Why Is It So Hard To Control Our Appetites? A Doctor’s Struggles With Giving Up Sugar

We’ve become convinced that if we can eat more healthily, we will be morally better people. But where does this idea come from? Near the end of the hellish first year of the coronavirus pandemic, I was possessed by the desire to eliminate sugar – all refined sugar – from my diet. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best time to add a new challenge to my life. My wife and I had been struggling to remote-school three young kids with no childcare. My elderly parents lived out of state and seemed to need a surprising number of reminders that pandemic restrictions were not lifted for Diwali parties or new Bollywood movie releases.

Like many people in those early days, we were looking around for masks and trying to make sense of shifting government guidelines about when to wear them. In addition, as a doctor, I was seeing patients in clinic at a time dominated by medical uncertainty, when personal protective equipment was scarce, and my hospital, facing staff shortages, was providing training videos and “how-to” tip sheets to specialists like me who hadn’t practised in an emergency room for years, in case we were needed as backup.

It would have been enough to focus on avoiding the virus and managing all this without putting more on my plate. But cutting processed sugar seemed like an opportunity to reassert some measure of order to the daily scrum, or at least to the body that entered the fray each day.

My former physique was behind me and the stress of clinical practice during the pandemic was taking its toll. Maybe it was all the pandemic death in the air, but I started feeling like I was what the narrator in Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things calls “Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age.” Maybe doing away with sugar could slow things down? More tantalisingly, maybe it could even take me back to a fresher time, the days in college when I had actually gone sugar-free for a while.

My friends offered condolences on what they called my soon-to-be joyless lifestyle. But I was set, compelled by literature about the deleterious, even toxin-like effects of added sugar. I had my doubts about being able to pull something like this off again, though, so I decided – as doctors often do – to tackle the problem by studying it.

That year, in what was arguably an act of masochism, I began the coursework required to sit for a medical-board exam on dietetics, metabolism and appetite. By earning another qualification, I thought, I would credential my way to realising my goal. After shifts at work, during breaks or once the kids were asleep, I would attend virtual lectures and pore over board-review books in a quest to understand the body’s metabolism.

I immersed myself in the physiology of exercise, the thermodynamics of nutrition, and the neuroendocrine regulation of appetite. But this knowledge didn’t break my pandemic eating habits. Cupcakes and ice cream and cookies didn’t call to me any less. And big food corporations were winning the bet that Lay’s potato chips first made back in the 1960s with its “Betcha can’t just eat one” ad campaign. So, I found myself reaching for Double Stuf Oreos while flipping through my medical textbooks and scarfing chocolate bars even as I correctly answered my practice-exam questions.

My body refused to be disciplined by my intellectual mastery of its operations. I passed the board examination, but my appetite for sugar didn’t change. I was left with more questions than I had when I started. Was sugar really a problem? Or had I internalised hangups about desire from the culture at large? Why did my soul feel so inexplicably sick – so unsatisfied – with the outcome of my first effort to quit that I tried it all again? And what does my “success” – I’ve been sugar-free for a year now – even mean?

I turned to Plato – a man occupied by appetite – for some answers. In his body map of the soul, the stomach was the dwelling place of desire. Reason, of course, resided in the head, while courage rested in the chest. In this tripartite architecture, it was up to reason – with the help of courage – to subjugate appetite and elevate the individual. The thinking went that if we could just rule our stomachs, we might be able to hold our heads up high and our chests out wide. For the Greeks, the right moral posture was key to the good life, or eudaimonia.

Early medical science in the west borrowed heavily from Plato, beginning with Aristotle, who practiced and taught medicine throughout his life. Aristotle agreed that eudaimonia could be realized by moderating the visceral and sensual appetites. He saw the heart as the vessel of intelligence, and arguably the most virtuous of organs. In his hypothesis, the heart occupied – physically and figuratively – a central place in the body, controlling other organs. The brain and lungs played supporting roles, merely cooling and cushioning the heart. The heart was, for Aristotle, where reason flowed.

Five hundred years later, the Greek anatomist and surgeon Galen challenged the centrality of the heart but still adhered closely to Plato’s triadic notion of the soul. Galen’s treatises, foundational to the development of modern medicine, are suffused with Platonic assumptions, and he painstakingly tried to stitch the divided parts of the soul – the rational, the spirited and the appetitive – on to specific organs in the human body.

In a striking display of topographical certitude, Galen writes in On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato: “I do claim to have proofs that the forms of the soul are more than one, that they are located in three different places … and further, that one of these parts [rational] is situated in the brain, one [spirited] in the heart, and one [appetitive] in the liver. These facts can be demonstrated scientifically.”

