Sleeping With Any Light Raises Risk of Obesity  Diabetes and More

Even dim light can disrupt sleep, raising the risk of serious health issues in older adults, a new study found. Dogs and cats who share their human’s bed tend to have a “higher trust level and a tighter bond with the humans that are in their lives. It’s a big display of trust on their part,” Varble said.

Sleep myths that may be keeping you from a good night’s rest. “Exposure to any amount of light during the sleep period was correlated with the higher prevalence of diabetes, obesity and hypertension in both older men and women,” senior author Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, told CNN.

“People should do their best to avoid or minimize the amount of light they are exposed to during sleep,” she added. A study published earlier this year by Zee and her team examined the role of light in sleep for healthy adults in their 20s. Sleeping for only one night with a dim light, such as a TV set with the sound off, raised the blood sugar and heart rate of the young people during the sleep lab experiment.

An elevated heart rate at night has been shown in prior studies to be a risk factor for future heart disease and early death, while higher blood sugar levels are a sign of insulin resistance, which can ultimately lead to type 2 diabetes. The dim light entered the eyelids and disrupted sleep in the young adults despite the fact that participants slept with their eyes closed, Zee said. Yet even that tiny amount of light created a deficit of slow wave and rapid eye movement sleep, the stages of slumber in which most cellular renewal occurs, she said.

Objective Measurements

The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Sleep, focused on seniors who “already are at higher risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said coauthor Dr. Minjee Kim, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a statement. “We wanted to see if there was a difference in frequencies of these diseases related to light exposure at night,” Kim said. Instead of pulling people into a sleep lab, the new study used a real-world setting.

Researchers gave 552 men and women between the ages of 63 and 84 an actigraph, a small device worn like a wristwatch that measures sleep cycles, average movement and light exposure. We’re actually measuring the amount of light the person is exposed to with a sensor on their body and comparing that to their sleep and wake activity over a 24-hour period,” Zee said. “What I think is different and notable in our study is that we have really objective data with this method.”

Fewer than half of the adults in the study got five hours of darkness at night. Zee and her team said they were surprised to find that fewer than half of the men and women in the study consistently slept in darkness for at least five hours each day. “More than 53% or so had some light during the night in the room,” she said. “In a secondary analysis, we found those who had higher amounts of light at night were also the most likely to have diabetes, obesity or hypertension.” In addition, Zee said, people who slept with higher levels of light were more likely to go to bed later and get up later, and “we know late sleepers tend to also have a higher risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders.”

What to do

Strategies for reducing light levels at night include positioning your bed away from windows or using light-blocking window shades. Don’t charge laptops and cellphones in your bedroom where melatonin-altering blue light can disrupt your sleep. If low levels of light persist, try a sleep mask to shelter your eyes. Using melatonin for sleep is on the rise, study says, despite potential health harms. If you have to get up, don’t turn on lights if you don’t have to, Zee advised. If you do, keep them as dim as possible and illuminated only for brief periods of time.

Older adults often have to get up at night to visit the bathroom, due to health issues or side effects from medications, Zee said, so advising that age group to turn out all lights might put them at risk of falling. In that case, consider using nightlights positioned very low to the ground, and choose lights with an amber or red color. That spectrum of light has a longer wavelength, and is less intrusive and disruptive to our circadian rhythm, or body clock, than shorter wavelengths such as blue light.

Source: Sleeping with any light raises risk of obesity, diabetes and more, study finds – CNN

Heart rate increases in light room, and body can’t rest properly 

We showed your heart rate increases when you sleep in a moderately lit room,” said Daniela Grimaldi, MD, PhD, co-first author of the study and a research assistant professor of Neurology in the Division of Sleep Medicine. “Even though you are asleep, your autonomic nervous system is activated. That’s bad. Usually, your heart rate together with other cardiovascular parameters are lower at night and higher during the day.”

There are sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems that regulate our physiology during the day and night. Sympathetic takes charge during the day and parasympathetic is supposed to control physiology at night, when it conveys restoration to the entire body.

How nighttime light during sleep can lead to diabetes and obesity

Investigators found insulin resistance occurred the morning after people slept in a light room. Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar goes up. An earlier study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at a large population of healthy people who had exposure to light during sleep. They were more overweight and obese, Zee said.

“Now we are showing a mechanism that might be fundamental to explain why this happens. We show it’s affecting your ability to regulate glucose,” Zee said. The participants in the study weren’t aware of the biological changes in their bodies at night. “But the brain senses it,” Grimaldi said. “It acts like the brain of somebody whose sleep is light and fragmented. The sleep physiology is not resting the way it’s supposed to.”

Exposure to artificial light at night during sleep is common

Exposure to artificial light at night during sleep is common, either from indoor light emitting devices or from sources outside the home, particularly in large urban areas. A significant proportion of individuals (up to 40 percent) sleep with a bedside lamp on or with a light on in the bedroom, or keep a television on.

Light and its relationship to health is double edged.

“In addition to sleep, nutrition and exercise, light exposure during the daytime is an important factor for health, but during the night we show that even modest intensity of light can impair measures of heart and endocrine health,” Zee said. The study tested the effect of sleeping with 100 lux (moderate light) compared to 3 lux (dim light) in participants over a single night. The investigators discovered that moderate light exposure caused the body to go into a higher alert state.

In this state, the heart rate increases as well as the force with which the heart contracts and the rate of how fast the blood is conducted to your blood vessels for oxygenated blood flow.

Zee’s top tips for reducing light during sleep

  1. Don’t turn lights on. If you need to have a light on (which older adults may want for safety), make it a dim light that is closer to the floor.
  2. Color is important. Amber or a red or orange light is less stimulating for the brain. Don’t use white or blue light and keep it far away from the sleeping person.
  3. Blackout shades or eye masks are good if you can’t control the outdoor light. Move your bed so the outdoor light isn’t shining on your face.

More contents:

6 clever tips for a great night’s sleep NewsNet5, Ohio

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Can Protein Powders Help Sarcopenia and Ageing Muscles?

Protein is a particularly important macronutrient for older adults. Studies show that, on average, people start to gradually lose muscle mass in their 30s and 40s, and that after the age of 60 this decline accelerates.When it gets severe enough, this loss of muscle mass with age, known as sarcopenia, can lead to serious health problems. Studies show that sarcopenia can increase the risk of falls, fractures and physical disabilities – all of which can hamper an older adult’s mobility, independence and quality of life. Sarcopenia can also lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.

But consuming an adequate amount of protein can help to slow or minimise this muscle loss with age. Whey protein powder can certainly help you meet your protein needs, experts say, but it’s not necessary if you make sure to get enough protein from your daily meals. Federal guidelines recommend that most healthy adults consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. However, this is the minimum amount you need to avoid becoming malnourished – and many experts say that for optimal health you should aim a little higher.

As you age, especially if you are 65 or older, you’ll need to consume more than the recommended dietary allowance to preserve your muscle, said Katie Dodd, a registered dietitian and founder of the Geriatric Dietitian blog.

“Research has shown that older adults do need a little more protein than younger adults,” she said. “A lot of that has to do with sarcopenia. They need it to protect their muscle mass. I talk a lot about protein because you need it in order to get the most out of your golden years.” Dodd recommends that generally healthy adults who are 65 or older consume at least 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a person who weighs 68 kilograms, this means incorporating about 68 to 82 grams of protein into your daily diet.

Dodd cautioned, however, that protein needs can vary depending on one’s circumstances. Older adults who have a wound or injury might need slightly more protein to help with their healing, she said, while people who have kidney disease might be advised to reduce their protein intake. Varying levels of physical activity may also change the calculation. It’s a good idea to consult with your health care provider before making any significant changes to your diet.

“The standard healthy adult who is eating a healthy diet does not need a protein supplement.”

Whether you get your protein from supplements or from whole foods, it’s best to spread your intake across the day, rather than consuming the bulk of your protein in one meal, so your body has time to absorb it. You should focus on getting your protein from whole foods like fish, dairy, meat, eggs and poultry, Dodd said. You can also get it from plant foods like nuts, beans and lentils. If you can’t get all the protein you need from whole foods, then it’s fine to boost your intake through protein supplements, Dodd said.

Whey protein is a particularly good source of protein because it’s rich in amino acids the building blocks of protein – and the body absorbs it nicely. It’s also been shown in studies to be particularly beneficial for muscle health when paired with exercise. But for people who are vegan, supplementing with soy, pea or hemp protein products can work as well. “The standard healthy adult who is eating a healthy diet does not need a protein supplement,” Dodd said. “But if they can’t get their protein needs through food, then that’s when supplements can be helpful.”

If you need help determining your daily protein needs, try visiting the protein intake calculator at Examine.com, a large and independent database of nutrition research. The calculator takes into account your sex, weight and activity level to help you figure out how much protein you need. If your goal is to minimise your risk of sarcopenia, then combining an adequate level of protein intake with regular physical activity will do a lot to protect your muscle mass as you age, said Bill Willis, a scientist who studies muscle protein synthesis at Ohio State University and a researcher at Examine.com.

Resistance exercises like pushups, squats and lifting weights or using resistance bands are best. But studies show that even low-intensity forms of physical activity like walking, gardening, lawn mowing and grocery shopping can help to offset the loss of muscle with age. “The take-home message for people 65 and up is that you should make sure you consume enough protein and, number two, be active,” Willis said. “Being sedentary seems to promote sarcopenia more than anything else.”

By Anahad O’Connor

Source: Can protein powders help sarcopenia and ageing muscles?

Critics by: Health Harvard

Adding protein powder to a glass of milk or a smoothie may seem like a simple way to boost your health. After, all, protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle, bone strength, and numerous body functions. And many older adults don’t consume enough protein because of a reduced appetite.

But be careful: a scoop of chocolate or vanilla protein powder can harbor health risks. “I don’t recommend using protein powders except in a few instances, and only with supervision,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Protein powders are powdered forms of protein that come from plants (soybeans, peas, rice, potatoes, or hemp), eggs, or milk (casein or whey protein). The powders may include other ingredients such as added sugars, artificial flavoring, thickeners, vitamins, and minerals. The amount of protein per scoop can vary from 10 to 30 grams. Supplements used for building muscle contain relatively more protein, and supplements used for weight loss contain relatively less.

  • A protein powder is a dietary supplement. The FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to evaluate the safety and labeling of products. So, there’s no way to know if a protein powder contains what manufacturers claim.
  • We don’t know the long-term effects. “There are limited data on the possible side effects of high protein intake from supplements,” McManus says.
  • It may cause digestive distress. “People with dairy allergies or trouble digesting lactose [milk sugar] can experience gastrointestinal discomfort if they use a milk-based protein powder,” McManus points out.
  • It may be high in added sugars and calories. Some protein powders have little added sugar, and others have a lot (as much as 23 grams per scoop). Some protein powders wind up turning a glass of milk into a drink with more than 1,200 calories. The risk: weight gain and an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 24 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men.

Earlier this year, a nonprofit group called the Clean Label Project released a report about toxins in protein powders. Researchers screened 134 products for 130 types of toxins and found that many protein powders contained heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), bisphenol-A (BPA, which is used to make plastic), pesticides, or other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions. Some toxins were present in significant quantities. For example, one protein powder contained 25 times the allowed limit of BPA.

How could protein powder contain so many contaminants? The Clean Label Project points to manufacturing processes or the existence of toxins in soil (absorbed by plants that are made into protein powders)…….

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Could Contact Lenses Be The Ultimate Computer Screen?

Imagine you have to make a speech, but instead of looking down at your notes, the words scroll in front of your eyes, whichever direction you look in. That’s just one of many features the makers of smart contact lenses promise will be available in the future.

