Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Mounting Evidence Against Diet Sodas


The Mounting Evidence Against Diet Sodas

Diet sodas being poured into glasses.
Studies suggest possible links between low-calorie beverages and health risks, though more research is needed
By Julia Calderone
May 24, 2017

Many people think of diet sodas as healthy, low-calorie alternatives to sugary drinks. Yet a small but growing body of evidence suggests that diet sodas may have health downsides and may not even provide the benefits some people turn to them for, such as weight loss.

“Excess sugar intake is a problem in Western society because it contributes to obesity, diabetes, and other conditions,” says Matthew P. Pase, Ph.D., a research fellow in neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine. “We know that diet beverages are becoming more popular, but we don’t have a lot of research into the effects of diet beverages on different aspects of health.”

The topic deserves closer inspection, given the widespread popularity of these drinks. According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nearly half of adults and a quarter of children in the U.S. consume artificial sweeteners—and the majority do so on a daily basis. Diet drinks make up the bulk of the intake.

Here, what we know so far about diet sodas and their role in health, and what you can do to make smart beverage choices in the meantime.

Not So Heart Smart?
The strongest evidence so far links regular diet soda intake with cardiovascular conditions, such as stroke and heart attack, as well as type 2 diabetes and obesity (which are also risk factors for cardiovascular disease), says Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., professor of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. For example, in April, a widely reported study of about 4,400 people age 45 and older found that those who drank one or more diet sodas every day were three times more likely to have a stroke than those who didn’t, says Pase, who led the study. The research was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

This study had several limitations and didn’t prove that diet sodas themselves caused people to have strokes, Sacco says. It could be that people who drink diet sodas are in poorer health than people who don’t, for instance. But the findings do jibe with previous research, he says.

For example, three large studies published between 2007 and 2009 found that people who drank diet sodas regularly were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and had between 30 and 55 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome (a constellation of health problems that could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke) than those who didn’t. Two other studies from 2012 further bolstered these results: Researchers linked daily diet soda consumption to about a 45 percent higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and early death in one study of about 2,600 people; and about 30 percent increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke—a less common type of stroke where a ruptured blood vessel or burst aneurysm causes loss of blood flow to the brain—in the other study of 130,000 people.

Past research has also found links between diet sodas and conditions such as depression or pre-term delivery. For example, one study of almost 320,000 people published in the journal PLoS One in 2014 found that those who drank four or more cans of diet soda each day were about 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who didn’t.

A Cautious Interpretation
The studies linking diet sodas and cardiovascular risk are intriguing, says Sacco, but they still need to be repeated in more rigorous settings. For example, he says, all of these studies relied on participants self-reporting their dietary habits, which can introduce error because people don’t always remember what they ate. Additionally, those who drink diet sodas may already be at increased risk of conditions such as diabetes or obesity because they are unhealthy to begin with. For example, someone who is overweight may have switched from regular soda to diet soda to help control an already burgeoning waistline.

And not every study has shown that diet sodas negatively affect health. For example, in 2012 researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed the drinking habits of almost 43,000 men and found that those who drank sugary drinks had a higher risk of coronary heart disease, but those who drank diet sodas did not.

Another reason scientists hesitate to say definitively that diet sodas are bad for your health is that they aren’t sure how they increase disease risk. Sacco believes the ingredients in the drinks, such as artificial sweeteners, may damage blood vessels—possibly explaining their link to diseases such as diabetes and stroke. Some evidence has also suggested that the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas can cause inflammation, a condition often associated with heart disease.

It’s also possible that the artificial sweeteners commonly used in diet sodas may “trick” the brain into craving rich, high-calorie foods, leading to weight gain. They may also cause changes in hormone levels or gut bacteria, both of which play a role in weight and insulin management. For example, a study published in the journal Nature in 2014 found that artificial sweeteners altered the gut bacteria in people and mice, increasing their risk of glucose intolerance, a condition often preceding diabetes. However, “we’re not sure of the mechanism at all,” says Sacco, and all of these ideas warrant larger, more rigorous studies.

