Fergus hospital not among many to drop sodaPublished 2:43pm Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Duluth, Minn. — A few months ago Dr. Maria Barrell, a family practice resident in Duluth, had a patient admitted to the hospital. The woman had recently been diagnosed with diabetes.
“I came into see her, and she had a big jug of Mountain Dew next to her,” Barrell said. “I kind of glanced at it and said, ‘does that taste good to you right now?’ Because she was really sick.”
Barrell had had a long talk with the patient about the negative health effects of sugar-sweetened beverages. One 12-oz can of Mountain Dew, for example, contains almost three tablespoons of sugar. They’re linked to obesity and diabetes, cardiovascular problems and a heightened risk of stroke.
That has spurred some in the medical community to action. In the last few months, several hospitals in northeast Minnesota have stopped selling soda and other beverages that are sweetened with sugar. They’re at the forefront of a growing national trend among health care facilities that are trying to combat the nation’s obesity problem.
In Fergus Falls, Lake Region Healthcare is taking several steps to reinforce the message of a healthy diet to its patients, but has stopped short of an outright ban on any sugary sodas or foods.
“We recognize that people want to make their own choices,” said Lake Region spokeperson Katie Johnson. “We definetely support recommendations to cut back on drinks with added sugars, but we want to provide the education for people to decide on their own.”
Johnson said the hospital is taking measures to help make it easier for patients and visitors to make healthy decisions. Vending machine selections have been evaluated and suggestions for healthier alternatives have made their way in.
The hospital’s cafe has also been using a sticker system that marks healthy choices, making it easier for customers to choose the foods that are best for them. Half portioned entrees and desserts can also be ordered to better fit smaller diets.
“It’s all part of our ongoing effort to help make healthy choices easier,” said Johnson.
Hospitals need to reinforce that message, Barrell said.
“If we’re sitting in clinic telling them to stop drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, then [it's] the best place to do that,” she said.