“Imagine… you’re a musician with your lyrics, or your chords, in front of your eyes. Or you’re an athlete and you have your biometrics and your distance and other information that you need,” says Steve Sinclair, from Mojo, which is developing smart contact lenses. His company is about to embark on comprehensive testing of smart contact lens on humans, that will give the wearer a heads-up display that appears to float in front of their eyes.

The product’s scleral lens (a larger lens that extends to the whites of the eye) corrects the user’s vision, but also incorporates a tiny microLED display, smart sensors and solid-state batteries. “We’ve built what we call a feature-complete prototype that actually works and can be worn – we’re soon going to be testing that [out] internally,” says Mr Sinclair.

“Now comes the interesting part, where we start to make optimisations for performance and power, and wear it for longer periods of time to prove that we can wear it all day.” Other smart lenses are being developed to collect health data. Lenses could “include the ability to self-monitor and track intra-ocular pressure, or glucose,” says Rebecca Rojas, instructor of optometric science at Columbia University. Glucose levels for example, need to be closely monitored by people with diabetes.

“They can also provide extended-release drug-delivery options, which is beneficial in diagnosis and treatment plans. It’s exciting to see how far technology has come, and the potential it offers to improve patients’ lives.”Research is underway to build lenses that can diagnose and treat medical conditions from eye conditions, to diabetes, or even cancer by tracking certain biomarkers such as light levels, cancer-related molecules or the amount of glucose in tears.

A team at the University of Surrey, for example, has created a smart contact lens that contains a photo-detector for receiving optical information, a temperature sensor for diagnosing potential corneal disease and a glucose sensor monitoring the glucose levels in tear fluid. “We make it ultra-flat, with a very thin mesh layer, and we can put the sensor layer directly onto a contact lens so it’s directly touching the eye and has contact with the tear solution,” says Yunlong Zhao, lecturer in energy storage and bioelectronics at the University of Surrey.

“You will feel like it’s more comfortable to wear because it’s more flexible, and because there’s direct contact with the tear solution it can provide more accurate sensing results,” says Dr Zhao.

Despite the excitement, smart lense technology still has to overcome a number of hurdles. One challenge will be powering them with batteries these will obviously have to be incredibly tiny, so will they deliver enough power to do anything useful? Mojo is still testing its product, but wants customers to be able to wear its lenses all day, without having to recharge them. “The expectation [is] that you are not consuming information from the lens constantly but in short moments throughout the day.

“Actual battery life will depend on how and how often it is used, just like your smartphone or smartwatch today,” a company spokesperson explains. Other concerns over privacy have been rehearsed since Google’s launch of smart glasses in 2014, which was widely seen as a failure. “Any discreet device with a forward-facing camera that allows a user to take pictures, or record video, poses risks to bystanders’ privacy,” says Daniel Leufer, senior policy Analyst at digital rights campaign group, Access Now.

“With smart glasses, there’s at least some scope to signal to bystanders when they are recording – for example, red warning lights – but with contact lenses it’s more difficult to see how to integrate such a feature.” Aside from privacy worries, makers will also have satisfy worries over data-security for the people wearing the lenses. Smart lenses can only fulfil their function if they track the user’s eye movements, and this plus other data could reveal a great deal.

“What if these devices collect and share data about what things I look at, how long I look at them, whether my heart rate increases when I look at a certain person, or how much I perspire when asked a certain question?” says Mr Leufer. “This type of intimate data could be used to make problematic inferences about everything from our sexual orientation to whether we’re telling the truth under interrogation,” he adds.

“My worry is that devices like AR (augmented reality) glasses, or smart contact lenses, will be seen as a potential trove of intimate data.” For its part, Mojo says all data is security-protected and kept private. Additionally there are concerns about the product that will be familiar to anyone who wears regular contacts. “Any type of contact lens can pose a risk to eye health, if not properly cared for or not fitted properly.

