In two high-profile votes at the American Medical Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, delegates officially recognized obesity as a disease, and called for a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to under 18s.
Meanwhile, delegates also agreed that sugar-sweetened beverages should be removed from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
While the resolutions have no legal standing, they will influence ongoing policy debates on these issues, and feed into the ongoing discussion over the safety of energy drinks and whether weight loss drugs should be covered by insurance.
Currently, for example, Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit, will not pay for weight loss drugs.
In a statement on the AMA website, board member Patrice Harris, M.D. said: “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans.”
Banning the marketing of energy drinks to adolescents is a ‘common sense action’
In a statement about energy drinks, board member Alexander Ding, M.D. said: “Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems, and banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids.”
ABA: Resolution is fraught with inaccuracies about energy drinks
However, the American Beverage Association said it was baffled by the phrase “massive and excessive amounts of caffeine” given that the industry has repeatedly shown that most energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee.
Communications director Maureen Beach said: “We are disappointed that the American Medical Association would pass a resolution fraught with inaccuracies about energy drinks and their ingredients. Most energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee, and most of the caffeine consumed by 14 to 21 year olds comes from foods and beverages other than energy drinks, according to a 2010 FDA report.
"Leading energy drink companies also voluntarily display total caffeine amounts – from all sources – on their packages, as well as an advisory statement indicating that the product is not intended (or recommended) for children, pregnant or nursing women, or persons sensitive to caffeine, and do not sell or market energy drinks in K-12 schools.”