In New York yesterday, the talk of the town was Mayor Mike Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of supersized sugary sodas in some locations. With all that's going on in the world, this seems like a pretty trivial subject but that didn't stop New Yorkers but voicing their opinions.
On the pro side: There's lots of evidence suggesting that portion size affects weight. People will generally eat whatever is put in front of them and if the portions are huge, they'll eat it all - even if they are not hungry. That goes for massive sugary sodas, which can be as much as half a gallon and contain hundreds of worthless calories. Getting rid of these huge drinks might make also people more conscious of the effect of portion size on food intake.
On the con side: We love our giant sodas and the government has no right to take them away! If we want to get so fat that we can't fit through the subway turnstile, that's our problem. Mayor Mike isn't our nanny.
My own opinion is somewhere in between although I probably lean more toward the Mayor's side. I have read lots of the research on the effect of portion size, particularly the excellent work of Cornell's Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. This research has convinced me that social cues such as portion size are a major factor in the growing obesity epidemic. So Bloomberg has the science right.
But I'm not convinced that legislating portion size will help. As the Mayor himself points out, people can just order two medium-sized drinks to compensate for not being able to order one large.
Still, I applaud Bloomberg for trying. His administration takes the health of New Yorkers seriously with previous efforts to ban smoking and post calorie counts in restaurants. That's a good thing. Now it's up to us to follow his example.