“Just like any other medical device, we need to make sure the patients’ health is the priority, and whatever device used has benefits that outweigh the risk,” says Ms Rojas, from Columbia University. “I’m concerned about non-compliance, or poor lens hygiene and over-wear. These can lead to further complications like irritation, inflammation, infections or risks to eye health.” With Mojo’s lenses expected to be used for up to a year at a time, Mr Sinclair admits this is a concern.

But he points out that a smart lens means it can be programmed to detect whether it’s being cleaned enough and even to alert users when it needs replacing. The firm also plans to work with optometrists for prescription and monitoring. “You don’t just launch something like a smart contact lens and expect everyone’s going to adopt it on day one,” says Mr Sinclair. “It’s going to take some time, just like all new consumer products, but we think it’s inevitable that all of our eye wear is eventually going to become smart.”

By : Emma Woollacott

Source: Could contact lenses be the ultimate computer screen? – BBC News

Critics by Phase1vision

With wearable technology becoming more and more mainstream, some companies are pushing the limitations even further by developing smart contact lenses. These lenses may boast a wide variety of benefits and futuristic features thanks to computer vision. Below, we’ll discuss smart contact lenses and how computer vision may allow them to be the next greatest advancement in technology.

Smart contact lenses are similar to traditional contact lenses in that they sit on the surface of your eye, are virtually undetectable, and improve your vision. However, smart contact lenses also contain a small digital screen that can display information over your normal field of vision. They provide the possibility for augmented reality without bulky glasses frames.

Computer Vision refers to the use of a camera in conjunction with a processing unit, which allows a computer to observe and make sense of the world around you. In the case of smart contact lenses, a microchip processes the images captured by a tiny camera within the lens and uses that data to display helpful information over your normal field of vision.

Manufacturers are using computer vision to monitor what you see through your normal eyesight and make changes and improvements to the world around you. The camera in the lens determines what it is you’re seeing, and a wearable computer processing unit analyzes the image and takes pre-set actions. Without computer vision, smart contact lenses would be less of an augmented reality experience and more randomly displayed information over the world you see.

Producers of smart contact lenses are aiming for some awe-inspiring possibilities. For example, your eye focusing naturally on an object in the distance can quickly be picked up by a smart contact lens, allowing for a zoom effect akin to that on a camera lens. Companies are also aiming to allow for night vision when the camera detects a lack of light around you, auto-focusing, and even walking or driving directions appearing over your intended route as you navigate sidewalks and streets.

Many experts believe that the future of wearable technology is smart contact lenses. If your company is working on applications for smart lenses or is producing them, check out our wide array of computer vision cameras that can improve your product and expand the possibilities.

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Diabetes Fast Facts

Here’s a look at diabetes, a disease that affects millions of people around the world. Diabetes is characterized by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both. The disease can lead to serious complications such as blindness, kidney damage, cardiovascular disease, limb amputations and premature death.

Facts

People with diabetes or certain other underlying medical conditions are more likely to become severely ill if infected with Covid-19, according to the CDC. Worldwide, the number of people living with the potentially fatal disease has quadrupled since 1980, to around 422 million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

37.3 million people in the United States have diabetes, about 11.3% of the population. 8.5 million (23%) of adults with diabetes are undiagnosed. Diabetes was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, according to provisional data from the National Vital Statistics System.

There are several types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Prediabetes occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Before developing Type 2 diabetes, people almost always have prediabetes. Research has shown that some long-term damage to the body may occur during prediabetes.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the body’s immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that make insulin. This form of diabetes usually strikes children and young adults. Only 5-10% of people with diabetes have Type 1. Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes may be autoimmune, genetic or environmental. There is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells do not use insulin properly. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and in adults, it accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. It is associated with older age, obesity, family history, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity.

It is more common in African Americans, Latino Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents, although still rare, is being diagnosed more frequently.

Gestational diabetes is a form of glucose intolerance diagnosed during pregnancy. It affects about 4% of all pregnant women. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes doesn’t mean that a woman had diabetes before she conceived, or that she will have diabetes after giving birth.