The Harvard classicist Mark Schiefsky writes that, in Galenic physiology, equilibrium is understood “as a balance of strength between the three parts; the best state is when reason is in charge, the spirited part is strong and obedient, and the appetitive part is weak”.

Should we be sceptical of this aspiration to tame appetite? Sigmund Freud doubted whether desire could ever be so readily controlled. In tossing Plato’s map aside, Freud erased the “soul” and instead sketched a three-part atlas of the “self” and its ratio of desires and repressions – endlessly fractured, negotiating between order (superego), consciousness (ego) and appetite (id). For Freud, appetites could not be overcome but only better managed. Perfect harmony and permanent equilibrium were nowhere in sight. Rather, in Freud’s idea of the self, anxiety for order loomed above the ego, with desire buried beneath it. Appetite was the subterranean tether that consciousness could never escape, but only sublimate.

There was something talismanic about my focus on sugar. So often, liberty is conceived of as the ability to say yes to things. To make affirmative choices: to open this door or that window. But there is also a flipside to that freedom: the power to say no. To refuse. Increasingly during the pandemic, I felt like I was powerless in the face of my cravings. If there was a knock at the door of appetite, a tap on the window of impulse, I had to answer it. And this felt shameful. Why couldn’t I say no? And why was realizing this so painful?

I don’t pretend to anything approaching total understanding of my motivations. But there were a few loosely detected currents worth illuminating here. For one thing, not being able to say no to sugar sometimes felt like a form of bondage to the demands of the body, the very body that I was eager to assert power over, particularly during a global health crisis that was damaging bodies everywhere.

If I couldn’t control this plague, could I not at the very least control myself? I wonder now if this insistence on regulating appetite was my sublimated response to the coronavirus’s immense death toll – a way of denying mortality in the midst of its excess. In this respect, perhaps there was not as much separating me from other kinds of pandemic deniers as I would like to believe. Were we all just coping with the inexorability of our decay – laid painfully bare by Covid-19 – in different ways?

Maybe. But there was something beyond the exigencies of the pandemic on my mind as well. The inability to resist sugar cravings – to break the habit – seemed like a victory of the past over the present. It felt like the triumph of the mere memory of pleasure over real satisfaction in the moment. Saying no to that memory – the neurological underpinning of craving – became important, because it felt like the only way to say yes to imagination. “I am free only to the extent that I can disengage myself,” the philosopher Simone Weil wrote.

Detachment from an indulgence, however small, felt like a way to stop being beholden to an old storehouse of desires (and aversions and beliefs). Developing the ability to refuse to reach for the cookie was also a way to break free from the impulse to reach for patterns of the past, from the compulsion of replicating yesterday at the expense of tomorrow. It’s the trick of habit to convince us that we are reaching forward, even as we are stepping back. Or, as the British scholar of asceticism Gavin Flood elegantly summarizes: “The less we are able to refuse, the more automated we become.”

If Freud dismantled the soul, modern medicine mechanized what he left of the self. But where Freud’s psychoanalytic theory allowed for a pinch of poetry, materialist models hold comparatively dry sway today. A look at the biomedical literature on appetite reveals a tortuous mix of neural circuits and endocrine pathways. What’s clear is that if there was a moral aspect of appetite for ancient philosophers and physicians, it’s not readily discernible in the language of contemporary scientific literature.

There are upsides to this development. In the modern era, medicine’s tradition-bound framing of appetite as a moral problem has been demoralizing for patients, who often felt – and still feel – objectified, policed and discriminated against by institutions that sermonize about it. The stigmatisation of appetite remains pervasive in the culture, in and out of medicine. The loss of at least an explicit moral charge in the scientific literature is a welcome shift.

In the century or so since Freud’s conjectures, appetite has been atomised by medicine into a problem of eating, or more specifically, of fighting the body’s tendency toward “disordered” eating. In the pursuit of better and longer lives, maladies of appetite – of eating too much, too little, or not the right kinds of food – have been studied and treated with varying degrees of success. The empirical study of digestion and appetite in the laboratory moved hunger from the moral arena into a biochemical one. Still, in both experimental physiology and clinical medicine, the ancient impulse to locate the appetite persisted: was it in the body or in the mind? Lines were drawn – and defended – between diseases of the stomach and diseases of the psyche.

