ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
In Elderly Women, Hip Fractures Often Follow Arm Breaks
Low Vitamin D Raises Women's Hip Fracture Risk
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
CANCER
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Minorities Distrust Medical System More
Tanning Beds Shown To Raise Cancer Risk, Study Says
CAREGIVING
TV Watching Doesn't Fast-Track Baby's Skills
Injected Medication Errors a Major Problem
Bariatric Surgery Centers Don't Deliver Better Outcomes
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
DIABETES
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Atkins Diet Tougher on Heart After Weight Loss
Myrrh May Lower High Cholesterol
School Meals Need to Get Healthier
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Former Inmates at Increased Risk for High Blood Pressure
Greenhouse Gases Hazardous to Your Health
Restaurant Sushi May Have More Mercury Than Store-Bought Fare
EYE CARE, VISION
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
Eye Care Checkups Tied to Insurance Status
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
FITNESS
As Temperature Plummets, It's Still Safe to Exercise
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Be Healthy, Spend Less
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Brown Rice Tied to Better Heart Health in Study
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Should Your Child Be Seeing a Chiropractor?
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Countdown to Hair Loss
MENTAL HEALTH
A Simple 'Thank You' Brings Rewards to All
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Caffeine in Pregnancy Associated With Low Birth Weight Risk
Heal Your LifeŽ Tips for Living Well
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
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'Soda Tax' Wins Health Experts' Support

A national tax of 1 cent per ounce of soda and other sugary drinks could stem the United States' obesity epidemic, while generating $14.9 billion the first year alone, health experts say.

That windfall could help finance proposed health care reform, while also funding programs to prevent obesity, say a group of prominent researchers in an article in the Sept. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The authors believe such a tax would deter people from buying non-nutritious sweet drinks, thereby helping Americans to lose weight and reduce their health risks.

The United States spends some $147 billion -- 9 percent of all health care expenditures -- on medical costs associated with overweight and obesity, the article states.

For consumers, the tax they suggest would increase the cost of a 20-ounce soft drink by 15 to 20 percent and lead to a minimum reduction of 20 calories a day per person from sweetened beverages. The revenue collected would benefit individual states and the federal government.

"There are certain products which make a strong contribution to the obesity epidemic while, conversely, there is no plausible public health benefit [from them]," noted Dr. David Ludwig, senior author of the paper and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

"None of us are arguing that sugar-sweetened beverages should be banned, but the government needs to raise revenues where we have a huge national deficit," said Ludwig, who is also director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Children's Hospital Boston. "We have critical health legislation pending and the requirement to do so without further increasing the deficit.

"What better way to accomplish both lowering health care costs through obesity prevention and funding expansion of health insurance coverage than to add a tax to unhealthy foods," he continued.

The idea of levying a "fat tax" or "Twinkie tax" first gained attention in 1994, when Yale University psychology professor Kelly D. Brownell made the proposal in an op-ed piece in The New York Times. Brownell is lead author of the current paper.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said such taxes could help cover the cost of overhauling the U.S. health care system.

Meanwhile, studies continue to link consumption of beverages sweetened with sucrose (regular sugar), high-fructose corn syrup or fruit-juice concentrates to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, not to mention dental decay.

One such study found that each additional serving of sugar-sweetened beverage increased the risk of obesity in middle-school students by 60 percent, Ludwig said.

In another study involving 100 high-school students, eliminating such drinks led to a significant decrease in body weight.

"There are very few comprehensive interventions, let alone single dietary factors, whose modification have led to changes in body weight," Ludwig said. "Identifying a single factor is quite remarkable."

While the tax strategy has reduced cigarette and alcohol use, there's no guarantee it would work with food.

Dr. Stephen Cook, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, does not think this 1-cent threshold is enough to drive down consumption.

A wiser approach, he said, would be to focus on the programs such a tax could benefit and to offset the price of healthier foods and drinks, such as fruits and vegetables and low-fat, non-flavored milk.

The beverage industry opposes a soda tax and also disputes the connection between consumption of sweetened drinks and obesity.

"Excise taxes on soft drinks simply do not reduce obesity rates," the American Beverage Association said in a statement issued Wednesday. "West Virginia and Arkansas are two prime examples -- both have excise taxes on soft drinks, yet rank fifth and sixth highest in the nation for obesity rates, " it said.

"Taxing soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages to reduce obesity is simply the wrong public policy for such a complex problem," the ABA said. Instead of "demonizing any one particular food or beverage," the government should promote nutrition education, the trade association said.

Would a soda tax be just the first of many such initiatives? Not so, according to Ludwig, who stressed that he does not have "a long list of other products that I'm ready to suggest taxing."

"I don't think we can make the argument that ice cream has anywhere near the negative impact that sugar-sweetened beverages do," he said. "We believe this is in a class by itself. It is a very discrete category with no health benefits, very strong evidence of harm and high consumption rates."

Some other nutrition experts support the proposal.

"I think this would make an impact," said Marianne Grant, a registered dietician and health educator at Texas A&M Health Science Center's Coastal Bend Health Education Center in Corpus Christi. "I've been hearing a lot about the need to attack the obesity epidemic like we attacked tobacco and smoking, and the only thing that significantly reduced the number of people smoking was the price of cigarettes."

SOURCES: David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, and director, Optimal Weight for Life Program, Children's Hospital Boston; Marianne Grant, R.D., registered dietician and health educator, Texas A&M Health Science Center's Coastal Bend Health Education Center, Corpus Christi; Stephen Cook, M.D., assistant professor, pediatrics, University of Rochester Medical Center, New York; Sept. 17, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine