Diet Drinks May be Associated with Strokes Among Post-menopausal Women

Among post-menopausal women, drinking multiple diet drinks daily was associated with an increase in the risk of having a stroke caused by a blocked artery, especially small arteries, according to research published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association.

This is one of the first studies to look at the association between drinking artificially sweetened beverages and the risk of specific types of stroke in a large, racially diverse group of post-menopausal women. While this study identifies an association between diet drinks and stroke, it does not prove cause and effect because it was an observational study based on self-reported information about diet drink consumption.

Compared with women who consumed diet drinks less than once a week or not at all, women who consumed two or more artificially sweetened beverages per day were:

  • 23 percent more likely to have a stroke;
  • 31 percent more likely to have a clot-caused (ischemic) stroke;
  • 29 percent more likely to develop heart disease (fatal or non-fatal heart attack); and
  • 16 percent more likely to die from any cause.

Researchers found risks were higher for certain women. Heavy intake of diet drinks, defined as two or more times daily, more than doubled stroke risk in:

  • women without previous heart disease or diabetes, who were 2.44 times as likely to have a common type of stroke caused by blockage of one of the very small arteries within the brain;
  • obese women without previous heart disease or diabetes, who were 2.03 times as likely to have a clot-caused stroke; and
  • African-American women without previous heart disease or diabetes, who were 3.93 times as likely to have a clot-caused stroke.

“Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet. Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease,” said Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York.

Researchers analyzed data on 81,714 postmenopausal women (age 50-79 years at the start) participating in the Women’s Health Initiative study that tracked health outcomes for an average of 11.9 years after they enrolled between 1993 and 1998. At their three-year evaluation, the women reported how often in the previous three months they had consumed diet drinks such as low calorie, artificially sweetened colas, sodas and fruit drinks. The data collected did not include information about the specific artificial sweetener the drinks contained.

The results were obtained after adjusting for various stroke risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, and smoking. These results in postmenopausal women may not be generalizable to men or younger women. The study is also limited by having only the women’s self-report of diet drink intake.

“We don’t know specifically what types of artificially sweetened beverages they were consuming, so we don’t know which artificial sweeteners may be harmful and which may be harmless,” Mossavar-Rahmani said.

The American Heart Association recently published a science advisory that found there was inadequate scientific research to conclude that low-calorie sweetened beverages do – or do not – alter risk factors for heart disease and stroke in young children, teens or adults. The Association recognizes diet drinks may help replace high calorie, sugary beverages, but recommends water (plain, carbonated and unsweetened flavored) as the best choice for a no calorie drink.

“Unfortunately, current research simply does not provide enough evidence to distinguish between the effects of different low-calorie sweeteners on heart and brain health. This study adds to the evidence that limiting use of diet beverages is the most prudent thing to do for your health,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutrition emeritus, University of Vermont and the chair of the writing group for the American Heart Association’s science advisory, Low-Calorie Sweetened Beverages and Cardiometabolic Health.

“The American Heart Association suggests water as the best choice for a no-calorie beverage. However, for some adults, diet drinks with low calorie sweeteners may be helpful as they transition to adopting water as their primary drink. Since long-term clinical trial data are not available on the effects of low-calorie sweetened drinks and cardiovascular health, given their lack of nutritional value, it may be prudent to limit their prolonged use” said Johnson.

Source: American Heart Association

Read also at HealthDay:

Could Diet Sodas Raise an Older Woman’s Stroke Risk? . . . . .


Arsenic And Lead Are in Many Brands Of Fruit Juice

Allison Aubrey wrote . . . . . . . . .

The consumer-advocacy organization Consumer Reports tested 45 fruit juices, including apple, grape and juice blends, and found that 21 of them had “concerning levels” of cadmium, arsenic and/or lead, according to a new report. Juice samples came from 24 national and private-label brands.

For instance, two Welch’s products contained levels of lead that exceed the standard for bottled water set by the Food and Drug Administration. And a sample of Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice exceeded a 10 parts-per-billion threshold for arsenic that has been recommended as an allowable level.

“We know there are no safe levels of exposure to these heavy metals,” says Aparna Bole, a pediatrician in Cleveland who serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health. Bole says she agrees with the CR report’s call for the FDA to update its standards.

Several years back, the FDA proposed a 10 parts-per-billion limit on arsenic in apple juice, but the agency has yet to issue a guideline.

In response to the new report, an FDA spokesperson said in an email, “We welcome the data provided by Consumer Reports and will review it in its entirety as part of our larger, comprehensive effort to reduce toxic element exposure.”

Overall, the new test results point to a reduction in heavy metals, compared with results from tests performed several years ago. So, this is a sign of progress. But, the FDA says, “We know there is more work to be done to reduce these elements in our food supply and we place a high priority on reducing exposure among infants and children, as the very young are more susceptible to their potential adverse health effects.”

The CR team reached out to food companies whose juices were tested; their responses are included in the report. A Welch’s spokesperson said, “All Welch’s juice is safe and strictly complies with all applicable legal requirements. Naturally occurring elements such as lead and arsenic are present in the soil, air, and water. Therefore, they are also found in very low, harmless levels in many fruits and vegetables.” And Trader Joe’s told CR: “We will investigate your findings, as [we are] always ready to take whatever action is necessary to ensure the safety and quality of our products.”

So, how risky is exposure to low levels of these heavy metals, particularly arsenic? We put the question to scientists with the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program.

“Research from Dartmouth and other institutions has shown that arsenic at levels below 10 parts per billion may have health effects on people and children,” the researchers told us in an email. “Ultimately, reducing exposure to all sources of arsenic is important to keep exposure levels as low as possible and if you have a private well with arsenic in your water, eat a lot of rice and drink a lot of juice, it is recommended that you reduce or change those exposure sources.”

“Arsenic is potentially harmful to human health in multiple ways,” Margaret Karagas, an epidemiologist at Dartmouth College who focus on children’s health, explains in an arsenic informational site curated by the Dartmouth group. “Higher exposures are related to increased risks of certain cancers and heart disease, and may impact growth, brain development and immune function. Scientists are learning that health effects may occur even at low levels of exposure.”

On the same site, Dr. Carolyn Murray of Dartmouth offers this advice to consumers: “Take action to reduce arsenic if you’re a pregnant woman, or have kids. Arsenic is harmful to child growth, development and brain function. Kids consume more food and water per pound of body weight, so they are more likely than other age groups to be exposed to too much arsenic.”

It can be tricky to identify a specific risk threshold for arsenic in food and beverages other than water, because the science is not yet there to provide the epidemiological data needed to set a standard, according to the scientists at the Dartmouth toxic metals program. They note that such research is underway at a variety of institutions.

The Dartmouth scientists point out that trace levels of heavy metals can end up in food through a variety of sources. Metals can be naturally present in the soil. Past use of pesticides can also leave metal residues. Metals can also be present in the water used to irrigate crops, or they can be in water sprayed directly onto trees and plants, in countries outside the U.S.

And as the FDA points out, these heavy metals enter the food supply when plants take them up as they grow.

Source: npr

Read also at Consumer Reports:

Arsenic and Lead Are in Your Fruit Juice: What You Need to Know . . . . .

Today’s Comic

Study: Switching to Nonsugar Sweeteners Doesn’t Do Much for Health and May Have Risks

Kevin Loria wrote . . . . . . . . .

Switching to diet soda and other foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners or other sugar substitutes may seem like an easy way to improve your health by helping to reduce the amount of sugar you eat.

But evidence that nonsugar sweeteners aid weight loss, oral health, blood sugar levels, or other health problems is extremely limited, according to a major new research review published in the medical journal The BMJ.

According to Joerg Meerpohl, M.D., director of Cochrane Germany and senior author of the review, consuming food and drink sweetened with a nonsugar alternative may have a slight benefit, but “we also cannot definitively exclude any harms” from these products. That’s because previous research has connected sugar substitutes and diet sodas to weight gain, heart problems, and type 2 diabetes.

Of course, getting too much added sugar comes with some of the same health risks. Even so, the results of the new review suggest that more research is needed to determine whether sugar substitutes are a good alternative, according to Vasanti Malik, Sc.D., a research scientist in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who wrote an accompanying editorial.

What the Study Found

The researchers examined 56 studies that evaluated the health effects of consuming sugar alternatives, known as nonsugar sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners.