What was at stake in the difference? Pinning down the appetite – claiming it belonged to the gut or the brain – was arguably the first in a series of steps leading to its regulation. Understood this way, medicine’s mission to uncover the mechanisms of appetite, despite the erasure of the soul from scientific databases, cannot escape Plato’s legacy. Whether we’re trying to improve or curtail appetite, we seem unable to resist the desire to control it.

It would have been different – I wouldn’t have felt the need to go all-or-nothing with sugar – if I could have simply walked away after a few bites. But increasingly during the pandemic, I wouldn’t stop even after I was full. What started off as pleasure would morph into painful excess. Sure, there’s pleasure in abundance, in overdoing a thing. But I found myself barrelling past that threshold.

While studying for the board exam in my first, failed attempt at going sugar-free, I was also using various apps and devices to keep track of my body. I had long used a smart watch to log my steps and workouts. I was also using a calorie-tracking app, studiously punching in numbers for every meal and scheming how much I could eat and still remain under the calorie limit. But all that logging and calculating felt joyless and anxiety-ridden. Sometimes, at a meal, in the middle of tallying up numbers like an accountant, I’d explain to impatient friends and family that “I’m just entering my data”. It was a lot of data.

I grew weary of all the inputting, and so I switched to an app with more of a behavioural focus. This app still had me tracking calories, but also came with recipes, a personal coach and “psychology-based” courses, as part of what the company calls your “journey”. The courses were a welcome shift from the myopic focus of calorie counting, and chatting with a coach added an opportunity to get some clarity about my goals.

The coach would share chipper motivational advice and provide tips to overcome obstacles. I diligently went through the app’s courses, answered its behavioural questions and followed its nudges. There were a few weeks where I was able to go sugar-free, but after a couple of months, the coaching advice seemed more and more generic, and the courses too simplistic when I was already spending so much time studying for my upcoming exam. I lost interest and reverted to simply recording calories.

I eventually passed that exam without much to show for it in terms of changes to my nutritional habits. I needed something different, a way to hold myself accountable and mean it. I stumbled upon another app that described itself as being “on a mission to disrupt diet culture and make our relationship with food, nutrition – and ourselves – healthier for good”. It promised live coaching calls with a certified nutritionist, shared recipes, and even offered to tailor my coaching with a vegetarian dietician. It did not ask you to track calories or enter food items from a database. All it wanted was for you to send pictures … of your food. It felt radically different than tapping numbers into a screen: someone else would see this.

The app’s slogan was “100% accountability and “0% judgment”. But, to be clear, it was the judgment that I came for. The simple fact that my nutritionist wouldn’t just know but also actually see what I was eating was the killer feature. I answered a questionnaire about my dietary habits and goals. I made it clear that I wanted to go sugar-free, and repeated as much to my nutritionist during a preliminary call.

She didn’t exactly endorse this goal, but rather acknowledged it as something that was important to me and gently marked it as a topic we would come back to, adding that she hoped I would get to the point where a more balanced approach would suffice. I told her we’d see. I made a promise to take a photo of every meal, good or bad. She kindly reminded me there are not “good” and “bad” foods, and we were on our way.

It’s been a year since I downloaded the app. Every day since then, I have taken a photo of every morsel of food I’ve eaten, whether it’s a handful of pistachios, a salad or a veggie burger. In every one of those pics, every day, I have been sugar-free. I’ve eaten more vegetables and greens and fruits than I’ve probably ever eaten in my life. My plates look balanced (I make sure of it). I take care to snap pictures that look nice for my nutritionist. Though she never judges me negatively, I look forward to the raising-hands emoji and approving words she sends if she sees a salad with asparagus and garlic balsamic drizzle and avocado up front.

Like an influencer on Instagram, I’ll take another shot if the lighting isn’t quite right, or if the framing is off. It’s been satisfying to upload a cache of sugar-free images, all beautifully arranged on the app’s user interface. Even more satisfying has been avoiding feeling like the guy who said he’d go sugar-free only to end up sending in pictures of donuts and cookies. Compared to calorie logs and food diaries, the prospect of someone else seeing photos of what I’m eating has made the potential pain of falling short feel more proximate than the pleasure of eating sweets. So I just stopped eating sugar. And it’s still working. Was this all it took?

Perhaps the persistent effort to control appetite, replicated across many cultures and times, reveals just how vigorously it resists that very control. The seemingly endless proliferation of constraints on appetite – from the disciplinary to the pharmacological – underscores its untamable quality. And yet the training of appetite – both as physiological fact and, more abstractly, as desire – can function as an ascetic practice. In this paradigm, as religion scholars such as Flood argue, the negation of desire amplifies the subjectivity of the individual.

Depriving the body paradoxically accentuates the conscious subject, because hunger unsatiated allows the pangs of the self to be felt more acutely, and renders being more vivid. In other words, appetite unfulfilled creates the conditions for expanding self-awareness. This is seen in the Bhagavad Gita in the figure of the ascetic, one who has renounced the pull of appetite and “attains extinction in the absolute” – in seeming contradiction, gaining infinity through loss.

If philosophy is after theoretical victories, science aims more concretely to hack, or at least short-circuit, a physiological truth. Take, for example, gastric bypass surgery, an operation that cuts the stomach into two parts (leaving one functional thumb-size pouch alongside a larger remnant) and radically reconstructs separate intestinal systems for each segment to restrict the amount of food that can be eaten. By shrinking the stomach to fool the mind into feeling satisfied with less, this surgery builds on growing recognition that the long-embraced brain-gut divide is far more porous than previously thought.

Recipients of the surgery generally do well in the short term, with reduced appetite, marked weight loss, better control of diabetes and improved health markers. But the percentage of patients who “fail” in the long-term after bariatric surgery (ie achieve less than half of excess weight loss) is reportedly as high as 35%. During that first post-op year, studies suggest, an influx of appetite-reducing intestinal hormones decreases patients’ urge to eat. Crucially, however, there are questions about the duration of those salutary hormonal changes and their effectiveness in controlling appetite as post-surgical days add up.

For a significant proportion of patients, even surgically shrinking the stomach – the historical seat of hunger – doesn’t offer complete freedom from unchecked appetite. This fact is not entirely surprising, given what is now known about the multiple neuroendocrine nodes that govern appetite, but it poses a conundrum for medical science: can appetite, as Freud asked in his own way, ever be fully controlled? And if not, is it a wonder that patients turn back to more personal strategies to pursue the work that prescriptions and sutures leave undone?

I can’t say I fully understand why teaming up with a nutritionist on an app worked so well, so fast. Would sharing pics of my food with friends and family in a group chat or a Facebook page have been as effective? Probably not. The issue seemed to be one of epistemology. My friends and family wouldn’t have been as suitable an audience, since they don’t just know me as I am, but also as I was. That knowledge of what’s bygone necessarily shapes the stories we can tell and believe about one another.

But with my nutritionist reviewing pictures of my meals from god knows what timezone, the app created an epistemological gap into which both of us could step. It was within this gap that my future self – the self I aspired to be, still unrealised and therefore unknown – could intercede in the present with slightly less inertia from the past. The app provided an illusion that daily life could not, offering a space for the dormant commitments of the future to come to fruition in the present. A space for imagination to overcome memory.

As my sugar-free streak extended, I began to wonder about the future of this illusion. Was it a rare example of tech living up to its glitteringly naive promise of liberation? Or was this an instance of the digital panopticon yet again determining our ability to imagine ourselves, revealing just how far-reaching its gaze is? And, more practically, I began thinking about how long I needed to keep eating this way. The cravings that had knocked so loudly at my door at the start of the pandemic now softly shuffled from leg to leg right outside it. I could still hear their shoes creaking at the threshold, but they couldn’t force their way in anymore. Things seemed quiet, maybe a little too quiet.

Whereas the Greeks soughtto regulate appetite in pursuit of the good life, perhaps what is sought after today is a facsimile of it: a corporatised eudaimonia-lite, where the goal isn’t virtue but efficiency; not equanimity, but productivity. In this view, it’s not a better way to live we’re seeking, just a less painful way to work and die – all while “looking good”. A more charitable and poetic possibility is that the constraint of appetite continues to appeal because it provides the same sense of structure to selfhood that metre does to a poem: a limit against which to construct narrative unity of the psyche.

As fascinating as it is to think about this question, even more essential ones – about the links between appetite, scarcity and loss – loom in the writings of Toni Morrison, a writer who provides a necessary counterbalance to the obsession with appetite restriction in societies glutted with luxury. In particular, I’m thinking of Beloved, which tells the story of human beings struggling for survival and wholeness in the face of slavery’s horrors. In portraying this struggle, Morrison uses the language of food and appetite to unfurl narratives saturated with the metaphysics of hunger: the difficulty of sating the self; the confusion between hunger, history and hurt.

I was struck by this unexpected resonance while rereading the book in the middle of my bid to quit sugar. Morrison’s characters think about what it would mean to satisfy what the narrator calls their “original hunger” – and whether doing so is even possible. They imagine getting to a place “beyond appetite”, but are also compelled by history to contemplate the price of doing so.

