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Anti-Obesity Groups Criticize Response of Medical Professionals

Medical Professionals’ comments on banning sugary drinks from schools have met with criticism from anti-obesity lobby groups//.

Health Minister Pete Hodgson’s idea to make all schools to be soft drink-free by 2008 to help fight the obesity epidemic has been described as "misguided and based on weak evidence" by Associate Professor Wayne Cutfield and Dr Paul Hofman, diabetes physicians at Starship and Auckland University.

Professor Cutfield described the data linking obesity with fizzy drinks as "too tenuous". He said, ‘If we are going to introduce social legislation, it's got to be based on science and not just common sense because these are major intrusions into people's lives.’

The Agencies for Nutrition Action (ANA) which had advocated the scheme today expressed disappointment with the comments.

According to Dr Rachael Taylor, senior lecturer with the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, there was "no magic bullet" in terms of what contributed to obesity.

"We are never going to cure obesity at a population level from a single dietary change."

She however asserted the fact that beverages were the single largest source of sucrose (sugar) in New Zealand children's diets and contained no useful nutrients. "I don't think anyone expects removing soft drinks from schools will cure obesity but it will create a more healthy environment to match that which is taught in the curriculum."

It has been estimated that about one in 10 children and one in five adults are obese and the extra weight that New Zealanders have been piling on is only burdening the already-overloaded health system.

In addition disorders like heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes have been linked to obesity.Plans for spending extra $76 million to fight obesity has already been proposed by the government.

Groups such as the Obesity Action Coalition have called for the ban of high-sugar and high-fat foods banned from sale in schools. Another group Fight the Obesity Epidemic has gone one step further, demanding a hike in taxes on fatty and sugary foods to price these products off shop shelves.

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