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Public Health Should Be Apolitical

You can be for freedom. You can be for smaller government that intrudes less. You can be for lower taxes. You can be for most anything, but if you’re interested in improving the sagging health of American citizens, get on Michael Bloomberg’s wheel.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bar city residents from using food stamps to buy sugary soft drinks. It turns out that last year $135 million in food stamp money was used for the consumption of these obesity-fostering beverages in NYC alone.

Mr Bloomberg is morphing into a real-world public health super star. Previously, he was a pioneer in banning smoking in restaurants and bars. They said it could not be done, or that it wouldn’t work. Well, the naysayers were dead wrong. Now public smoking bans our commonplace and, backed by objective data, are accepted as having prevented thousands of heart attacks. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Can Sugar Raise Your Blood Pressure?

Most of us know that salt raises blood pressure in many people. When I learned that in medical school almost 40 years ago, I have not touched a salt shaker since. I enjoy having a low normal blood pressure. A new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (July 2010) suggests that sugar, especially the fructose that comes from corn syrup, may also raise blood pressure.

A study team from the University of Colorado in Denver looked at sugar intake among thousands of Americans in a major national nutrition survey between 2003 and 2006. Those who consumed more added sugars, such as the fructose in soft drinks, had significantly higher blood pressures than those who did not and ate more natural foods such as fresh fruit. Fructose from corn syrup is a major cause of the obesity epidemic and may also be contributing to high blood presure, the most common chronic disease in adults. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at eDocAmerica*

Will Taxing Soft Drinks Solve The Obesity Problem?

This week’s New England Journal of Medicine contained a very, very interesting proposal put forth by a few prominent physicians and researchers working on the obesity crisis in America.

They propose that beverages loaded with sugar should be considered a public health hazard (much like cigarettes) and should be taxes. The proposal calls for an excise tax of “a penny an ounce” for beverages like sugar sweetened soft drinks that have added sugars. They cite research that links obesity to heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and other health problems. They say sugar sweetened beverages should be taxed in order to curb consumption and help pay for the increasing health care costs of obesity.

They estimate that the tax would generate about $14.9 billion in the first year alone and would increase prices of soft drinks by about 15-20%. That is big money, but at what cost?

My personal opinion is that while the tax would generate a lot of money that could be put to good use on anti-obesity programs, it is singling out one industry when obesity has numerous contributing factors. Calories Americans are getting from beverages have actually gone down in the past decade, but obesity rates still climb. Soft drinks alone are not making us fatter.

Americans need to pay closer attention to portion sizes and overall calories coming into their bodies from all sources. We know that Americans also eat too much fried food, candy, ice cream, etc. Should we tax everything that is “bad” for us? Absolutely not! And these foods are not “bad” when consumed in reasonable quantities in reasonable frequency.

We also need to learn how to move our bodies more to burn off some of the sweet treats that we love to indulge in. Weight loss is a simple equation that I don’t get tired of explaining again and again: Move more and eat less.

Taxing soft drinks will not decrease heart disease risk…exercising more and losing body fat by consuming less calories definitely will!

This post, Will Taxing Soft Drinks Solve The Obesity Problem?, was originally published on by Brian Westphal.

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