In my reading of the book, the denial of hunger risks becoming a costly exercise in self-abnegation – a severing of self from history, of self from self – whose consequences Plato doesn’t seem to fully consider, but which Morrison is deeply wary of. I think Morrison is, like Freud, skeptical of the metaphysicians who would have us render hunger subordinate. But where Freud is an anti-idealist, Morrison appears willing to reach for hunger, perilous though it may be. Straddling both the risk of self-destruction posed by contact with the original hunger, and the anguish of self-denial created by leaving it unrecognised, Morrison casts her faith in the human ability to embrace the beautiful, blood-hued predicament of incarnation.

About 10 months into my sugar-free life, a scent from the pantry hit me like it hadn’t for a while. My wife had just baked chocolate-chip cookies for our kids as a treat. By then, I was unfazed by sweets around the house. They might as well have been made of stone. But, at the end of a long day, I found myself unexpectedly at the pantry door. Minutes passed. After a while, I opened the plastic container and inhaled. My mouth began to water. I could almost taste the cookies.

I remembered the delightful way the chocolate melted at the back of the tongue. I remembered the satisfaction of soaking a warm cookie in milk. A part of my brain was humming, eager to replicate the memory of sugar, butter and dough on the cortex. Another part was already dreading the pain of not being able to stop. I picked up the cookie and, having built nearly a year’s worth of muscle memory, simultaneously opened the app on my phone. I centred the cookie in the glowing frame and was about to press send when, looking at the screen, it hit me: what would my nutritionist think?

As of this writing, my streak remains unbroken, despite a few close calls. In many ways the story seems to be going the way I intended: I am eating well balanced, sugar-free meals and haven’t counted a calorie in more than a year. The cravings that were troubling me aren’t gone, but the future version of me – the unsweetened aspirant – grows closer with each picture I snap. I feel the spiritual and physical acuity that comes with ascetic practice.

But I also feel some qualms about neglecting Morrison’s original hunger, with all its attendant risks and possibilities. I think about how I have sacrificed memory at the altar of imagination, recognising the chance that imagination ends up being overrated and memory proves to be the last storehouse of joy. But then I remind myself that visions like Morrison’s may be too large, too untimely for us to inhabit. They come from a place we haven’t arrived at. At least not yet.

By

Source: Why is it so hard to control our appetites? A doctor’s struggles with giving up sugar | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

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Sweeteners May Be Linked To Increased Cancer Risk

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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

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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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A Little RedBull May Give You Wings, But It Probably Will Not Affect Your Tpe

“Energy drinks” (EDs) often contain high levels of caffeine and sugar, with variable levels of taurine, guarana, other “supplements,” and on occasion, vitamins. Frequently chosen by teens and young adults, the sale of EDs has enjoyed tremendous market growth. Over 4.6 billion cans of the most successful of these beverages, Red Bull, were sold in 2011. This prosperity resulted from the strong, recent worldwide annual growth, such as 11% in the United States, 35% in France, and 86% in Turkey.

Whether consumed alone or with alcohol or other drugs, EDs may have significant physical and behavioral effects (). Marketing materials for EDs often imply that these products will improve energy level, attention span, and physical and/or mental performance . Red Bull has been shown to increase heart rate and blood pressure and can reduce cerebral blood flow; these effects can be potentiated under conditions of stress . EDs were responsible for over 20,000 emergency department visits in the United States in 2011, including a doubling in the incidence between 2007 and 2011.

In this issue of the Anatolian Journal of Cardiology, Elitok et al. reported on the electrocardiographic effects of Red Bull. They had particular interest in Red Bull’s effects on ventricular repolarization. The dispersion of ventricular repolarization (DVR), as indicated by a longer interval between the T wave’s peak and end (Tpe or Tpe/QT), correlates with arrhythmic risk in multiple populations .

The healthy volunteer medical students in this investigation consumed a single can of Red Bull under controlled conditions, and the effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and electrocardiographic measurements were observed. As expected, both blood pressure and heart rate increased following Red Bull consumption. However, no change in electrocardiographic DVR was found.

Should young club-going people take this news as vindication of their next order for a “vodka and Red Bull?” Can we write off Red Bull’s cardiovascular effects as benign? Not so fast. The absence of an acute effect of a small dose of ED on one arrhythmia risk factor measured only in ECG lead V5 among a relatively small number of healthy young adults at rest does not equate to definite harmlessness. Our understanding of Red Bull’s effects remains incomplete, especially in cases wherein larger doses are consumed, especially by sicker people and under more strenuous conditions.

