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Soda Ban Could Make People Buy More Sugary Drinks, Study

Update Date: Apr 10, 2013 04:54 PM EDT

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg's soda ban does pass, it may do more harm than good, according to a new study.

A new study published April 10 in the journal PLOS ONE, revealed found that restricting soda servings might make people buy more soda than when offered larger sized drinks.

Researchers found that people buy more soda when purchasing packs of smaller drinks than when offered single serving of different sized drinks.

Researcher Brent M. Wilson and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego wanted to see how limiting sugary drink sizes affected people's soda consumption. 

The study involved 100 participants (24 male, 76 female) with an average age of 21.  Each participant was offered one of the three varying menus. The first menu offered 16 , 24 or 32 ounce sized individual drinks.  The second menu gave participants the choices of a 16 oz. drink, or bundles of two 12 oz. drinks or two 16 oz. drinks. The third menu offered only individual 16 oz. drinks for sale.

Researchers said participants were given a specified location such as a fast food restaurant, movie theater or stadium, and asked to select the items they would purchase for themselves.

The findings revealed that people bought more soda from the menu with packs of 12 oz. or 16 oz. drinks than they did when offered individual sodas of different sizes. Additionally, researchers found that total business revenues were also higher when menus included packs of drinks rather than only small sized drinks, based on the choices participants made.

Based on the latest findings, Wilson and his team conclude that when drink sizes are limited, businesses may have a strong incentive to offer packs of several small drinks rather than only individual servings. They say banning larger servings of sugary drinks in a bid to moderate soda intake may actually thus have the unintended outcome of increasing soda consumption.

"Our research shows the New York City ban on large-sized drinks may have unintended consequences that policy makers need to consider. Sugary drinks are a major source of business revenue, and businesses will adjust their menus in order to maximize profits," Wilson said in a news release.

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