Some of the studies provided evidence that consuming these sweeteners might have a small beneficial effect on body mass and blood sugar levels. Yet other research showed that people who frequently consumed sugar substitutes gained more weight than those who consumed less of them. For other conditions the study authors looked at, such as diabetes risk and heart disease, there was no benefit or harm associated with sugar substitute consumption.

Some people might think there’s a clear benefit to switching to diet drinks or low-sugar foods sweetened with alternatives, according to Meerpohl. “As our research shows, the evidence for that is not there,” he says.

The Calorie Control Council, a group representing the low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry, disputes this conclusion. Referring to sugar substitutes as low- and no-calorie sweeteners, or LNCS, a statement from the group said:

“[I]n contrast to the conclusions made by the study authors, the highest quality scientific evidence shows that the consumption of LNCS results in reductions in body weight, does not lead to weight gain, and does not cause cravings leading to increased intake. . . . LNCS continue to be a useful tool, along with diet and exercise, in helping to support weight management and weight loss.”

Based on what’s in the review, there’s no clear health-related reason for the average person to switch from products sweetened with sugar to alternatives, according to David Seres, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center. “Why do it if there’s no benefit, even if there’s not much proof of harm, unless you like the flavor?” he says.

Malik, however, sees a potential use for sugar substitutes. Most Americans consume far too much added sugar, getting more than 300 calories (75 grams) a day. Health authorities recommend much less—a maximum of 25 to 50 grams per day. Sugar substitutes might help people cut back.

“The goal isn’t to get people to switch from sugar to diet [drinks]. It’s to get people to switch from sugar to water, but diet [drinks or foods] might be an intermediate way to help them,” Malik says.

She also notes that it’s possible this review didn’t fully capture potential health benefits. The authors included only studies that could specifically identify the nonsugar sweetener used, which eliminates some research on the topic. And in some cases where consumption of these sweeteners was associated with risk for diabetes or weight gain, it may be that the people consuming these “diet” products did so because they were at risk for health problems, which could be why consumption of these products seems connected to those risks.

Concerns About Nonsugar Sweeteners

Past studies have linked low- or no-calorie sweeteners to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and cancer.

Even if some of these links can be explained away because the subjects involved are already in poor health, some of the links could be real. There also have been concerns that nonsugar sweeteners change the microbiome—the bacteria that live in and on us and have significant effects on health—in ways that could increase disease risk. Other researchers have questioned whether people who consume these sweeteners are more likely to develop a taste for sugary foods and drinks throughout their lives, especially if they consume these sweeteners as children, according to Malik.

Additionally, people may not be aware just how much of these sugar substitutes they consume. “We’re seeing some products you wouldn’t think of as ‘diet’ that contain some type of sugar, and a non-nutritive sweetener, such as sucralose or stevia,” says Amy Keating, R.D., a Consumer Reports dietitian. These include sports drinks, fruit drinks, low-fat ice creams, and even English muffins. “It’s possible that manufacturers are trying to keep their products’ sugars count low but still give them a sweet flavor. Consumers wouldn’t know, though, unless they look at the ingredients list.”

And the many nonsugar sweeteners that could appear on that list may have different effects on health, positive or negative. That applies even to sweeteners sold as “natural,” according to Malik.

What You Should Do

The current review wasn’t designed to provide a definitive answer on the question of whether you should consume nonsugar sweeteners, according to Meerpohl.

Even so, “I would say that there is a good, and safe, alternative for people,” he says. That alternative is “water and non- [or] less-sweetened foods.”

Consumer Reports’ experts advise a cautious approach because the study authors acknowledge more research is needed.

“Our recommendation would be to limit added sugars and nonsugar sweeteners,” Keating says. “It could be better to limit yourself to a small glass of regular soda every once in awhile rather than drinking as much diet soda as you want and assuming it has no impact on your health. Better yet, drink water.”

Source: Consumer Reports

With Dessert Beers, You Can Have Your Cake and Drink It, Too

Spike Carter wrote . . . . . . . . .

A frosty mug of fizzy yellow pilsner might not sound like the most luxurious post-dinner drink, but what about an imperial stout that’s twice as strong as a regular brew and tastes like pistachio-chocolate ice cream?

