A diabetic man with a penchant for sugary drinks, who lost his legs to amputation is the latest poster boy in New York's hard-hitting anti-obesity campaign.
The disturbing image of an amputee sitting near cups of soda has been plastered in city subways, part of a series of ads aimed at shocking people out of dietary habits that can lead to obesity, said Thomas Farley, the city health commissioner.
"These are hard-hitting images, because we really felt we need to drive home a point that large portions are not completely benign," he said.
The advertising campaign has previously used such arresting images as consumers gulping from a frosty glass filled not with a beverage but with globs of fat.
Portion control a solution to obesity
The newest ad says that as portion sizes have grown over time, so too has the incidence of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, which it says "can lead to amputations."
The tagline reads, "Cut Your Portions, Cut Your Risk."
Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, criticised the campaign for creating an inaccurate picture of the impact of soft drinks.
"Portion control is indeed an important piece of the solution to obesity," he said in a statement.
"Instead of utilising scare tactics, the beverage industry is offering real solutions such as smaller portioned containers and new kilojoules labels that show the number of kJ in the full container, right up front, to help people choose products and sizes that are right for them and their families," he said.
Kilojoule count displayed on menus
Drink sizes at a fast food chain have quadrupled in the last five decades, while the size of a portion of French fries has doubled in that time, the department said.
Nearly 57% of New Yorkers are overweight or obese, according to the department, and about 10% have been told they have type 2 diabetes.
There was some evidence that an earlier campaign had an impact: The percentage of adults drinking at least one sugary drink a day declined from about 36% in 2007, before the ads appeared, to about 30% in 2010, the department said, citing surveys.
Marion Nestle, a professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, said portion sizes were an important factor in determining how much people eat, or overeat.
New York City has forced certain chain restaurants to prominently display kJ counts for each item on their menus to make people more aware of how much they are consuming.
(Reuters Health, Jonathan Allen, January 2012)