Soda tax

Happy Thanksgiving! We are now on the threshold of another Holiday Season, for many their favorite time of the year.  And for good reason: celebrations abound.  Mostly its great–we all deserve (and need) to celebrate at year’s end.  But all of those parties often result in lots of sugary drink consumption.

Americans drink the most soda in the world: 45 gallons/person/year.  That’s 16 tsp of sugar for each person every day.  It is estimated that obesity costs the US economy >$190 billion/year, or roughly 21% of all national health care expenditures; obese individuals incur an additional $1152/year in insurance costs compared to $512 yearly for non-obese.

For those thinking that diet drinks are the answer I say: not so fast.  And it isn’t just obesity.  Due to both the sugar and the acidity, soda is a major cause of tooth decay in the US as well.

The issue of taxes on soda and sports drinks has been getting more and more traction lately.  This year 5 more locations have passed soda taxesover the well financed opposition of the soft drink industry.  Now, the evidence that soft drink taxes will help society to address the twin public health conundrums–obesity and tooth decay–is not conclusive, but it is quite strong nevertheless.

Those who know me personally can attest that I certainly have some assertive thoughts in public policy debates.  In this venue I mostly try and keep those foolish opinions to myself.  However, I will say here that I do strongly support soda/sugary drink taxes.  Individuals and entities arguing against taxes often state that “when you tax something, you get less of it.”  Intuitively that is true.  So–less soda consumption?  I vote YES.  And I encourage all of my readers to consider that position and to advocate in its favor to our elected officials.  Our children’s health will benefit, I believe.

Send along questions and comments, and thanks for following.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid

A hot topic in nutrition over the last few years has been omega 3 fatty acid (O3FA) supplements.  O3FA occurs naturally in such foods as tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines (“cold water fish”) as well as plant foods like soy, canola oil, tofu, and walnuts.  The evidence of its cardiac benefits are strong enough that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 1gm/day O3FA for people with heart disease and 2-4 gm/d for people trying to lower serum triglycerides.  The AHA suggests eating cold water fish twice weekly to fulfill that goal.

An important note here is the interaction of O3FA with “O6FA” found in such foods as red meats, eggs, and oils.  Lowering the amount of these foods consumed improves that O3FA/O6FA ratio and can be of benefit here.

As with everything, there are some side effects and risks–abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding (avoid with blood thinners and don’t combine with ginko biloba), and exacerbating problems with low density lipoproteins (LDL).

I present this topic here because of the lack of benefit of O3FA supplements in the population that (I hope) reads this blog–pregnant women and families with kids.  The Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) has thoroughly studied this issue and found the following:

  • no effect on risk of preterm birth
  • no effect on risk of low birth weight
  • small but insignificant increase in birthweight of healthy term infants
  • no effect on post partum depression
  • no effect on gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia
  • no effect on postnatal growth with either maternal or postnatal supplementation
  • no effect on vision, neuro, or cognitive development
  • no effect on risk of autism, allergies, eczema, or respiratory diseases

So, as always, proper diet as recommended by obstetricians for you pregnant moms to be and for babies from your friendly, neighborhood pediatrician.  Consult your internist, cardiologist, or the AHA for concerns about heart disease or blood lipid problems.  But avoid fad diets, quick fixes, and miracle remedies–especially those presented on social media type platforms.  That’s not where one gets accurate information about this topic (or, likely, ANYTHING)

Send along questions and comments, and thanks for following.