Nutrition News: Diet and Diabetes, Workplace Wellness, Soda Tax

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Veg out (if only a little)

The advice to eat your veggies is better than ever. Eating just a few more servings of healthful plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains) and slightly fewer servings of animal-based foods (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) every day can significantly reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, a new study published in PLOS Medicine has found.

Interestingly, while those who ate a plant-based diet with a modest amount of animal products lowered their Type 2 diabetes risk by 20 percent, the kind of plant-based foods they ate was key. Those who ate healthy plant-based foods saw a 34 percent drop in diabetes risk, while those who ate unhealthy plant-based foods (refined carbs, sugary foods, starchy veggies) actually slightly increased their Type 2 diabetes risk.

“What we’re talking about is a moderate shift – replacing one or two servings of animal food a day with one or two plant-based foods,” senior author Frank Hu, a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The New York Times.

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The City of Brotherly Soda tax

Soon (starting next January) if you order a soda — or any other sugary beverage that comes in a bottle, can or from a soda fountain — in Philadelphia, you’ll pay a 1.5 percent tax on it, with the proceeds (an estimated $91 million annually) going toward children’s education and parks. The City of Brotherly Love became the first major city in the nation to pass such a tax when its city council members approved the proposal by a 13-4 vote last week.

As other cities eye similar measures, the soda industry is obviously not happy. But public health experts say the tax could have a significant effect on the consumption of sugary beverages and on public health. “The evidence is clear that when prices go up, people buy less of things,” Michael Long of George Washington University, who has studied the effect of such taxes, told NPR. “We’d expect over 12,000 cases of obesity prevented by the end of the 10-year period, as well as $65 million in health care cost savings over the 10-year period.”

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Workplace wellness: so last year?

Remember when workplace wellness programs, offering employees things like healthy-lifestyle coaching and weight-loss incentives, were all the rage? Looks like they’re now less so. According to a survey of benefits conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, many companies are scaling back the wellness benefits (insurance discounts for weight loss, health coaching and hotlines, onsite flu shots) due to their return-on-investment and participation rates, the Wall Street Journal reports. While last year nearly half of employers offered employees counseling to help them make healthy lifestyle choices, this year only 37 percent of them are doing so. Looks like the workers of America may have to make their healthy choices on their own.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.