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Will soda bans in city, school vending machines help Americans slim down?

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After a two-soda-a-day habit for the majority of my adolescence, I quit the fizzy sugar water cold turkey at the age of 17. At the time, a track coach told me carbonated beverages were bad for my muscles and I naively believed him. Although my new soda-free lifestyle was driven by a desire to run faster rather than to shed unwanted pounds, I also noticed I didn't lose any weight.

So when I read yesterday that the City of San Francisco's sugary-drink ban was finally going into effect, I was skeptical that stocking vending machines on city property with soy milk and juice instead of sodas would yield significant results in the battle against obesity.

In fact, a 2008 study found eliminating soft drinks from elementary schools did not affect overall consumption. A story in the New York Times reported:

Researchers said that when they compared the soft drink consumption of children at schools where it was sold and children at schools where it was not, they did not find a big difference...

...While these restrictions have value, the researchers said, health officials need to act more broadly, focusing on dietary habits in the home and doing more to encourage healthy eating.

When it comes to convincing people to improve their health habits, a recent study from Stanford revealed people are more likely to make large, sustained changes in their lives if they believe it serves a greater good. For instance, one way to reduce the effects of global warming is to eat more fruits and vegetables grown locally and cut back on meat and processed foods that are transported over long distances.

Photo by Vanessa Yvonne

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