Do you have tips for cutting back on your soda habit?
Let us know in the comment section below.
What to Do
“In general, your best bet is to avoid regular and diet sodas altogether,” says Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports’ medical director. “They offer little nutritional benefit, and in some cases, diet sodas can cause headaches or make you overeat.” For example, shortly after the artificial sweetener aspartame came onto the market in the late 1990s, one of the biggest complaints the Food and Drug Administration received about the sweetener was regarding headaches. No scientific studies have proved that aspartame or diet sodas in general cause headaches, but a review of evidence published in The Clinical Journal of Pain in 2009 suggests that large amounts of the sweetener—such as that in five or more diet soda drinks—could trigger or make headaches worse in people who are already susceptible to migraines.

In addition to diet sodas, low-calorie sweeteners are also used in some iced teas, coffee drinks, and juices. Even some “healthy-sounding" drinks contain them. For example, Bai Antioxidant Infusion drinks, in flavors such as Brasilla Blueberry and Malawi Mango, claim no artificial sweeteners on the label, but a peek at the ingredient list reveals the low-calorie sweeteners erythritol and stevia extract. Sparking Ice, which is labeled “naturally flavored sparkling water,” contains 3 percent fruit juice as well as sucralose, an artificial sweetener commonly known as Splenda. Flavored versions of Pedialyte, a popular rehydration and electrolyte drink for children, also contain sucralose.

Not all public health experts say you must cut out diet sodas completely, however. In response to the recent Stroke study, Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., past chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, said that limiting sugars is still important for health, “and until we know more, people should use artificially-sweetened drinks cautiously.”

In a statement following the Stroke study, The Calorie Council, an organization representing the diet food and beverage industry, said there’s no reason to give up your diet soda habit just yet, because artificial sweeteners have been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and are deemed safe, and that evidence of their health impacts is still limited.

In the end, the occasional soda—with sugar or artificial sweeteners—is probably fine. But your best bet the vast majority of the time, says Avitzur, is to stick with water, plain or sparkling. If you find unflavored water boring, add a splash of bitters with a slice of lemon or lime.

Julia Calderone

I'm a former scientist, using words and an audio recorder as my new research tools to untangle the health and food issues that matter most to consumers. I live in Brooklyn, N.Y., where I cook as much as possible. You can find me in the grocery aisle scrutinizing the fine print of every food item I put into my cart. Follow me on Twitter @juliacalderone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

WHO Urges - Tax Soda and Sugar Drinks


Tax Sodas and Sugary Drinks, WHO Urges Governments
Governments should tax sugary drinks to fight the global epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

A 20 percent price increase could reduce consumption of sweet drinks by the same proportion, the WHO said in a report issued on World Obesity Day.

Image: San Francisco Approves Ordinance For Health Warnings For Sugary Soda Ads
Bottles of soda are displayed in a cooler at a convenience store Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Drinking fewer calorie-laden sweet drinks is the best way to curb excessive weight and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, although fat and salt in processed foods are also at fault, WHO officials said.

"We are now in a place where we can say there is enough evidence to move on this and we encourage countries to implement effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to prevent obesity," Temo Waqanivalu, of WHO's department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion, told a briefing.

Related: Have Soda Company Donations Influenced Health Groups?

Obesity more than doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2014, with 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women classified as obese - more than 500 million people, the report said.

"Smart policies can help to turn the tides on this deadly epidemic, especially those aimed at reducing consumption of sugary drinks, which is fuelling obesity rates," former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a WHO ambassador for noncommunicable diseases, said in a statement.

Related: One Serving of Sugar a Day Can be Dangerous

An estimated 42 million children under age 5 were overweight or obese in 2015, said Francesco Branca, director of WHO's nutrition and health department, an increase of about 11 million over 15 years.

The United States has the most obesity per capita, but China has similar absolute numbers, Branca said, voicing fears that the epidemic could spread to sub-Saharan Africa.

The WHO said there was increasing evidence that taxes and subsidies influence purchasing behavior and could be used to curb consumption of sweet drinks.

Related: Sugar Industry Manipulated Heart Studies

"This is tax on sugary drinks which is really by definition all types of beverages containing free sugars and this includes soft drinks, fruit drinks, sachet mixes, cordials, energy and sports drinks, flavored milks, breakfast drinks, even 100 percent fruit juices," Waqanivalu said.

In Mexico, a tax rise in 2014 led to a 10 percent price hike and a 6 percent drop in purchases by year-end, the report said.

