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Death by Diet Soda Artificially Sweetened Beverages To Premature Death

There was a collective gasp among Coke Zero and Diet Pepsi drinkers this week after media reports highlighted a new study that found prodigious consumers of artificially sweetened drinks were 26 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who rarely drank sugar-free beverages.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 450,000 Europeans over 16 years and tracked mortality among soft-drink consumers of all persuasions — both those with a fondness for sugary beverages and those who favored sugar-free drinks.

Given the well-documented health effects of consuming too much sugar, it was little surprise the authors found that people who drank two or more glasses of sugar-sweetened beverages a day were eight percent more likely to die young compared to those who consumed less than one glass a month.

But what grabbed headlines, and prompted widespread angst, was the suggestion that drinking Diet Coke could be even more deadly than drinking Coca-Cola Classic.

“Putting our results in context with other published studies, it would probably be prudent to limit consumption of all soft drinks and replace them with healthier alternatives like water,” said Amy Mullee, a nutritionist at University College Dublin and one of 50 researchers who worked on the study, one of the largest of its kind to date.

The study is not a one-off. Over the past year, other research in the United States has found a correlation between artificially sweetened beverages and premature death.

The problem, experts say, is that these and other studies have been unable to resolve a key question: Does consuming drinks sweetened with aspartame or saccharin harm your health? Or could it be that people who drink lots of Diet Snapple or Sprite Zero lead a more unhealthy lifestyle to begin with?

A number of nutritionists, epidemiologists and behavioral scientists think the latter may be true. (It’s a theory that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has guiltily ordered a Diet Coke to accompany their Double Whopper with cheese.)

“It could be that diet soda drinkers eat a lot of bacon or perhaps it’s because there are people who rationalize their unhealthy lifestyle by saying, ‘Now that I’ve had a diet soda, I can have those French fries,’” said Vasanti S. Malik, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of a study in April that found that the link between artificial sweeteners and increased mortality in women was largely inconclusive. “This is a huge study, with a half million people in 10 countries, but I don’t think it adds to what we already know.”

The authors of the JAMA paper tried to account for these risk factors by removing study participants who were smokers or obese, and they tried to improve its accuracy through statistical modeling.

But Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said these so-called observational studies cannot really determine cause and effect. “Maybe artificial sweeteners aren’t increasing mortality,” he said. “Maybe it’s just that people with an increased risk of mortality, like those with overweight or obesity, are choosing to drink diet soda but, in the end, this doesn’t solve their weight problem and they die prematurely.”

Still, scientists say the alternative to observational studies — a clinical trial that randomly assigns participants to a sugary drinks group or a diet soda group — isn’t feasible.

“Clinical trials are considered the gold standard in science, but imagine asking thousands of people to stick to such a regimen for decades,” said Dr. Malik of Harvard. “Many people would drop out, and it would also be prohibitively expensive.”

Concerns about artificial sweeteners have been around since the 1970s, when studies found that large quantities of saccharin caused cancer in lab rats. The Food and Drug Administration issued a temporary ban on the sweetener, and Congress ordered up additional studies and a warning label, but subsequent research found the chemical to be safe for human consumption. More recently-created chemical sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose have also been extensively studied, with little evidence that they negatively impact human health, according to the F.D.A.

Some studies have even found a correlation between artificial sweeteners and weight loss, but others have suggested they may increase cravings for sugary foods.

“There’s no evidence they are harmful to people with a healthy diet who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Barry M. Popkin, a nutritionist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He and others remain concerned that giving diet beverages to young children might encourage a sweet tooth.

Still, many scientists say more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of consuming artificial sweeteners. Although Dr. Mullee, one of the authors of the study, cautioned against drawing stark conclusions from their data, she said the deleterious effects of artificial sweeteners can’t be ruled out, noting studies that suggest a possible link between aspartame and elevated levels of blood glucose and insulin in humans. “Right now the biological mechanisms are unclear but we’re hoping our research will spark further exploration,” she said.

For consumers, the mixed messaging can be confusing. Dr. Jim Krieger, the founding executive director of Healthy Food America, an advocacy group that presses municipalities to enact soda taxes and increase consumer access to fruits and vegetables, said the new study and others like it raise more questions than they answer.

“Gosh, at this point, you probably want to go with water, tea or unsweetened coffee and not take a chance on beverages we don’t know much about,” he said. “Certainly, you don’t want to drink sugary beverages because we know that these aren’t good for you.”

By

Andrew Jacobs is a reporter with the Health and Science Desk, based in New York. He previously reported from Beijing and Brazil and had stints as a Metro reporter, Styles writer and National correspondent, covering the American South.

Source: Death by Diet Soda? – The New York Times

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A Low-Fat Diet May Lower the Risk of Dying from Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer treatments have come a long way in recent decades, but understanding how to prevent tumors from forming in the first place has been a major challenge.

In a new study being presented at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago next month, researchers report intriguing evidence that a low-fat diet, similar to the kind doctors recommend for heart health, is also linked to a lower risk of dying from breast cancer.

The study analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a large trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that studies the health effects of hormone therapy, diet and certain supplements on the health of more than 160,000 postmenopausal women. In this trial, researchers led by Dr. Rowan Chlebowski, an investigator at LA Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, focused on a group of nearly 49,000 women who were randomly assigned to follow either a low-fat diet or a control diet for 8.5 years. The low-fat diet group aimed to reduce their fat intake to 20% of their total daily calories and to increase the consumption of fruit, vegetables and grains. None of the women had breast cancer at the start of the study.

After the study ended, the rates of new breast cancers were about the same in the two groups, but women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the interim had a 35% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those on the control diet. Even 20 years after the study ended, the women who ate the low-fat diet continued to have a 15% lower mortality risk. And in the longer follow-up data, their risk of dying specifically from breast cancer was 21% lower than that of the women who didn’t change their diet.

“This is a very exciting result for us,” says Chlebowski. “Now we have randomized clinical trial evidence that dietary moderation, which is achievable by many, can have health benefits including reducing risk of death from breast cancer. That’s pretty good; it’s hard not to be happy about that.”

The study is the first to rigorously test a potential factor that could influence deaths from breast cancer. Earlier observational studies did not assign volunteers to specific diets but looked at cancer outcomes depending on what people, on their own, chose to eat. In this study, volunteers were provided with dietary guidelines to follow about what to eat. “Until this study, we lacked any data from a prospective randomized control trial, which is the gold standard, for showing that a dietary approach really does reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer,” says Dr. Neil Iyengar, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study. “Many of us who are proponents of considering diet and exercise in the cancer treatment plan are excited by this trial data because it is the first to show in a very robust way that we can improve outcomes and prevent cancer-related deaths just by changing the diet.”

In a separate sub-study, the research team also showed that the longer women were on the modified diet, the lower their risk of death during the study period. The results should give doctors more confidence in considering diet when discussing treatment options with women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. While the study did not find a significant connection between dietary changes and the incidence of new breast cancer, the results do suggest that modifying the diet can lower a woman’s risk of dying from any cause, or from breast cancer, if she is diagnosed with the disease.

The reason for that, says Iyengar, may have to do with the diet’s “dose.” It’s possible, for example, that the effect of the dietary change is greater on tiny tumors in the breast tissue that are already established, although they aren’t robust enough yet to lead to a diagnosis of breast cancer. “The effect of this diet may be stronger in preventing the growth of already established tumors rather than preventing the development of tumors,” he says. “What this trial does is position us to take a deeper dive, now that we know we can effectively change the tumor or cancer behavior with diet.”

Chlebowski plans to dig deeper into the data to find out more about how diet is working to lower deaths from breast cancer. During the trial, women provided blood samples both at the start of the study and one year later, so he and his team may find factors that changed among the women on the diet compared to those on the control plan.

In the meantime, he hopes cancer doctors will talk about diet with their patients who might be at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Though not all women in the study were able to lower their fat intake to 20% of their daily calories,“these dietary changes are achievable by many,” he says. Even though not all of the women on the low-fat diet met the target, the study showed that the modifications still reduced risk of dying from any cause and from breast cancer. “It’s about taking smaller pieces of meat, and adding vegetables to the plate to balance things out,” he says.

By Alice Park

Source: https://time.com/

 

The Dangers of Eating Late at Night – Jamie A. Koufman

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ACID REFLUX is an epidemic affecting as many as 40 percent of Americans. In addition to heartburn and indigestion, reflux symptoms may include postnasal drip, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, chronic throat clearing, coughing and asthma. Taken together, sales of prescribed and over-the-counter anti-reflux medications exceed $13 billion per year.The number of people with acid reflux has grown significantly in recent decades. Reflux can lead to esophageal cancer, which has increased by about 500 percent since the 1970s……..

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/opinion/sunday/the-dangers-of-eating-late-at-night.html

 

 

 

 

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