Health Buzz: NYC's Soda Ban Sparks Debate

Vegan diets are surging in popularity; pros and cons of telemedicine for today’s workers

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Pro and Con Arguments on NYC's Proposed Soda Ban 

For the first and only time, New York City held a public hearing Tuesday on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on super-sized sodas. In an effort to curb obesity, the rule would limit soft-drink cup and bottles sizes at restaurants, movie theaters, and other eateries to no larger than 16 ounces. During the hearing, academic leaders and health professionals supported the ban, arguing that it protects the public from soda companies—which they likened to Big Tobacco. "Soda in large amounts is metabolically toxic," said Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, according to the Associated Press. "It's obvious that this is the right thing to do." Critics countered that it's unfair for the city to strip choices from consumers and hurt profits at small businesses. "It's not reasonable to blame or cite one product," said Joy Dubost, a nutritionist who works for the National Restaurant Association. The proposal "produces a false sense of accomplishment in the fight against obesity." The health board will vote on the ban in September. 

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  • Me, Give Up Meat? Vegan Diets Surging in Popularity 

    Former President Bill Clinton had a legendary appetite: Hamburgers and steaks. Barbeque. Chicken enchiladas. But after having two stents inserted in 2010—on top of quadruple bypass surgery six years earlier—he radically changed his diet in the name of saving his health. Now a vegan, the strictest type of vegetarian, he has cut out meat, dairy, eggs, and most oils in favor of a super-low-fat diet that revolves around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. It appears to be working: He has said he's dropped more than 20 pounds and has never been healthier. In a televised interview with film producer Harvey Weinstein in June, Clinton explained that he'd decided he wanted to live to be a grandfather. "So I just went all the way. Getting rid of the dairy was great, getting rid of the meat was—I just don't miss it." 

    Vegan diets have lately been surging in popularity, thanks in part to the example of celebrities who are publicly forswearing all animal products (Michelle Pfeiffer, Carrie Underwood, Russell Brand, and Ozzy Osbourne, to name a few others). Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi have announced plans to open a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles. Vegan-centric books have been flying off the shelf, including Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet and The Engine 2 Diet by Texas firefighter and triathlete Rip Esselstyn, son of retired Cleveland Clinic physician Caldwell Esselstyn, whose research on the merits of plant-based eating inspired Bill Clinton. Vegan food trucks are making the rounds, schools are instituting meat-free days, and colleges are opening vegan dining halls. [Read more: Me, Give Up Meat? Vegan Diets Surging in Popularity

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    • Pros and Cons of Telemedicine for Today's Workers 

      How to fit that long-delayed, much-needed physical or tooth cleaning into a schedule jammed with day-long meetings and deadlines? Thanks to telemedicine—a telecommunications capability that allows employees to consult with their doctors via two-way video, text, or E-mail—many medical experts say that workers can receive some of the care they need from the comfort of their office desks. More than 36 million Americans have used telemedicine in some way, and as many as 70 percent of doctor visits can be handled over the phone, according to a recent study by the Affiliated Workers Association, a network of professionals dedicated to empowering everyday employees. 

      Glenn Hammack, president and chief executive officer of NuPhysicia—a medical services company that offers telehealth capabilities to businesses—says telemedicine's convenience value is its key selling point. 

      "Probably the most powerful aspect of telemedicine is improving access and improving the convenience of a lot of elements of healthcare," says Hammack. "So, whether you're talking about folks [who] would have a hard time getting to a specialist or whether you're talking about someone who is in a jam and needs to see a doctor before they go on a business trip, telemedicine clinics are very valuable." [Read more: Pros and Cons of Telemedicine for Today's Workers