The city's Health Department seems willing to do whatever it takes to get you off the soda pop, even if it means glossing over certain facts about soft drinks' potential to fatten you up. According to e-mails obtained by the Times through the state's Freedom of Information Law, Health Department officials, including Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, decided to overrule objections from some experts who said the "Pouring on the Pounds" campaign was misleading. At one point, the department's chief nutritionist simply asked Harvard and Columbia professsors, "What can we get away with?"

At issue was the campaign's assertion that "drinking 1 can of soda a day can make you 10 pounds fatter a year." As officials were working on the video component of the campaign, which shows a guy drinking globs of fat from a can of soda, the Health Department's marketing campaign manager raised doubts about the takeaway, writing, "I think Dr. Farley really wants to say something about 'gaining 15 pounds of fat in a year.' We know gaining and losing weight isn’t that cut and dry — some people can drink and eat whatever they want and still maintain their weight without doing an incredible amount of exercise to burn off the extra calories. I think going this route would raise a lot of skepticism within the public about our message."

Another doctor consulted by the department said their underlying premise was seriously flawed, because "you would need to make the case that you are talking about a can of soda more per day relative to energy expenditure." But in the end, it was decided that going viral was more important than going accurate. "I think what people fear is getting fat," Farley concluded in one e-mail. The man sure knows what keeps us up at night (lying in a pile of potato chip crumbs)! Here's the video, which is, as the DOH's nutritionist put it, "deliciously disgusting."

In a statement, the Health Department tells us, "We included the fact that drinking even one can of soda a day can make you 10 pounds fatter in a year in this anti-obesity campaign after vigorous internal discussion among many staff of the agency. This kind of discussion is part of any scientifically sound decision-making process, but usually occurs outside of public view. The link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity is well established in the scientific literature and widely accepted among nutrition experts."