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Sugar and Salt: The Battle to See Which Kills More of Us

A recent study found a correlation between how high a nation’s sugar consumption is and its type 2 diabetes rate. Now researchers are taking it a grim step further by estimating how many deaths can be directly attributed to sugary drinks.

Researchers at Harvard have linked sugary drinks to the deaths of 25,000 Americans every year and 180,000 deaths worldwide.

“We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to obesity, and that a large number of deaths are caused by obesity-related diseases. But until now, nobody had really put these pieces together,” said Gitanjali Singh, the lead author of the five-year study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

soda and chips

In a not-so-shocking development, The American Beverage Association issued a critical response to the study’s findings.

“It does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer – the real causes of death among the studied subjects,” the industry group said in a written statement. “The researchers make a huge leap when they take beverage intake calculations from around the globe and allege that those beverages are the cause of deaths which the authors themselves acknowledge are due to chronic disease.”
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Sugar is Our Biggest National Health Threat, and Candy May be the Biggest Gun

The war on junk food is in full throttle. It began its slow escalation from proposals to improve school lunches and banning soda machines in schools, then maybe took a left turn into a little absurdity with the Mayor Bloomberg-led moratorium on giant-sized sodas in New York City (which takes effect tomorrow).

Junk food has been front and center in recent weeks as a high profile New York Times report outright accused food makers of a concerted effort to hook the public on cheap unhealthy snacks. Now, sugar is back in the crosshairs, and candy makers are beginning to sweat.

sugar study

It’s nothing short of surreal: the candy industry wants to offer solutions to the obesity crisis.

“If we don’t [act], I worry that someone else will do it for us.” said Debra Sandler, president of Mars Chocolate in North America at the National Confectioners Association meeting in Miami. “We need the whole industry to step up… We are not judged by the leaders of the category but by those who do not take responsibility for change.”

One place Mars and its competitors are starting – their youngest consumers. “They have adopted a policy to voluntarily stop direct marketing of candy to children under 12 years old. That’s a start,” noted Mary Hartley, RD, our resident nutrition expert.
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Cola Wars: Soda Industry and Health Advocates Clash Over Obesity Blame

There’s a new cola war going on, but it’s a little more serious than the old Pepsi vs. Coke feud of decades past. Obesity is out of control, stretching our already stretched-thin health care system, and sugar consumption is center stage.

So, what do you do when you are the purveyor of some of the biggest selling, empty-calorie, sugar-laden drinks in our country’s history? Well, you play damage control, of course.

soda ban debate“We have not done a good enough job in telling our story and being consistent in telling our story,” said Coca-Cola spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante.

Right, the problem is that people don’t know what Coca-Cola is really all about. In reality, we’re talking about a propaganda war. Try to soften the blow of bad publicity, then draw more attention to your diet soda by signing a major celebrity spokeswoman — Taylor Swift announced her partnership pitching Diet Coke last Sunday:

 

But back to damage control. Coke decided to take on obesity directly, with their “Coming Together” campaign, pointing out that of their 650 beverages, they offer 180 low- or no-calorie drinks.
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Sweet ‘n Sad: Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Depression Risk

A study from the American Academy of Neurology has found a link between sweetened drinks and a higher risk of depression, with diet soda being the highest risk. Conversely, unsweetened coffee got kudos for appearing to decrease the depression risk.

“Sweetened beverages, coffee and tea are commonly consumed worldwide and have important physical — and may have important mental — health consequences,” said study researcher Honglei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., an investigator in the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Researchers studied the drinking habits of 263,925 people between 50 and 71 years old for a year. After a decade they checked back in with them and found 11,311 participants were diagnosed with depression. Frequently consuming sweetened drinks was linked to a modestly higher risk of depression.
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Natural Fructose in Fruit is Fine; It’s the High Fructose Corn Syrup That Gets Us in Trouble

Remember a time when you were eating, but never felt full and ended up eating more food? This could be caused by the consumption of fructose. As reported by Medical News Study, researchers found glucose and fructose have an influence on parts of the brain that control appetite.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Assocation (JAMA), found that fructose produces hormones in the brain that will leave you feeling hungry. However, the study did find that glucose will leave you filling fuller and satisfied. Glucose is a type of sugar you get from food, which your body takes and turns into energy.

Since fructose makes your brain think you are still hungry and causes you to eat more, could there be a link between fructose and obesity?

Our resident dietitian, Mary Hartley RD, comments on the study’s new findings, saying, “Excessive fructose intake may have a link to obesity, but it is too early to tell. It is very difficult to single out a particular nutrient to blame. In addition, obesity is a multifactorial problem and contributing factors are not the same for all people.”
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