Would the consumption of five cans of Red Bull affect healthy subjects’ ECGs? Might only one serving of Red Bull affect ECG of a cardiomyopathy patient or ECG of a patient taking other cardiovascular active medications? Does chronic Red Bull consumption have the same or different effects as a Red Bull binge?

Elitok et al. should be congratulated for their interest in exposing potentially dangerous effects of popular EDs. More studies are required for us to declare Red Bull consumption to be harmless. For now, we can take heart in the absence of one signal of potential danger. At least this little bull is not in the proverbial china shop.

Energy drinks have the effects caffeine and sugar provide, but there is little or no evidence that the wide variety of other ingredients have any effect. Most of the effects of energy drinks on cognitive performance, such as increased attention and reaction speed, are primarily due to the presence of caffeine. Advertising for energy drinks usually features increased muscle strength and endurance, but there is little evidence to support this in the scientific literature.

A caffeine intake of 400 mg per day (for an adult) is considered as safe from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Adverse effects associated with caffeine consumption in amounts greater than 400 mg include nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, increased urination, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia), and dyspepsia. Consumption also has been known to cause pupil dilation. Caffeine dosage is not required to be on the product label for food in the United States, unlike drugs, but most (although not all) place the caffeine content of their drinks on the label anyway, and some advocates are urging the FDA to change this practice.

Excessive consumption of energy drinks can have serious health effects resulting from high caffeine and sugar intakes, particularly in children, teens, and young adults. Excessive energy drink consumption may disrupt teens’ sleep patterns and may be associated with increased risk-taking behavior. Excessive or repeated consumption of energy drinks can lead to cardiac problems, such as arrhythmias and heart attacks, and psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and phobias.

In Europe, energy drinks containing sugar and caffeine have been associated with the deaths of athletes. Reviews have noted that caffeine content was not the only factor, and that the cocktail of other ingredients in energy drinks made them more dangerous than drinks whose only stimulant was caffeine; the studies noted that more research and government regulation were needed

By: Todd M. Rosenthal and Daniel P. Morin

Source: A little Red Bull may give you wings, but it probably will not affect your Tpe

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COVID-19 Vaccines Don’t Contain Magnetic Ingredients; Dose Volume is Too Small To Contain Any Device Able To Hold a Magnet Through The Skin

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Around mid-May 2021, multiple videos (examples here, here, and here) claimed that COVID-19 vaccines caused magnetic reactions in vaccinated people. The videos purportedly showed that magnets attached to the arm where people received a COVID-19 vaccine, but not to the unvaccinated arm. The so-called “magnet challenge” went viral across social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, receiving hundreds of thousands of interactions.
While some posts didn’t try to explain the phenomenon, others claimed that COVID-19 vaccines contained metals or microchips that attracted the magnets. None of the videos provided verification that the people appearing in them were actually vaccinated against COVID-19. Regardless of whether they received the COVID-19 vaccine or not, the claim that COVID-19 vaccines “magnetize” people is inaccurate and unsupported by scientific evidence, as we explain below.

None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines contain magnetic ingredients

All materials react to magnetic fields in some way. However, these magnetic forces are, in general, so weak that most of these materials are effectively non-magnetic. Only a few metals, including iron, cobalt, nickel, and some steels, are considered truly magnetic and are attracted to magnets.

Lists of the ingredients in all the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are publicly available. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna contain mRNA, lipids, salts, sugar, and substances that keep the pH stable. The COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson contains an adenovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, amino acids, antioxidants, ethanol, an emulsifier, sugar, and salts. None of these ingredients are metals, and therefore, none of them are magnetic.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine contains similar ingredients to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but includes magnesium chloride as a preservative. Although magnesium is a metal, it is also non-magnetic, both in its elemental form and as magnesium chloride salt. In fact, higher amounts of magnesium are naturally present in the body, in many foods, and in dietary supplements, and they don’t cause magnetic reactions in people.

Finally, the volume of a COVID-19 vaccine dose is very small, ranging from 0.3 ml in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 0.5 ml in the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. According to experts, even if the vaccines contained a magnetic ingredient, the total amount would be insufficient to hold a magnet through a person’s skin. Michael Coey, a physics professor at Trinity College Dublin, explained to Reuters:

“You would need about one gram of iron metal to attract and support a permanent magnet at the injection site, something you would ‘easily feel’ if it was there […] By the way, my wife was injected with her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today, and I had mine over two weeks ago. I have checked that magnets are not attracted to our arms!”