WHO guidelines say people needed to roughly halve the amount of sugar they consume to lower risks of obesity and tooth decay.

That means sugar making up less than 10 percent of their daily energy intake - about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar for adults - but 5 percent is even better, it said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Staying Hydrated - Staying Healthy Blog - To Return To The Hydration site, click here


When the temperatures rise, getting enough to drink is important whether you’re playing sports, traveling or just sitting in the sun.

And it’s critical for your heart health.
.woman with water bottle running

Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles work efficiently.

“If you’re well hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard,” said John Batson, M.D, a sports medicine physician with Lowcountry Spine & Sport in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and an American Heart Association volunteer.

Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke.

How much water do you need?

What does being well hydrated mean? The amount of water a person needs depends on climatic conditions, clothing worn and exercise intensity and duration, Batson said.

A person who perspires heavily will need to drink more than someone who doesn’t. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may also mean you need to drink more water. People with cystic fibrosis have high concentrations of sodium in their sweat and also need to use caution to avoid dehydration. And some medications can act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid.

Thirst isn’t the best indicator that you need to drink. “If you get thirsty, you’re already dehydrated,” Batson said.

Batson said the easiest thing to do is pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, drink more fluids.

If you want to know exactly how much fluid you need, Batson recommends weighing yourself before and after exercise, to see how much you’ve lost through perspiration. It’s a particular good guide for athletes training in the hot summer months.

“For every pound of sweat you lose, that’s a pint of water you’ll need to replenish,” Batson said, adding that it’s not unusual for a high school football player, wearing pads and running through drills, to lose 5 pounds or more of sweat during a summer practice.

Not sweating during vigorous physical activity can be a red flag that you’re dehydrated to the point of developing heat exhaustion.

Water is best.

For most people, water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. Sources of water also include foods, such fruits and vegetables which contain a high percentage of water. Sports drinks with electrolytes, may be useful for people doing high intensity, vigorous exercise in very hot weather, though they tend to be high in added sugars and calories.

“It’s healthier to drink water while you’re exercising, and then when you’re done, eat a healthy snack like orange slices, bananas or a small handful of unsalted nuts ,” Batson said.

He cautioned against fruit juices or sugary drinks, such as soda. “They can be hard on your stomach if you’re dehydrated,” he said.

It’s also best to avoid drinks containing caffeine, which acts as a diuretic and causes you to lose more fluids.

Batson says drinking water before you exercise or go out into the sun is an important first step.

“Drinking water before is much more important,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re playing catch-up and your heart is straining.”

Not just for athletes or exercise.

Hydration isn’t just important during physical activity. Sitting in the sun on a hot or humid day, even if you aren’t exercising, can also cause your body to need more fluids.
People who have a heart condition, are older than 50 or overweight may also have to take extra precautions.

It’s also a good thing to keep tabs on your hydration if you’re traveling.

“You might sweat differently if you’re in a different climate,” Batson said.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Depending on the marketing trick of the century

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are depending on 'the marketing trick of the century' to save business
Kate Taylor
Feb. 13, 2016, 9:01 PM 35,550  11

smartwater with nails
smartwater with nails@smartwater on Instagram

In the next few years, bottled water will likely overtake carbonated-soft-drink sales. Surprisingly, that could be good news for soda giants — and bad news for consumers.

“Bottled water is the marketing trick of the century,” writes John Jewell in The Week.

Companies selling bottled water, he argues, have managed to convince Western consumers that buying water is a healthier choice than sugary soda.

However, the comparison is a case of false equivalence. Bottled water isn’t simply an alternative to soda — it’s an alternative to the much more inexpensive and eco-friendly tap water.

"The purchase of bottled water allows us to communicate our uniqueness and the care we have for bodies and the environment," writes Jewell.

This nutrition-minded and independent sense of self is exactly what soda giants like Pepsi and Coke are currently trying to tap into.

Bottled waterDiego Torres Silvestre/Flickr

In 2014, the volumes of major water brands, including Nestle’s Poland Spring, Coca-Cola’s Dasani, and PepsiCo’s Aquafina, grew 7% to 9%. For comparison, Coke and Pepsi’s volumes fell close to 3% in the same time period.

Consumers’ thirst for bottled water is only growing — on Thursday, major European bottling company Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. reported that total water volume increased 12% in 2015.

