From the perspective of health officials, sodas and other sugary drinks are public enemy number one when it comes to obesity. It’s not surprising given that they offer essentially no nutritional value relative to the copious amounts of sugar they contain. At the same time, attempts to curtail soda consumption have been met with anger, frustration, and complaints that restricting our access to them is akin to communism.
Well, you can whine all you want, but new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine publication suggests there’s some merit in banishing soda from the workplace. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco set up a study to see if restricting soda sales would reduce overall consumption of said drinks and improve cardiometabolic health (linked to the incidence of things like heart disease and type-2 diabetes) among 214 adults who said they regularly drank sodas or other sugary beverages. Half of those participants also received health coaching and motivational support to encourage them to cut back, and were called three times over the six months to check in on their progress.
WATCH: Seltzer vs. Club Soda vs. Tonic Water vs. Sparkling Water
You’re never going to believe this, but it turns out restricting people’s access to soda makes it much easier for them to drink less of it. Six months after UCSF cut off access to soda, sweet teas, energy drinks and the like, overall levels of employee’s daily consumption fell by almost half, from 35 daily ounces to 18 across both groups.
The results were even more pronounced among participants who stood to benefit the most from cutting soda out of their diets, as overweight or obese individuals cut their intake by a whopping 25 daily ounces. Those changes led to real, tangible results health-wise. Over the six months, the average participant waist size shrank by 0.83 inches. Probably not enough to have to buy new pants, but still a big deal.
To UCSF vice chair of psychiatry Elissa Epel, the results of the study demonstrate how workplaces can nudge people to make better choices. “We were delighted to find that people were making a concerted effort to drink less ‘liquid sugar’ and that they reduced their intake equally at work and at home,” she told Reuters. “Don’t rely on willpower, crete a healthy environment as best you can.”
It might be a bummer to see soda disappear from the office break room vending machine, but it’s probably for the best in the long run. That walk to the convenience store will force you to really think about how badly you want something that you know deep down isn’t good for you.