This Instagram video illustrates how a magnet (or any other small object) can stick to people’s skin without the need for any magnetic force.

Claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips are unfounded

The claim that COVID-19 vaccines are magnetic because they contain microchips or tracking devices traces its roots to a conspiracy theory that has persisted throughout the pandemic. Despite being debunked many times, the baseless theory that COVID-19 vaccines include secret devices for tracking the population emerges from time to time in different forms.

Such claims led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to explain on its website that COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain microchips or tracking devices:

“No, the government is not using the vaccine to track you. There may be trackers on the vaccine shipment boxes to protect them from theft, but there are no trackers in the vaccines themselves. State governments track where you got the vaccine and which kind you received using a computerized database to make sure you get all recommended doses at the right time. You will also get a card showing that you have received a COVID-19 vaccine.”

The claims that the COVID-19 vaccines contain magnetic microchips are incorrect for multiple reasons. First, any microchip contained in a COVID-19 vaccine would need to be small enough to fit through the syringe needle. Vaccination generally uses 22 to 25-gauge needles. “Gauge” indicates the size of the hole that runs down the middle of the needle.

The higher the gauge, the smaller the hole. These needles have a maximum inner diameter of 0.5 mm. Current microchips aren’t small enough to fit through the syringe needle. Second, even if a microchip of that size exists, it would be too small to hold a magnet through the skin, for the same reasons explained by Coey above.

Finally, all COVID-19 vaccines are supplied in multidose vials containing five to 15 doses, depending on the manufacturer (see dosing information from Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson). This would make it impossible to guarantee that all individuals receive a chip. Some people could receive several chips, while others receive none. Furthermore, many of the devices would likely remain in the vial or get stuck in the syringe.

Conclusion

Claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause magnetic reactions are unsubstantiated and implausible. COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA don’t contain metals or other magnetic ingredients that could cause a magnetic reaction in vaccinated individuals. Furthermore, no component or microchip that fits in the volume of a COVID-19 vaccine dose would be strong enough to hold a magnet through the skin.

By:

Source: COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain magnetic ingredients; dose volume is too small to contain any device able to hold a magnet through the skin – Health Feedback

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How To Cure Type 2 Diabetes Without Medication

It’s 10 years since Professor Roy Taylor revolutionized treatment for type 2 diabetes with a groundbreaking study that showed the disease could be reversed through rapid weight loss. Until his research was published, type 2 diabetes was thought to be an incurable, lifelong condition. Now, for many people, we know it is not.

But his achievements – and the thousands of people he has cured – are not something he dwells upon. “I’m in a very lucky position of being able to do this research,” he says, “which really extends what I’ve been doing as a doctor throughout my life.” He laughs at the suggestion that he must occasionally marvel at his own success: “No, no,” he chuckles. “Lots of occupations make a useful contribution to society. I wouldn’t set myself apart.”

Modest words for a man whose “useful contribution to society” has given hope to the 3.9m people diagnosed with the condition in the UK and who has shown doctors a new way to fight a disease which causes 185 amputations and 700 premature deaths every week.

Now, he wants to go one step further and share everything he has learned directly with the public, in a new book, Your Simple Guide to Reversing Type 2 Diabetes. It’s a 153-page paperback that takes you through the latest research on how the disease develops and explains why rapid weight loss can be so effective at reversing the condition in the early stages – which usually means during the first six years of a diagnosis.

“If people really do want to make it happen, then in the first few years of diagnosis, it’s almost universal that their health can be returned to normal,” says Taylor, who is professor of medicine and metabolism at Newcastle University. In one study, he found that nine out of 10 people with “early” type 2 diabetes were cured after losing more than 2½st (15kg).

The book also explains who is at greatest risk and why some people who have a “normal” Body Mass Index (BMI) develop the disease, when many people who are more overweight – or even obese – do not.

Taylor’s “Newcastle” weight loss program is a clinically proven method of reversing early type 2 diabetes and his approach is currently being rolled out to people with the condition by the NHS. It involves cutting your calorie intake to 700-800 calories a day. In the book, he explains how the people in his program managed to do this – typically by consuming only slimming meal shakes and non-starchy vegetables, plus one cup of tea or coffee each day with skimmed milk – lost a life-changing amount of weight in just eight weeks. And how you can do the same, safely, at home.