“We’ve had some substantial investments in R&D that have allowed us to put out more new products,” Al Carey, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, said at Beverage Digest’s Future Smarts conference in December. “Not all of it is skewed toward healthy, but very much healthy and very much single serve.”

hiker drinking bottled water in desert
hiker drinking bottled water in desertFlickr/Vlad B.

Bottled water’s manufactured status as the healthiest beverage around is exactly the reputation that Coke and Pepsi want to earn. In recent years, the company has been plagued by sugar-related concerns that drove soda sales down and negative headlines up.

However, while bottled water can cost 2,000 times as much as tap water, the beverage yields surprisingly low profit margins for companies. So these beverage giants are not only investing in simple bottled tap water — the most straightforward marketing trick in existence — but also new, pricier takes on the classic H2O.

jennifer aniston smartwater
jennifer aniston smartwater

In 2016, Pepsi is debuting new sparkling Aquafina flavored waters. The drinks will be the “official hydration sponsor of New York Fashion Week” this spring, a glitzy title that continues the elevation of the most basic beverage. At the same time, Coca-Cola is rolling out sparkling Smartwater, with actress Jennifer Aniston as spokesperson.

Bottled water is a $13 billion business that, logically, doesn’t need to exist.

Jewell sums up his piece on the industry by saying that bottled water is a symbol of a “disposable culture” that values branding over the environment. Coke and Pepsi would likely disagree with that sentiment — but if there is one thing these soft-drink giants can do, it is market a beverage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Drink Water Instead Of Soda or Juice


CHALK Center

Drink water instead of soda or juice.

Why water?

Our bodies are made mostly of water. At birth, 75%-85% of body weight is from water. This decreases with age, and in adulthood water contributes from 45%-70% of body mass.1
• Keeps your body temperature normal.
• Lubricates and cushions your joints.
• Protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues.
• Gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements.2

How much water do adults need?

• The official recommendation is 8 glasses (8 oz. = 1 glass) of liquid a day for anyone over the age of 9 years old.
• Children 1-3 years need a total of 4 cups of liquid a day.
• Children 4-8 years need a total of 5 cups of liquid a day.3

Hydrate for Exercise

Before: Half a liter of water 2-3 hours before beginning exercise.
During: About a cup of water (6 to 12 oz) every 15 to 20 minutes, but remember to consider temperature and how much you sweat.
After: Drink more than half a liter or about one and a half regular sized bottles of water (.5 L) for every pound of body weight lost.

For strenuous exercise, you may need to restore the electrolytes, minerals dissolved in your bodies’ water like sodium and potassium, since they are lost when you sweat. However, most sports drinks contain much more sugar then the body needs during or after a work-out. Diluting sports drinks makes them a better hydration alternative. 1 Remember though, most of activity we do during the day does not require the use of sports drinks to restore electrolytes.

For an alternative to sports drinks try this:

1 quart clean water
1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
8 teaspoons sugar
and lemon juice

Why more water and less soda and juice?

Drink Water Brief ENG.jpg

Many people in our community think juice is good to drink because it has vitamins. Even though 100% pure juice has vitamins that are good for you, it also has a lot of sugar. Just a single glass of 100% juice has about 7 teaspoons of sugar.
Because it has so much sugar, a glass of 100% fruit juice has about 150 calories. That is a very big part of the calories your body needs – especially if you are a child - and that’s only one glass of juice! If you drink too many calories, you or your child may gain excess weight.

Watch out for fruit drinks pretending to be fruit juices. Fruit drinks are often just sugar, water, and artificial flavoring. They lack the vitamins and minerals contained in the fruit used to make fruit juice. For this reason while fruit juice counts as a serving of fruit for the day, fruit drinks do not. When you are buying juices, make sure you look for 100% fruit juice and the word juice on the packaging.8

Regular soda has just as much sugar as juice.
Click here to learn how The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Asks New Yorkers if They’re “Pouring On the Pounds”.

Since juice and soda have so many calories, drinking them makes it more likely you will gain weight and also makes it hard to get the right vitamins and minerals without having too many calories. That’s why it’s important to drink water when you are thirsty.

