ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
Vitamin D Plus Calcium Guards Against Fractures
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
CANCER
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
U.S. Reported 25,000 Cases of HPV-Related Cancers Annually
CAREGIVING
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
Simpler Sleep Apnea Treatment Seems Effective, Affordable
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Night Shift Work Hard on the Heart
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
DIABETES
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Dementia Underestimated in Developing Countries
Hypertension May Hit Black Males Earlier
Pesticides on Produce Tied to ADHD in Children
EYE CARE, VISION
Hybrid Cars Pose Risk to Blind, Visually Impaired
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Cases of Age-Related Farsightedness to Soar
FITNESS
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Marathoners Go the Distance on Heart Health
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Heavy Alcohol Use Linked to Cancer
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Research Shows Genetic Activity of Antioxidants
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Quick Orthopedic Repair Can Save Young Shoulders
Music May Temper Pain in Preemies
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Shop 'Til You Drop: You May Feel Better
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Brain Scans Show How Humans 'Hear' Emotion
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
SENIORS
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
Healthy Diet Could Cut Alzheimer's Disease Risk
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
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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