In other words, it is a book that has all the hallmarks of becoming a massive bestseller. But Taylor himself will not make a penny from it. He is donating 100% of his proceeds from the book to the charity Diabetes UK, which is “only logical”, he tells me, because they funded his original 2011 study. “That was so far sighted of them,” he says. “They supported research that I know the experts thought was outlandish.” He says just one person at the research committee meeting spoke up for his proposal and convinced the others by saying: “It might sound crazy, but if he’s right, it would be really important.”

Taylor decided to write the book because, even though most diabetes experts in the UK have now accepted that his rapid weight loss program works, many doctors in Europe and the USA remain unconvinced. “It’s not easy to get new ideas accepted in medicine. So it will be a while before this gets into the textbooks and generations of doctors are taught about it.”

In the meantime, he feels it is his job – his “duty” even – to make people aware of the discoveries he and others have made in recent years. “I feel a responsibility for passing on this knowledge.”

One of Taylor’s most important new discoveries is that everyone has their own fat threshold: an individual level of tolerance for levels of fat in the body. “It’s a personal thing. It’s nothing to do with the sort of information that’s often provided about obesity, which is about average BMI and what the population is doing. The bottom line is, a person will develop type 2 diabetes when they’ve become too heavy for their own body. It doesn’t matter if their BMI is within the ‘normal’ range. They’ve crossed their personal threshold and become unhealthy.”

He is currently in the middle of research to find out whether there’s any way of discovering, via a blood test, when people are heading into this dangerous territory and their fat cells are putting out what he describes as “distress signals”.

What we do know already is that our bodies start to have trouble controlling blood sugar when fat can no longer be stored safely under the skin and it spills over into the liver and then the pancreas. If these organs get clogged with fat, they stop functioning properly and that is when you develop type 2 diabetes.

It is particularly important to note that if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you are more susceptible genetically. People in these circumstances need to be “very careful” about weight, especially in adult life, Taylor says. “If you’ve increased weight quite a lot above what you were at the age of 21, you’re in the danger zone – and you should get out of it. If you’ve got a family tendency for diabetes, then you really want to avoid weight gain in adult life.”

As Taylor explains in his book, if you have increased your BMI by three units or more since you were in your early 20s, you are at risk. It doesn’t matter how slim you look to other people. “People imagine that if everybody says they’re slim, they won’t get type 2 diabetes, but in fact that’s not true. Our present research involves people who are not obese, and indeed, have a normal BMI.”

This explains why only half of people are clinically obese when they are first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and why studies have shown that almost three-quarters of extremely obese people, with a BMI of over 45, do not suffer from type 2 diabetes. “Some people can put on glorious amounts of fat and store it all under the skin without any metabolic problems at all.”

Taylor also says that it’s important to bear in mind that type 2 diabetes can, at first, be symptomless, so people at risk may wish to get an annual test done via their GP. A simple finger-prick blood test, which gives an immediate blood sugar level result, can be done in many chemists. Signals to look out for include increasing tiredness and, especially, increasing thirst, and a tendency to have more skin infections, “like boils for instance, or candida,” Taylor says.

Rapidly decreasing body weight by 2½st (16kg) will take most people below their personal fat threshold, dramatically lowering their risk. For this reason, “the book goes through the steps that people need to follow to lose a substantial amount of weight and then keep it off”.

Taylor hopes that by writing a paperback in simple, accessible language, he will reach people who are heading towards or have already received a diagnosis and want to learn more about his research. “I’ve realized there is an enormous thirst out there for exact knowledge about how people can deal with this disease themselves, using the new information that we have.” He also wants to explain to as many people as possible what causes type 2 diabetes so individuals feel empowered to make healthy decisions about their body and the food they eat.

“This book is for anyone who wants to understand what happens to food after they swallow it and how that’s handled by their body. And also, critically, how that affects their health.” For example, he has found most people don’t realise that if you eat more carbohydrates or protein than your body needs, the excess is converted into fat and then stored.

This is a million miles from “fat shaming”, he says, and it is up to each person to decide for themselves whether they are too heavy for their own health and happiness. “What I can point out as a doctor are the circumstances that come about when people have crossed their personal fat threshold,” he says. “There’s no judgment on a person who happens to be heavy, compared with someone who happens not to be. It’s about helping individuals who would otherwise run into trouble.”

Donna Ferguson

 

By:

 

Source: How to cure type 2 diabetes – without medication | Diabetes | The Guardian

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References:

Izzedine H, Launay-Vacher V, Deybach C, Bourry E, Barrou B, Deray G (November 2005). “Drug-induced diabetes mellitus”. Expert Opinion on Drug Safety. 4 (6): 1097–109. doi:10.1517/14740338.4.6.1097. PMID 16255667. S2CID 21532595.

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