Soda as a statement
Besides its sweet taste that many people like, sometimes serving soda in a household is not simply a matter of taste, but a statement. Soda has often been viewed as a status symbol to many communities, or a signature of wealth. In this case, water is seen as a reminder of poverty (when that is all that is available). It’s time to put soda back into its place as a “sometimes” treat at best, and water, as the king of all beverages.

Sugar by Any Other Name: How To Tell Whether Your Drink Is Sweetened

Sweeteners that add calories to a beverage go by many different names and are not always obvious to anyone looking at the ingredients list. Some common caloric sweeteners are listed below. If these appear in the ingredients listed on your favorite beverage, you are drinking a sugar-sweetened beverage.
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Fructose
• Fruit juice concentrates
• Honey
• Sugar
• Syrup
• Corn syrup
• Sucrose
• Dextrose

Easy Drink Choices

• Water is best!
• Choose water, diet, or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
• For a quick, easy, and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
• Keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge instead of sweetened beverages.
• Serve water with meals.
• Make water more exciting by serving it cold, adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, serve chilled or drink sparkling water.
• Aguas frescas are a great way to drink diluted juices—the flavors you love with fewer calories. See the Recipe below.
• If you do serve juice, be sure it is 100% fruit juice and not a fruit drink.
• When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, go for the small size. Some companies are now selling 8-oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories.
• Be a role model for your friends and family by choosing healthy, low-calorie beverages.

Aguas Frescas: Recipe

Six cups of water
1 pound of Fruit (Cucumber, watermelon, melon, strawberry)
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup of your favorite herb EX mint, rosemary, basil (If you want to a little extra flavor)
(For the healthiest recipe, do not add sugar. For a “sometimes,” sweeter drink, add 2-6 tablespoons of sugar)

Blend 3 cups of water and all the fruit in a blender.
Let the mixture sit and settle for a little while so the flavors can mix.
Pour the blended mixture through a strainer, leaving just the liquid.
Add the remaining water (3 cups), lime juice and (if you are adding it) sugar.

Remember to use as little sugar as possible. Try to maximize the flavor and minimize the calories.

Especially for Kids

Infants and Hydration

Until infants are 7-9 months of age it is best for infants to get most of their liquid from breast milk or formula because this helps ensure they receive adequate nutrition. However, they can drink small amounts of water, especially on very hot days. After they age of 7 months they can start to drink water from a bottle or cup.2

Children and hydration

Water is especially important for the bodies of children. Since children have more water in their bodies than adults, they need to drink more water for their body weight than adults.10 Children ages 1-3 years need 4 cups of water a day, and children 6-11 years need around 7 cups of water a day, just slightly less then adults.11 Most children will let you know when they are thirsty. However, thirst happens when the body’s water is already low, so try to encourage your children to drink regularly throughout the day, especially when playing outside. When in hot and dry climates or when out in the sun at the beach, it is especially important to encourage children to drink water.
Children who participate in organized sports over the summer are especially at risk for overheating. Make sure your children get enough water to be fully hydrated a few hours before activities. Provide fluids and encourage them to drink small amounts often during the activities, and make sure they drink plenty of fluids after they finish any exercise.
Children over the age of 2 should also drink up to 3 glasses of skim or 1% milk during the day; children 1-2 years old should drink whole milk.

Fun Activities: Demonstrate Dehydration with Plants

Show children the importance of water in their bodies by demonstrating what happens when you water a wilting plant. Certain plants like rosemary and peace lilies wilt easily when they dry out and return to their original shape quickly after watering. This gives children a clear image of the effect lack of water can have on a living thing and on their bodies 11.

Fruits and Fruits Juices

Fruits contain important vitamins and minerals for health. Many people value juice as a form of medicine. Fruit juice has its benefits, but fruit juice lacks the fiber contained in whole fruits and is less effective for relieving hunger. Children drinking lots of fruit juice may get too many calories and store the excess energy as extra pounds. In general, it is better to give a child whole fruit than to give fruit juice, and to provide water or low-fat milk if the child is thirsty.

The recommended amount of juice for children each day is:
• Ages 6 months to 1 year: infants do not need any juice at all.
• Ages 1 to 5 years: Although whole fruit is preferable, children can be given up to 1/4 to 1/2 cup 100% juice a day.12

On the “sometimes” occasions when you buy juice, remember to check the label carefully and buy 100% juice that is not sweetened. Some more tips to minimize juice drinking:
• Always give juice in a cup, never in a bottle.
• Do not let a child carry a cup of juice around the house or when playing.
• Never give juice at bedtime.

