Just because a beverage is labeled "diet" doesn't mean it's good for you. Researchers are linking low-calorie drinks to a number of medical issues, from an increased waistline to stroke. Is this just another health scare? Lifescript's Health Detective gets to the bottom of this bubbling issue.
Choosing a diet drink over a high-calorie beverage feels good. Righteous, even, But don't pat yourself on the back just yet. In recent years, many studies have suggested that diet sodas might harm your health.
Findings from a study published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2013 found that artificial sweeteners are linked to obesity; they may increase the risk for diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease; and they may also increase the risk of learning difficulties.
When the body responds normally to sugar, it signals that an intake of both calories and sugar has occurred so the body can release the hormones needed to prepare," according to the study's lead author, Susan Swithers, Ph.D., a professor of the department of psychological sciences and ingestive behavior research center at Perdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
"This prevents big spikes in blood sugar, and those same hormones are thought to have direct effects on feeling full."
The consumption of sweet-tasting but non-caloric or reduced-calorie food and beverages interferes with the body's normal responses, the study suggests. And blunting those responses could cause people to overeat and experience higher blood sugar levels, which could lead to type 2 diabetes.
What's diet sodas' role in the above health issues and others, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and kidney problems? That's the $21 billion question--the amount Americans spend on low-calorie drinks annually.
"There's a connection between diet soda and negative health outcomes," Swithers says. But it's unclear whether the drinks are directly responsible, or if people with health issues or unhealthy behaviors just happen to consume more of them, she adds.
Lifescript's Health Detective found that women who drink these beverages daily could have reason to worry. Here's the truth about how diet soda can affect your health.
WEIGHT GAIN--It may seem counterintuitive that zero-calorie beverages could make you pack on pounds, but the research bears this out time and again. Beverages in general don't provide the feeling of fullness or satisfaction as solid foods, because the body doesn't register liquid calories the same way it does calories from solid food, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. This may prompt you to eat even after having a high-calorie drink.
Sweet-tasting soft drinks--whether they're sweetened with sugar or a calorie-free substitute--may stimulate the appetite for other sweet, high-carbohydrate foods. But because people consider soda a drink and cookies a dessert, they're more likely to limit food than beverages, even though the soda may contain more sugar.
Then there's the "Big Mac, fries and diet soda" theory. Wishful thinkers who believe a diet soda will counterbalance a high-calorie meal end up consuming more than they should.
"People use diet sodas as an excuse to eat poorly," says Ramachandran Vasan, M.D., professor and chief of preventative medicine and epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine.
Those who drink more low-calorie beverages tend to eat foods with more saturated and trans-fats, exercise less and eat fewer fruits and vegetables, he adds.
OSTEOPOROSIS--For many women, nothing refreshes after a workout like a diet drink. But this could be undoing exercise's benefit to her bones. About 40 million Americans, most of whom are women, are at risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and vulnerable to fracture, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
What is the link between diet drinks and bone loss? Phosphoric acid, a flavoring agent that increases blood acidity. It's a major component in many types of soda, but cola tends to have more.
Phosphorus itself is an important bone mineral, but excess amounts may lead to bone loss because the body tries to neutralize excess acid by taking calcium from bones. Some experts also believe that people replace calcium-rich beverages like milk with diet sodas, leading women to take in lower levels of the bone-building nutrient.
"Your calcium requirements increase after age 50," says osteoporosis expert Robert Heaney, M.D., a professor of medicine at Creighton School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb. Women of any age should have 3 servings of dairy products per day for optimal calcium intake, whether they drink soda or not, he advises.
HEART DISEASE--Drinking two or more diet drinks a day may increase the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women, according to a study by researchers at the University of Iowa. The findings of the study of nearly 60,000 women in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology earlier in 2014.
Women who consume two or more diet drinks a day are 30% more likely than those who never or rarely do to have a cardiovascular event and are 50% more likely to die from related disease.
This is one of the largest studies on this topic, and our finding are consistent with some previous data," says Ankur Vyas, M.D., a fellow in cardiovascular disease at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the study's lead investigator.
METABOLIC SYNDROME--Forty-seven million Americans have metabolic syndrome, although many may not know it, according to the American Heart Association. It's linked to several health conditions. Metabolic syndrome isn't a disease. It's a cluster of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, including a large waistline, high levels of triglycerides, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure and high-fasting blood sugar.
KIDNEY DISEASE--If you drink two or more diet sodas daily, you could double your risk of decreased kidney function, according to results from the Nurses' Health Study, one of the largest and longest-running investigations of factors influencing women's health. It surveyed 3,000 nurses over 11 years.
Your kidneys serve several important purposes, including filtering waste products from blood and regulating blood pressure.
Kidney function decreases with age, says researcher Julie Lin, M.D., assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and kidney specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
The study found that the "rate of kidney function loss was three times faster in women who drank diet soda compared with aging alone."
Drinking one diet soda daily didn't decrease kidney function. Drinking two or more diet sodas, though, appeared to cause problems.
One theory: Diet sweeteners could lead to kidney scarring, Dr. Lin says. Further studies are needed.
So what should you do when you feel the urge for a fizzy drink? Try a zero-calorie fruit-flavored seltzer. But read the label to be sure it contains natural flavors only and is free of the artificial sweeteners you want to avoid.
You are well aware of the saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away", right? Perhaps you have wondered why?
What exactly is it about this seemingly magical fruit that causes doctors and health experts from all around the world to advertise the health benefits of apples? Is it due solely to the high levels of nutritional content in apples.
We are now beginning to gain a better understanding of the vitamins found in apples, as well as the highly beneficial characteristics of the numerous compounds found in apples.
Knowing why apples are good for you and your family will further encourage you to pursue them as a vital part of your family's diet.