Other types of diabetes result from genetic conditions, surgery, medications, infections and other illnesses. Such types of diabetes account for 1% to 5% of all diagnosed cases.

Possible Symptoms

Frequent urination
Excessive thirst
Unexplained weight loss
Extreme hunger
Sudden changes in vision
Numbness in hands or feet
Tiredness
Dry skin
Slow healing wounds
Frequent infections

Complications

Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about two to four times higher than adults without diabetes. The risk for stroke is two to four times higher among people with diabetes. People with diabetes are at high risk for high blood pressure.

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20-74 years. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. Between 60% and 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage or neuropathy.

US Diabetes Statistics

1.4 million new cases are diagnosed every year in the United States.

In 2019, about 96 million people aged 18 or older had prediabetes.

About 286,000 people under 20 years old have diabetes.

$327 billion – Cost to treat diabetes in the US in 2017.

Timeline

1921 – Insulin is discovered by Drs. Frederick Banting and Charles Best.

November 16, 2012 – The CDC releases a report showing that 18 states had a 100% or more increase in the prevalence of diabetes from 1995 to 2010. Forty-two states saw an increase of at least 50%.

January 17, 2014 – For the first time, US surgeon general’s report on the health consequences of smoking includes data that indicates smoking can cause diabetes, as well as erectile dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, ectopic pregnancies and impaired immune function. Smokers have a 30% to 40% increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with nonsmokers.

May 4, 2015 – A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation detects a possible connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

September 28, 2016 – The Food and Drug Administration approves a so-called artificial pancreas. The first-of-its-kind device, the size of a cell phone, monitors and treats patients with type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes.

September 28, 2017 – The FDA approves the “first-ever continuous blood sugar monitoring device” that doesn’t require patients to prick their fingers for blood samples.

December 2, 2019 – An estimated 18% of adolescents ages 12 to 18 and 24% of young adults ages 19 to 34 in the United States have prediabetes, according to a JAMA Pediatrics study covering 2005-2016.

May 15, 2022 – In its biannual Diabetes Report Card, the CDC notes a decrease in newly diagnosed cases of diabetes after almost two decades of continual increases. In 2019, the number of newly diagnosed US adults decreased from a high of 9.3 per 1,000 in 2009 to 5.9 per 1,000 adults.

By:

Source: Diabetes Fast Facts – CNN

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Sweeteners May Be Linked To Increased Cancer Risk

1

Sweeteners have long been suggested to be bad for our health. Studies have linked consuming too many sweeteners with conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But links with cancer have been less certain.

An artificial sweetener, called cyclamate, that was sold in the US in the 1970s was shown to increase bladder cancer in rats. However, human physiology is very different from rats, and observational studies failed to find a link between the sweetener and cancer risk in humans. Despite this, the media continued to report a link between sweeteners and cancer.

But now, a study published in PLOS Medicine which looked at over 100,000 people, has shown that those who consume high levels of some sweeteners have a small increase in their risk of developing certain types of cancer.

To assess their intake of artificial sweeteners, the researchers asked the participants to keep a food diary. Around half of the participants were followed for more than eight years.

The study reported that aspartame and acesulfame K, in particular, were associated with increased cancer risk – especially breast and obesity-related cancers, such as colorectal, stomach and prostate cancers. This suggests that removing some types of sweeteners from your diet may reduce the risk of cancer.

Cancer risk

Many common foods contain sweeteners. These food additives mimic the effect of sugar on our taste receptors, providing intense sweetness with no or very few calories. Some sweeteners occur naturally (such as stevia or yacon syrup). Others, such as aspartame, are artificial.

Although they have few or no calories, sweeteners still have an effect on our health. For example, aspartame turns into formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) when the body digests it. This could potentially see it accumulate in cells and cause them to become cancerous.

Our cells are hard-wired to self-destruct when they become cancerous. But aspartame has been shown to “switch off” the genes that tell cancer cells to do this. Other sweeteners, including sucralose and saccharin, have also been shown to damage DNA, which can lead to cancer. But this has only been shown in cells in a dish rather than in a living organism.