Summertime Hydration

Your body also needs more water when you are—
• In hot temperatures.
• In dry and/or hot climates.
• At high altitude

The community-based "Vive tu Vida/Live your Life" campaign is sponsored by CHALK (Choosing Healthy & Active Lifestyles for Kids), a NYS Department of Health funded program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Ambulatory Care Network/Columbia University Medical Center Community Pediatrics.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

War Over Soda


The war over soda: New study 

finds link between carbonated

 drinks, higher risk of heart 


Read later list

Next time you are thirsty and pop into your local convenience store to buy a drink, choose carefully. Yet another study has found links between soda and negative effects on your health.
This one is large — involving data from 800,000 people in Japan — and looked at cardiac risk. Researchers found that the more money people spent on carbonated beverages, the more likely they were to suffer from heart attacks of cardiac origin outside of a hospital.
The study, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, found that spending on other types of beverages — including green tea, black tea, coffee, cocoa, fruit or vegetable juice, fermented milk beverage, milk and mineral water — didn't appear to lead to the same risk.
Keijiro Saku, a study author and professor of cardiology at Fukuoka University, theorized that "the acid in carbonated beverages might play an important role in this association."
The battle over sugary drinks has come to a head in recent months with dueling studies and public health messaging campaigns about what soda does to your body.
In March, researchers quantified what diet soda does to your waistline, calculating that those who consumed daily and occasional diet soda were linked to nearly three times as much belly fat as those who didn't consume the drinks. In June, after a study in the journal Circulation by Tufts University researchers estimated that sugary beverages are responsible for 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 from cardiovascular disease and 6,450 from cancer, many doctors warned that people should cut down on those drinks.
In July, a former pharmacist's graphic representation on a blog of what happens to your body one hour after you drink a can of Coca-Cola went viral — spurring heated discussion about the accuracy of the analysis and the possible dangers of drinking too much soda.
Coca-Cola has been fighting back through a nonprofit that funds medical research with the message that it is not diet but lack of exercise that is to blame for America's obesity epidemic.
Saku emphasized that in the Japan study the researchers used expenditures on carbonated beverages as a proxy for consumption and that there was no way to determine a causal link.  He said in an e-mail that the data was also limited because it did not contain information about the type of carbonated beverage purchased — whether it was a sugary soda like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, or mineral water like Perrier.
"Since this detailed information is not available in Japan, a large-scale population-based cohort study will be needed, but we think it is a very good evidence to warning children" to reduce intake of beverages like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, etc., he said.
The American Beverage Association, which represents America's non-alcoholic beverage industry, emphasized in a statement that "the researchers themselves admit that there is not sufficient evidence to make a causal link between carbonated beverages and heart attacks."
“There are numerous factors that contribute to heart attacks," the group said. "No single food, beverage or ingredient causes heart disease — or any other adverse health outcomes.”
This post has been updated.

Ariana Eunjung Cha is a national reporter. She has previously served as the Post's bureau chief in Shanghai and San Francisco, and as a correspondent in Baghdad.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How Should We Eat?


How Should We Eat?
FEB. 25, 2015

 Mark Bittman

The recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a nutrition panel that helps update and revise federal dietary guidelines, were announced last week and are easy to parse: The panel, a collection of 14 health experts with dozens of specialists in support, emphasizes things that just about everyone agrees upon: that we need a diet more oriented toward plants, that we should reduce calorie consumption in general, and that less sugar would be a good thing. Not much new there, or surprising.

But on some levels the report is disappointing: For one thing, it’s 571 pages (not surprisingly, it stumbles over itself). And it focuses on individual nutrients at the expense of sending simpler messages. No one wants to think about “eating” (or, even worse, “consuming”) cholesterol or saturated fat or sodium or “sweeteners.” We want to think about eating food.

This is a long-term problem. For years government agencies have all but ignored the value of real food, of cooking, of well-produced, actually natural — the word must mean something, after all — food as opposed to its components or its hyperprocessed substitutes, and of eating with friends and family in a relaxed manner. (There’s a reason life expectancy in most OECD countries is higher than ours.) Agencies repeatedly ignored evidence that would have led to better advice because Big Food’s muscle prevented statements that would have cut consumption — such as “eat less meat,” or “don’t drink soda.”