Before we look at some of the many health benefits of apples, you may be wondering why you can't just take vitamins that contain the same nutrients as found in apples. That is a good question.
It is better to eat apples than it is merely to take vitamins because it now appears that the many vitamins and minerals found in apples act together to provide you with more benefits than when taken alone. Simply put, the sum of an apple is more valuable than its individual vitamins and minerals. The health benefits of apples are:
Continued Mental Health--Now, let's get to the benefits! According to NutritionData.com the phytonutrients found in apples can protect your brain form debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson's. These diseases sprout from the breakdown of the brain.
If you want to maintain your full mental capabilities for you and your family as you enter the later stages of your life.
High Levels of Fiber--Another benefit of apples, although less known, is its ability to provide your body with sufficient levels of fiber. You will not usually find fiber listed within the content of apple nutrition, but fiber offers substantial value to your diet. Fiber is known for its tendency to ensure both digestive regularity and relief of constipation.
AmericanHeart.org states that fiber also helps in the fight against many potentially fatal diseases, including different forms of cancer and heart disease. It can also help prevent other not-so-serious-yet highly annoying-problems such as hemorrhoids and Crohn's disease.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes--One of the biggest myths in the medical field is the idea that women do not need to be concerned about heart disease. It has long been thought of as a "man's disease", but the title has turned in recent years. We now know that women are prone to heart disease, particularly as they move on in years.
The good news is that with frequent checkups, steady exercise, and a healthy diet, you can reduce your risk of any major problems. Keeping with our theme, consider apples an integral part of your healthy diet. Studies completed by NYApplesCountry.com has shown that the consumption of apples leads to a lower risk for heart trouble.
The jury is still out on just how much apples can benefit your heart, but one recent experiment showed that women who had eaten apples for an extended period had a 15% decease in cardiovascular disease risk. That is good news for you-and for your family who wants you around for a long time. Not only can apples decrease your risk of heart disease, they can also reduce your risk for diabetes. Several studies have shown that women who consumed at least an apple a day were able to reduce their risk of Type II diabetes.
Many of the preventative vitamins were found in the peel of the apple. Your kids may not like the peel, and you may even be prone to removing it yourself, but it is an essential part of the apple. Later on we will briefly touch upon the benefits of eating the whole apple.
Weight Loss and a Reduction in Asthma--If you have any interest in losing weight, you will be glad to know that apples have also been associated with significant weight loss. WeightLossForAll.com features a Brazilian study of middle-aged women that shows that they were more likely to lose weight if they consumed apples on a regular basis.
Another group of overweight women asked to eat three apples a day eventually showed more weight loss than women who had similarly eaten other fruits for the same amount of time. Eating apples also led to a lower glucose level for many women, thus providing yet another in a long line of health benefits of apples.
Apples have also been known to decrease the effects of asthma. In fact, your favorite red fruit is often associated with improving general pulmonary health. Apples have consistently proven to be more effective in fighting pulmonary problems than other fruits and vegetables.
Reduced Risk of Lung Cancer--We have covered some pretty big topics of concern so far, but here is the biggie. As a woman, one of the most intimidating diseases you hope to avoid is cancer. Much has been said about the disease that strikes fear in every woman's heart. There is an ongoing effort to identify every little factor that can help reduce your risk for cancer. Believe it or not, apples can play a role in your fight against the deadly disease.
Lung cancer is the most common cancer to be thwarted by eating apples. Recent studies done by NYAppleCountry.com state that women who consumed at least one apple per day reduced their risk of lung cancer. As with all forms of cancer, and diseases in general, the role of prevention cannot be overstated.
There are a couple of other things you should know about apples, in addition to the health benefits they offer. They are most beneficial when eaten as a whole fruit. While they are quite delicious when combined with certain sauces or when peeled, remember that anything that is done to an apple to alter its original content will reduce its level of nutrition.
The peel is one of the most nutritious parts of the apple, so get into the habit of including it when you eat an apple. Go ahead and eat the whole thing-except for the stem and seeds, of course!!
Additionally, while we have learned the many ways in which apples can help you, keep in mind that they should not be you sole source of nutrition. You will most benefit by thinking of them as one key ingredient in your larger recipe for a healthy life. You want to remain as vibrant as you are now, so develop the habits that will make that happen.
The health benefits of apples are plentiful. Apples reduce the risk of a variety of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and help you as you seek to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
From its creamy texture to its ability to fight belly fat, there is so much to love about the avocado. But there can be too much of a good thing--especially when it comes to calories? It's so easy to polish off a single avocado in one sitting. And while a single apple or banana counts as a serving of fruit, the avocado falls outside of this simple rule of thumb. Despite being high in good-for-you monounsaturated fats, which are considered a magic bullet in the battle against belly bulge and heart disease, fat is still fat even if it is the "good" kind.
For a 2000-calorie diet, the daily intake of fat, including MUFAs, is capped at 65 grams. A five-ounce, medium-size avocado (roughly one cup) contains 23 grams of fat--that's almost one third of your fat intake for a day--and roughly 250 calories. For comparison, a medium apple is just under 100 calories and is relatively fat free. It's sad to say, a serving size of avocado is not the entire piece of fruit, but one-fifth of it, which is only and ounce. That's about two to three slices.
Now, if you're accustomed to topping your salad with an entire avocado, fear not. Nutritionist, Julie Upton, says that habit is ok as long as you adjust your diet to account for those extra calories and use it to replace "low-quality carbs or other foods rich in saturated fats." She suggests skipping the croutons and topping your greens with avocado, or replacing the cheese on your turkey sandwich with avocado. She qualifies her statement by adding that "a half of an avocado per day is a more reasonable serving."