Certain boozy subgenres of sweet beer—porters, stouts, and barleywines, particularly—are increasingly popular as dessert drinks. Defined by their high alcohol content, they do the work of a nightcap while doubling as a dose of sugary satisfaction before bed. Some of their potency comes from aging in used spirit barrels, but clever beermakers have discovered ways of coaxing wine-level alcohol content out of yeast as well.

Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand stout is generally recognized as the first of the style aged in whiskey barrels. Greg Hall, the Chicago company’s brewmaster in the mid-’90s, wanted something memorable for its 1,000th batch of beer. A chance acquisition of spent Jim Beam barrels led to the proverbial lightbulb: What flavors would surface if you filled the barrels with stout? “It’s not a normal beer,” says Mike Siegel, Goose Island’s research and development manager. “You can take 10 sips over 10 minutes and taste something new every time.”

Another dessert beer with the punch of an after-dinner digestif comes from California’s Firestone Walker. Its anniversary ale changes every year but always spotlights the decadent enjoyability of sweeter, “stickier” beers. This year’s XXII release is heavy on malt while packing notes of dark fruit and an herbal, spicy edge.

Some dark dessert beers are brewed with the ingredients of a favorite sweet, giving them the name “pastry stouts.” The Willy Wonka of this category is Sweden’s Omnipollo. “If I didn’t make beer, I’d be a pastry chef,” says co-owner Henok Fentie. “One thing that fascinates me with pastry stouts is how one element instantly signals a dish. Put maple in a beer, and chances are you’ll think of pancakes. Add coffee, and it’s as if you just woke up.” Lorelei Extra Maple—the world’s second-highest-ranked imperial porter on the RateBeer website—provides one such Proustian memory flood.

Maine brewer Barreled Souls, founded by duo Chris Schofield and Matthew Mills, has created unorthodox pastry stouts using anything from bacon to marshmallows. Their secret to making a superlative meal ender? “With dessert beers,” Schofield says, “it’s all about the first impression.”

Bottle Buying Guide: Best New Dessert Beers

Mexican Donut

This imperial stout from Barreled Souls is finished with roasted Fresno chiles as well as vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon doughnuts from Maine’s beloved Holy Donut shop.

XXII Anniversary Ale

For its 22nd anniversary, Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, Calif., blended miscellaneous strong ales aged in bourbon, rum, and even gin barrels.

Lorelei Extra Maple

The mad scientists at Omnipollo add the sweet sap to barrel-aged imperial porter to create “the closest thing to drinkable maple syrup.”

Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine

This Goose Island limited release, aged in Heaven Hill whiskey barrels, adds flavors from Guatemalan coffee beans.

Source: Bloomberg

Study: Drinking Caffeinated Soft Drinks While Exercising in Hot Weather May Increase the Risk of Kidney Disease

The study is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

A research team from the University at Buffalo in New York studied healthy adults in a laboratory environment that mimicked working at an agricultural site on a hot day (95 degrees Fahrenheit). The volunteers completed an hour-long exercise cycle consisting of a 30-minute treadmill workout followed by three different five-minute lifting, dexterity and sledgehammer swinging activities. After 45 minutes of exercise, the volunteers rested for 15 minutes in the same room while drinking 16 ounces of either a high-fructose, caffeinated soft drink or water. After the break, they repeated the cycle three more times for a total of four hours. Before leaving the laboratory, the volunteers were given more of their assigned beverage to drink before consuming any further fluids. The volume was either 1 liter or a volume equal to 115 percent of their body weight lost through sweating, if that amount was greater. The researchers measured the participants’ core body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, body weight and markers of kidney injury before, immediately after and 24 hours after each trial. All volunteers participated in both soft drink and water trials separated by at least seven days.

The research team found higher levels of creatinine in the blood and a lower glomerular filtration rate — markers for kidney injury — after the soft drink trial. These temporary changes did not occur when the participants drank water. In addition, the participants’ blood levels of vasopressin, an anti-diuretic hormone that raises blood pressure, was higher and they were mildly dehydrated during and after the soft drink trial. “The consumption of soft drinks during and following exercise in the heat does not rehydrate,” the researchers explained. “Thus, consuming soft drinks as a rehydration beverage during exercise in the heat may not be ideal. Further work will need to discern the long-term effects of soft drink consumption during exercise in the heat, and its relation to the risk of [kidney disease].”

Source: The American Physiological Society