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City Visions: Are sugary drinks a public health hazard?


Last week, researchers at UCSF published a study showing that a ban on sugary drinks at work has significant positive health effects, from a smaller waist size to improved insulin resistance to lower cholesterol.

Sugar has been targeted by scientists for a while now, who view it as an addictive substance that contributes to many of our modern health challenges. Certainly the evidence suggests that sugar might be making us sick.  According to the CDC, 40% of American adults are now clinically obese, and 10% of all adults have diabetes. Additionally, 34% of adults are what is called “prediabetic,” with blood glucose levels that are abnormally high.  


These rates of poor health present a unique medical challenge and contribute to rising health care costs. Could a ban on sugary drinks help companies reduce health care costs?  Does a ban on sugary drinks impinge on workers’ rights? Does this study bolster the argument for the soda tax and other government policies?


Producer: Wendy Holcombe




Elissa Epel, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF.  She is also the Director of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center, and the Consortium for Obesity Assessment, Study, & Treatment, as well as the Associate Director of the Center for Health and Community. 

Laura Schmidt, Ph.D. is a professor of Health Policy at UCSF.  She holds a joint appointment in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine. She is also Co-Director of the Community Engagement and Health Policy Program for UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. 


Kimber Stanhope, PhD, RD, is a research nutritional biologist in the Department of Molecular Biosciences at UC Davis. Her work focuses on investigating the effects of sugar consumption on the development of metabolic disease, utilizing well-controlled diet intervention studies in human subjects.



UCSF Aging, Metabolism & Emotion Research