Sweeteners can also have a profound effect on the bacteria that live in our gut. Changing the bacteria in the gut can impair the immune system, which could mean they no longer identify and remove cancerous cells.

But it’s still unclear from these animal and cell-based experiments precisely how sweeteners initiate or support cancerous changes to cells. Many of these experiments would also be difficult to apply to humans because the amount of sweetener was given at much higher doses than a human would ever consume.

The results from previous research studies are limited, largely because most studies on this subject have only observed the effect of consuming sweeteners without comparing against a group that hasn’t consumed any sweeteners. A recent systematic review of almost 600,000 participants even concluded there was limited evidence to suggest heavy consumption of artificial sweeteners may increase the risk of certain cancers. A review in the BMJ came to a similar conclusion.

Although the findings of this recent study certainly warrant further research, it’s important to acknowledge the study’s limitations. First, food diaries can be unreliable because people aren’t always honest about what they eat or they may forget what they have consumed. Although this study collected food diaries every six months, there’s still a risk people weren’t always accurately recording what they were eating and drinking.

Though the researchers partially mitigated this risk by having participants take photos of the food they ate, people still might not have included all the foods they ate. Based on current evidence, it’s generally agreed that using artificial sweeteners is associated with increased body weight – though researchers aren’t quite certain whether sweeteners directly cause this to happen.

Although this recent study took people’s body mass index into account, it’s possible that changes in body fat may have contributed to the development of many of these types of cancers – not necessarily the sweeteners themselves.

Finally, the risk of developing cancer in those who consumed the highest levels of artificial sweeteners compared with those who consumed the lowest amounts was modest – with only at 13% higher relative risk of developing cancer in the study period. So although people who consumed the highest amounts of sweetener had an increased risk of developing cancer, this was still only slightly higher than those with the lowest intake.

While the link between sweetener use and diseases, including cancer, is still controversial, it’s important to note that not all sweeteners are equal. While sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin may be associated with ill health, not all sweeteners are.

Stevia, produced from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, has been reported to be useful in controlling diabetes and body weight, and may also lower blood pressure. The naturally occurring sugar alcohol, xylitol, may also support the immune system and digestion. Both stevia and xylitol have also been shown to protect from tooth decay, possibly because they kill bad oral bacteria.

So the important choice may be not the amount of sweetener you eat but the type you use.

By:

James is an Associate Professor in Biosciences in the School of Life and Health Sciences at Aston University, UK and a broadcaster with a number of television companies. James’s broadcasting includes work on BBC2’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor where he is the programmes most used contributor

Source: Sweeteners may be linked to increased cancer risk – new research

.

Critics:

Artificial sweeteners (particularly aspartame and acesulfame-K) are associated with increased cancer risk, according to a study published online March 24 in PLOS Medicine. Charlotte Debras, from the Sorbonne Paris Nord University, and colleagues examined the associations between artificial sweetener intakes and cancer risk, overall and by site, among 102,865 adults from the French population-based cohort NutriNet-Santé (2009 to 2021), with a median follow up of 7.8 years.

The researchers found that higher consumers of total artificial sweeteners (above the median exposure) had increased risk of overall cancer compared with nonconsumers (hazard ratio, 1.13). Aspartame and acesulfame-K was associated with increased cancer risk (hazard ratios, 1.15 and 1.13, respectively). Risks were elevated for breast cancer (hazard ratio, 1.22 for aspartame) and obesity-related cancers (hazard ratios, 1.13 and 1.15 for total artificial sweeteners and aspartame, respectively).

“Our findings do not support the use of artificial sweeteners as safe alternatives for sugar in foods or beverages and provide important and novel information to address the controversies about their potential adverse health effects,” the authors write. “These results are particularly relevant in the context of the ongoing in-depth re-evaluation of artificial sweeteners by European Food Safety Authority and other agencies globally.”

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