Research shows the New York City ban on large-sized drinks may have unintended consequences

Contact: Souri Somphanith onepress@plos.org 415-624-121-7199 Public Library of Science

People buy more soda when offered packs of smaller sizes than if buying single large drink

Restricting soda servings may induce people to buy more soda than when offered larger sized drinks

People buy larger amounts of soda when purchasing packs of smaller drinks than when offered single servings of different sized drinks, according to research published April 10 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Brent M. Wilson and colleagues from the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers tested the effects of limiting sugary drink sizes on people’s soda consumption by offering them three kinds of menus. One menu offered 16 , 24 or 32 ounce sized individual drinks, a second gave them the choices of a 16 oz. drink, or bundles of two 12 ounce drinks or two 16 ounce drinks, and a third menu offered only individual 16 oz. drinks for sale. When participants made choices from these menus as they would in a fast food restaurant, 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. Based on the choices participants made, total business revenues were also higher when menus included packs of drinks rather than only small sized drinks.

The study concludes that when drink sizes are limited, businesses may have a strong incentive to offer packs of several small drinks rather than only individual servings. The authors suggest that restricting larger servings of sugary drinks in efforts to moderate may thus have the unintended outcome of increasing soda consumption rather than reducing it.

“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,” says Wilson.

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Citation: Wilson BM, Stolarz-Fantino S, Fantino E (2013) Regulating the Way to Obesity: Unintended Consequences of Limiting Sugary Drink Sizes. PLOS ONE 8(4): e61081. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061081

Financial Disclosure: These authors have no support or funding to report.

Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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Persistent pollutant may promote obesity: Tributyltin shown to affect gene activity at extremely low concentrations

2008 study posted for filing

Contact: Jennifer Williams
jwilliams@aibs.org
202-628-1500 x209
American Institute of Biological Sciences

Persistent pollutant may promote obesity

Compound shown to affect gene activity at extremely low concentrations

Tributyltin, a ubiquitous pollutant that has a potent effect on gene activity, could be promoting obesity, according to an article in the December issue of BioScience. The chemical is used in antifouling paints for boats, as a wood and textile preservative, and as a pesticide on high-value food crops, among many other applications.

Tributyltin affects sensitive receptors in the cells of animals, from water fleas to humans, at very low concentrations—a thousand times lower than pollutants that are known to interfere with sexual development of wildlife species. Tributyltin and its relatives are highly toxic to mollusks, causing female snails to develop male sexual characteristics, and it bioaccumulates in fish and shellfish.

The harmful effects of the chemical on the liver and the nervous and immune systems in mammals are well known, but its powerful effects on the cellular components known as retinoid X receptors (RXRs) in a range of species are a recent discovery. When activated, RXRs can migrate into the nuclei of cells and switch on genes that cause the growth of fat storage cells and regulate whole body metabolism; compounds that affect a related receptor often associated with RXRs are now used to treat diabetes. RXRs are normally activated by signaling molecules found throughout the body.

The BioScience article, by Taisen Iguchi and Yoshinao Katsu, of the Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Japan, describes how RXRs and related receptors are also strongly activated by tributyltin and similar chemicals. Tributyltin impairs reproduction in water fleas through its effects on a receptor similar to the RXR. In addition, tributyltin causes the growth of excess fatty tissue in newborn mice exposed to it in utero. The effects of tributytin on RXR-like nuclear receptors might therefore be widespread throughout the animal kingdom.

The rise in obesity in humans over the past 40 years parallels the increased use of industrial chemicals over the same period. Iguchi and Katsu maintain that it is “plausible and provocative” to associate the obesity epidemic to chemical triggers present in the modern environment. Several other ubiquitous pollutants with strong biological effects, including environmental estrogens such as bisphenol A and nonylphenol, have been shown to stimulate the growth of fat storage cells in mice. The role that tributyltin and similar persistent pollutants may play in the obesity epidemic is now under scrutiny.

 

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After noon EST on 1 December and for the remainder of the month, the full text of the article will be available for free download through the copy of this Press Release available at http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/.

BioScience, published 11 times per year, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BioScience publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on “Organisms from Molecules to the Environment.” The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.

 

‘Spin’ in media reports of scientific articles: 47% of articles contain ‘Spin”

Contact: Sumrina Yousufzai
syousufzai@plos.org
415-568-3164
Public Library of Science

Press releases and news stories reporting the results of randomized controlled trials often contain “spin”—specific reporting strategies (intentional or unintentional) emphasizing the beneficial effect of the experimental treatment—but such “spin” frequently comes from the abstract (summary) of the actual study published in a scientific journal, rather than being related to misinterpretation by the media, according to French researchers writing in this week’s PLOS Medicine.

“Spinning” the reporting of clinical trials could give physicians and patients unrealistic expectations about new treatments. It is important to know the source of “spin” and so French researchers, led by Isabelle Boutron from the Université Paris Descartes, looked for the presence of “spin” in a sample of 70 press releases, and 41 associated news stories, of randomized controlled trials and investigated the source of the “spin”.

The authors found that 33 (47%) of press releases contained “spin” and also identified “spin” in the conclusions of 28 (40%) study abstracts published in scientific journals. Furthermore, 21 (51%) of the associated news stories were reported with “spin”, mainly the same type of ‘”spin”‘ as those identified in the press release and article abstract conclusions. Importantly, “spin” could lead readers to overestimate the benefits of the treatment.

The authors conclude: “Our results highlight a tendency for press releases and the associated media coverage of randomized controlled trials to place emphasis on the beneficial effects of experimental treatments. This tendency is probably related to the presence of “spin” in conclusions of the scientific article’s abstract. ”

They continue: “Our work highlights that this inappropriate reporting could bias readers’ interpretation of research results.”

The authors add: “Consequently, reviewers and editors of published articles have an important role to play in the dissemination of research findings and should be particularly aware of the need to ensure that the conclusions reported are an appropriate reflection of the trial findings and do not overinterpret or misinterpret the results.”

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Funding: No direct funding was received for this study. The authors were personally salaried by their institutions during the period of writing (though no specific salary was set aside or given for the writing of this paper). No funding bodies had any role in the study design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: Isabelle Boutron is a member of PLOS Medicine Editorial Board. The authors have declared that no other competing interests exist.

Citation: Yavchitz A, Boutron I, Bafeta A, Marroun I, Charles P, et al. (2012) Misrepresentation of Randomized Controlled Trials in Press Releases and News Coverage: A Cohort Study. PLoS Med 9(9): e1001308. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001308

IN YOUR COVERAGE PLEASE USE THIS URL TO PROVIDE ACCESS TO THE FREELY AVAILABLE PAPER (THIS LINK WILL BECOME LIVE WHEN THE EMBARGO LIFTS):

http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001308

CONTACT:

Isabelle Boutron
Assistance Publique Hopitaux de Paris, Paris Descartes University, PRES Sorbonne Paris Cité, INSERM U738, Paris, France
isabelle.boutron@htd.aphp.fr