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Published: Thursday, 1/17/2013

ProMedica hospitals to drop sugary beverages


ProMedica’s decision to ban sugar-sweetened beverages in its hospitals may be hard to swallow for some patients and staff.

But hospital officials hope the measure, which takes effect Feb. 1 in ProMedica’s Ohio and Michigan hospitals, will encourage healthier lifestyles.

Several Toledo-area hospital systems are considering whether to implement similar measures, but have not done so.

“The evidence is becoming overwhelming that sugar-sweetened beverages are hazardous to our health, contributing not only to obesity and diabetes, but to an increased risk for heart diseases as well,” said Matt Roth, ProMedica Wellness medical director, in a statement released Wednesday.

Under ProMedica’s new beverage policy, regular soft drinks, fruit drinks that are not 100 percent juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened tea and coffee drinks no will longer be sold in hospital cafeterias, cafes, vending machines, and patient and family menus and catering. Employees and visitors will be allowed to bring in the beverages for personal use.

Patients will be provided sugar-sweetened beverages only if a dietitian or bedside nurse deems the beverages clinically necessary.

Water, low-fat or nonfat milk, unsweetened coffee and teas, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, and diet soft drinks will continue to be available at ProMedica hospitals, spokesman Jared Meade said.

The elimination of sugar-sweetened beverages in hospitals and health systems reflects a national trend in health care, Mr. Roth said. These drinks are a significant source of empty calories and have little to no nutritional value, he said.

Officials at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center are discussing a similar plan, but a final decision has not been made, said Sarah Velliquette, a hospital spokesman.

“It’s not something that we have in place right now, but it’s something we’re looking at,” Ms. Velliquette said. “We want to make healthier options available.”

The hospital requires all vending machines to be stocked with health options that are indicated by green markers, she said.

The University of Toledo Medical Center has no plans to ban sugar-sweetened beverages, spokesman Jon Strunk said. But the hospital does offer a variety of healthy food and beverages, he said.

In recent years, many health-care organizations nationwide have taken noticeable steps to be more health-conscious. Until about five years ago, a McDonald’s restaurant served up burgers and fries in ProMedica’s Toledo Hospital. That business is no longer there.

ProMedica does not have any plans to change its food menu, which already includes healthy options, Mr. Meade said.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

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