People May Consume More Soda If Supersized Drinks Are Banned

When given a choice between buying one large drink or several smaller drinks, people went with the latter option, which adds up to more total soda consumed

In March, soda fiends across New York City breathed a sigh of relief when a judge invalidated Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on selling soft drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, movie theaters or food carts. But new research from the journal PLoS One shows that, even if Bloomberg’s ban had gone into effect, people not only would have found ways to consume large amounts of soda, they actually may have drunk up even more of the sugary stuff.

People seem to buy larger amounts of soda when purchasing packs of smaller drinks, the study found. At the University of California, San Diego, researchers offered volunteers three menus containing different drink options: 16-, 24- or 32-ounce individual drinks; a 16-ounce drink or bundles of two 12-ounce or 16-ounce drinks; or only individual 16-ounce drinks.

People tended to buy more total soda when the 12- or 16-ounce drink bundles were on offer, the researchers found. For restaurants, this offered an additional monetary perk since hypothetical profits were highest when menus contained these small serving pack options. In other words, if drink serving sizes ever do become limited, both restaurants and customers can get what they want by offering and ordering multiple smaller beverages rather than one super-sized helping.

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