The great news is that that’s changing. The report is not a paradigm shift, but it does contain significant improvements. Though it remains to be seen how many of the committee’s recommendations become official, if turned into guidelines they would constitute by far the best version ever. (They’re issued every five years.) So we should hope that the recommendations are eagerly adopted by the panel’s commissioning agencies, Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.

The recent history of government recommendations is not pretty. At least some of the 117 million Americans who have “preventable, chronic diseases” (the report’s number, and phrasing) do so at least in part because of the failings of recommendations like these. (You can’t blame this current committee for that, because each panel has a unique makeup of experts. But previous panels tracked reigning “wisdom” that was arguably based more on strong personalities than science.)

In fact, the whole less fat/more carbohydrates mess — disaster is not too strong a word, since it likely contributed to the obesity and chronic disease crisis — can be attributed in large part to similarly official dietary recommendations, which in turn are the fault of agency weakness in the face of industry intransigence. For this you can thank lobbying, the revolving-door policy and the traps of campaign financing. (This is an example of a point I make often: You can’t revolutionize food policy without changing how government works.)

We all make mistakes, though we don’t all make mistakes that abet epidemics. But this report is making fewer, and that’s progress. Let’s look at some strong points:

1. The report recognizes that environmental factors should play a role in determining diet. It’s unlikely some meat is “bad” for you, but what’s clear is that the industrial production of livestock takes way more resources than producing any other food, and that there is simply not enough land, water, chemicals or anything else to produce unlimited meat for everyone who can afford it. Acknowledging that is a big step.

2. It finally says that dietary cholesterol isn’t much of a problem; you can forget counting milligrams. Think of all those eggs you missed!

3. It lumps together “sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains,” as it should. That’s real progress. Equally valuable is this: “taxation on higher sugar- and sodium-containing foods may encourage consumers to reduce consumption and revenues generated could support health promotion efforts. Alternatively, price incentives on vegetables and fruits could be used to promote consumption and public health benefits.”

4. It eases, though probably not as much as it will in the future, its strictures against fat, though not against saturated fat, where the recommendations remain unchanged. (As Nina Teicholz, the author of “The Big Fat Surprise,” pointed out last weekend in an Op-Ed piece, and as I wrote last year, the whole saturated fat thing is being roundly challenged. Stay tuned here.)

5. It tells you to drink all the coffee you want, up to something like five cups a day, which makes some people ecstatic. But far more important is this statement: “Strategies are needed to encourage the U.S. population to drink water when they are thirsty.” Imagine if that were official policy.

Industry representatives hate the report — a good indicator of its value — and will fight to keep its recommendations from becoming policy. (Saying “eat less meat” is way different from saying “eat more lean meat.”) We should carefully monitor the current public comment period, which will be followed by a review by the Health and Agriculture Departments later this year, before the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans will be published. The smart environmental qualifications, and much else, will be fought furiously. But whatever is adopted will become official policy and will strongly affect school lunches and other federally funded meal-serving programs. Overall, these recommendations deserve our support (you can register your comments here) and our awareness that they need to go further.

The recommendations are perhaps more complicated than we’d like, but they must stand up to Big Food, which will fight, deny, complicate and more, just as it’s fighting the Food and Drug Administration’s better-labeling laws, and just as it’s trying to roll back advances in school lunches. Industry’s job is to confuse every issue, to make sure that what we eat is profitable regardless of its value. In short, Big Food wants the corn-and-soybean status quo.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think it would help if we had an overarching statement defining “food” and our rights regarding it, something like “All Americans have the right to nutritious, affordable, sustainable and fair food.” That would signal intent, and a recognition that although the science may never be entirely clear, people’s rights should trump industry’s “needs.”

Policy can make things much simpler. Michael Pollan’s justifiably famous seven words — “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” — get at the root, and a more detailed explanation could be executed in just a couple of paragraphs. Many other countries are learning from our mistakes, and beginning to develop national food policies that have some teeth.

Food policy pits the profits of the very few against the needs and rights of many. We can whittle away at those profits, but it would be faster, healthier and even more delicious if we brought about a transition with more urgency.