testosterone in utero, and this has been linked to aggression, athleticism, sexuality, intelligence, and even the ability to trade high-stakes stocks.  It has also been linked to a higher risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, prostate cancer and arthritis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio