Drinking soft drinks is associated with higher blood pressure, according to a study of over 2,500 people reported this week in the journal Hypertension. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Someone with a blood pressure level in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) of 135 over 85 is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone with a reading of 115 over 75.
The new research shows that for every extra can of soft drink consumed per day, participants on average had a higher systolic blood pressure by 1.6 mmHg and a higher diastolic blood pressure by 0.8 mmHg. This difference was statistically significant even after adjusting for factors such as weight and height. The study did not examine the mechanism that might link soft drinks with blood pressure. However, the researchers suggest that raised uric acid, which has been linked to soft drink consumption, might raise blood pressure by reducing the levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes the lining of the blood vessels.
The association between soft drinks and higher blood pressure was especially strong in people who consumed a lot of salt as well as sugar. Diet drinks were linked with lower blood pressure levels in some analyses, but the association was not consistent or strong. Professor Paul Elliott, senior author of the study, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “It’s widely known that if you have too much salt in your diet, you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure. The results of this study suggest that people should be careful about how much sugar they consume as well.”
The researchers analysed data from 2,696 volunteers aged between 40 and 59, in eight areas of the US and two areas of the UK. On four separate occasions over a period of three weeks on average, the participants reported what they had eaten in the preceding 24 hours, as well as giving urine samples and having their blood pressure measured. The volunteers were taking part in INTERMAP, the International Study of Macronutrients, Micronutrients and Blood Pressure.
The researchers also found that people who drink more soft drinks tended to have more unhealthy diets in general. As well as consuming more sugar, those consuming more than one soft drink a day consumed more calories by 397 kilocalories per day on average, and less fibre and minerals. Those who did not consume soft drinks had a lower body mass index (BMI) on average than those who consumed more than one drink per day. “Individuals who drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages appear to have less healthy diets,” said Dr Ian Brown, the study’s first author, also from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “They are consuming empty calories without the nutritional benefits of real food. They consume less potassium, magnesium and calcium.” “This is a population study,” Dr Brown added. “It can’t say definitively that sugary drinks raise your blood pressure, but it’s one piece of the evidence in a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be completed. In the meantime, we would advise people who want to drink sugar-sweetened beverages should do so only in moderation.”
Supplementing diet with whey-based protein may help reduce high blood pressure, a U.S. researcher says.
Nutritional biochemist Susan Fluegel of Washington State University in Spokane says daily doses of commonly available whey brought a more than 6-point reduction in the average blood pressure of men and women with elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Whey is a by-product of cheese-making. “One of the things I like about this is it is low-cost,” Fluegel says in a statement. “Not only that, whey protein has not been shown to be harmful in any way.”
The study, published in International Dairy Journal, finds not everyone drinking the whey-supplemented drink has changes in blood pressure.
The supplement did not lower the blood pressure of subjects who did not have elevated pressure to begin with. That's good, says Fluegel, since low blood pressure can also be a problem. However, blood-pressure reductions — as seen in those with elevated pressure in this study — can bring a 35 percent to 40 percent reduction in fatal strokes, says Fluegel.
Fluegel and colleagues looked at 71 student subjects ages 18-26, but Fluegel says older people with blood pressure issues would likely get similar results. The supplement was delivered in fruit-flavored drinks developed at the university's creamery.
According to a new study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the USDA, conducted a study with 15,000 adults in the United States, and found that people who drink too many alcoholic beverages are more likely to eat less fruit and consume more calories from a combination of alcoholic beverages and foods high in unhealthy fats and sugar.
“Heavy drinking and dietary factors have independently been associated with cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and other chronic health problems,” said NIAAA Acting Director Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D. “This finding raises questions about whether the combination of alcohol misuse and poor diet might interact to further increase health risks.”
“We found that as alcoholic beverage consumption increased, Healthy Eating Index scores decreased, an indication of poorer food choices,” said first author Rosalind A. Breslow, Ph.D., an epidemiologist in NIAAA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research.
A previous study by Dr. Breslow showed that the more alcohol people drink, the poorest quality diets they had. In addition to eating less fruits and vegetables, the researchers also found that increased alcoholic beverage consumption was associated with a decreased intake of whole grains and milk among men.
“Our findings underscore the importance of moderation for individuals who choose to consume alcoholic beverages, and a greater awareness of healthy food choices among such individuals,” says Dr. Breslow.
It is very important to control the amount of alcohol you consume. It could greatly affect you health.
In an earlier investigation, the researchers had looked at the hormonal effects of diet cola ingestion on parathyroid hormone, calcium, phosphorus, insulin, alkaline phosphotase, and ghrelin.
The researchers thought that because of the phosphorus load, PTH would surge, but they found exactly the opposite, “which was that it comes down and sort of comes back to baseline; alkaline phosphatase increases also,” Larson said. “We thought, 'Well, that suggests there's some turnover of bone going on, and maybe there's some calcium being mobilized and it's going out in the urine and that might partially account for the fracture risk and decreased bone density that's being described.”
With results from that earlier study as the impetus, Larson and colleagues undertook the current study, for which they recruited 20 healthy women, ages 18 to 40.
Exclusion criteria were fracture within the prior six months, known bone disease or vitamin D deficiency, steroid or diuretic use, breast-feeding, and vitamin D supplementation above the current U.S. recommended daily allowance.
The participants were randomized to drink 24 ounces of either water or diet cola on two study days. Urine was collected for three hours after ingestion of the designated beverage and assayed for calcium, phosphorous, and creatinine using standard assays.
Data were analyzed on 16 participants; four were excluded because of lab error or failure to comply with the study protocol, the researchers said.
In addition to the higher calcium and phosphorus excretion, the investigators also found that normalized calcium and phosphorous excretion per gram of creatinine showed a trend in the same direction as total calcium and phosphorous per three hours. That figure did not achieve statistical significance, however.
Although the study was small, “it does look like there was a statistically significant rise in urine calcium,” said Larson. “The important part about that is that Diet Coke has no calcium content.”
Compared with milk, which also causes a rise in urine calcium but is replacing calcium at the same time, diet colas “would [create] an overall negative body calcium balance and that could partially explain why they appear to be bad for bones,” she said.
Although the study is too small to draw any firm conclusions, “certainly my personal practice among adolescent girls who tend to be concerned about their weight — and who drink diet beverages while they are in that critical period of bone formation — is to just try and counsel them to set habits of drinking calcium-containing beverages and maintaining adequate vitamin D,” said Larson.
Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD, of the University of California San Diego, called the study “fabulous.”
Barrett-Connor, who was not involved in the study, said that although it was a small and short-term trial, “it fits with all my preconceived ideas” about the nutritional problems with diet soda. “This [is new] but it just makes sense.”
The study was funded by the Walter Reed Department of Clinical Investigations.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which was funded by The Dannon Company, Inc., involved 638 healthy children aged three to six, all of whom attended school five days a week. Parents were asked to give their child a strawberry yogurt-like drink every day. Some of the drinks contained the probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) and the others did not. Parents were also asked to record how many yogurt drinks their child consumed and to keep notes on their child's health.
At the end of the study, there was a 19 percent decrease in the number of common infections—e.g., ear infections, flu, diarrhea, sinusitis–among children who had consumed the yogurt drink with the probiotics than those who had the drink without the beneficial bacteria. When the researchers broke out the individual types of illness, they found that children who had the probiotic beverage had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections (e.g., diarrhea, nausea, vomiting), and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections (e.g., ear, sinusitis, strep).
The reduction in infections did not, however, result in fewer days lost from school. Merenstein commented that “It is my hope that safe and tolerable ways to reduce illnesses could eventually result in fewer missed school days which means fewer work days missed by parents.”
The finding that the probiotic yogurt drink reduced infections in children, however, is significant. This joins results from other studies demonstrating benefits of probiotics in children, including one published in Pediatrics in which they reduced cold and flu symptoms, another in which they eased diarrhea, and one showing they helped prevent eczema in infants. Generally, probiotics have also been shown to benefit people who have celiac disease, irritable bowel, colitis, and possibly autism.
Georgetown University Medical Center
Working overtime puts people at increased risk of coronary heart disease, according to a new study published in the European Heart Journal. CHD occurs when plaque builds up in and narrows the arteries through which blood reaches the heart, which can lead to a heart attack. Specifically, working three to four hours extra (amounting to an 11- or 12-hour work day) was associated with a 1.56-fold increased risk of CHD.
Previous studies have also shown that overtime work is linked to hypertension, sleep problems and depression.
The European researchers followed 6,014 British civil servants aged 39 to 61 for 11 years. Just less than half worked at least one hour of overtime a day, or up to four hours. Those who worked overtime were more often young, male, married or living with a partner, and in more prestigious occupations. The risk of CHD increased in tandem with the number of extra hours worked.
Overtime workers slept less, and reported higher rates of “psychological distress,” according to the study. They often exhibited “Type A behaviour,” which the researchers define as “a chronic, incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time, and is also believed to be characterized by aggressiveness and irritability,” which is also a risk factor for CHD. The researchers also speculate that overtime workers ignore illness, which may aggravate health problems over the long-term.
Perhaps surprisingly, these participants did not exhibit other behaviours that would compromise their heart health: Overtime workers did not drink excessively, smoke or have diabetes. In fact, they actually had better habits—consuming more fruits and vegetables and exercising more often—than those workers who never clocked overtime hours.
In an accompanying editorial entitled “Overtime is bad for the heart,” Gordon McInnes of the University of Glasgow concludes with a quotation from English philosopher Bertrand Russell: “If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who considers work important.”
How Much Should I Eat?
How much you should eat depends on how active you are. If you eat more calories than your body uses, you gain weight.
What are calories? Calories are a way to count how much energy is in food. You use the energy you get from food to do the things you need to do each day.
Just counting calories is not enough for making healthy choices. For example, a medium banana, 1 cup of flaked cereal, 2-1/2 cups of cooked spinach, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or 1 cup of 1% milk–all have roughly the same number of calories. But, the foods are different in many ways. Some have more of the nutrients you might need than others do. Milk gives you more calcium than a banana, and peanut butter gives you more protein than cereal. And a banana is likely to make you feel fuller than a tablespoon of peanut butter.
How many calories do people over age 50 need each day?
- who is not physically active needs about 1,600 calories
- who is somewhat active needs about 1,800 calories
- who has an active lifestyle needs about 2,000-2,200 calories
- who is not physically active needs about 2,000 calories
- who is somewhat active needs about 2,200-2,400 calories
- who has an active lifestyle needs about 2,400-2,800 calories
Here's a tip: Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, if not all days of the week.
How Much Is on My Plate?
How does the food on your plate compare to how much you should be eating? For example, one very large chicken breast could be more from the meat/beans group than you are supposed to eat in a whole day. Here are some general ways you can check:
3 ounces of meat, poultry, or fish = deck of cards
½ cup of fruit, rice, pasta, or ice cream = ½ baseball
1 cup of salad greens = baseball
1-1/2 ounces of cheese = 4 stacked dice
1 teaspoon of butter or margarine = 1 dice (or die)
2 tablespoons of peanut butter = ping pong ball
1 cup of flaked cereal or a baked potato = fist
Read the Label
At first, reading labels on many packaged foods may take some time. The facts there can help you make better food choices. Labels have a Nutrition Facts panel. It tells how much protein, carbohydrates, fats, sodium, key vitamins and minerals, and calories are in a serving. The panel also shows how many servings are in the package—be careful because sometimes what you think is one serving is really more.
Each can, bottle, or package label also has an ingredients list. Items are listed from largest amount to smallest.
Having Problems with Food?
Does your favorite chicken dish taste different? As you grow older, your sense of taste and sense of smell may change. Foods may seem to have lost flavor. Also, medicines can change how food tastes. They can also make you feel less hungry. Talk to your doctor about whether there is a different medicine you could use. Try extra spices or herbs on your foods to add flavor.
As you get older, you might not be able to eat all the foods you used to eat. For example, some people become lactose intolerant. They have symptoms like stomach pain, gas, or diarrhea after eating or drinking something with milk in it, like ice cream. Most can eat small amounts of such food or can try yogurt, buttermilk, or hard cheese. Lactose-free foods are available now also. Your doctor can test to see if you are lactose intolerant.
Is it harder to chew? Maybe your dentures need to fit better, or your gums are sore. If so, a dentist can help you. Until then, you might want to eat softer foods that are easier to chew.
Do I Need to Drink Water?
With age, you may lose some of your sense of thirst. Drink plenty of liquids like water, juice, milk, and soup. Don't wait until you feel thirsty. Try to drink several large glasses of water each day. Your urine should be pale yellow. If it is a bright or dark yellow, you need to drink more liquids.
Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have trouble controlling your urine. Don't stop drinking liquids. There are better ways to help bladder control problems.
What about Fibre?
Fibre is found in foods from plants—fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Eating more fibre might prevent stomach or intestine problems, like constipation. It might also help lower cholesterol, as well as blood sugar.
It is better to get fibre from food than dietary supplements. Start adding more fibre slowly. That will help avoid unwanted gas. Here are some tips for adding fibre:
- Eat cooked dry beans, peas, and lentils often.
- Leave skins on your fruit and vegetables if possible.
- Choose whole fruit over fruit juice.
- Eat whole-grain breads and cereals.
- Drink plenty of liquids to help fibre move through your intestines.
Should I Cut Back on Salt?
The usual way people get sodium is by eating salt. The body needs sodium, but too much can make blood pressure go up in some people. Most fresh food contains some sodium. Salt is added to many canned and prepared foods.
People tend to eat more salt than they need. If you are over age 50, about 2/3 of a teaspoon of table salt–1500 milligrams (mg) of sodium–is all you need each day. That includes all the sodium in your food and drink, not just the salt you add when cooking or eating. If your doctor tells you to use less salt, ask about a salt substitute. Some contain sodium. Also, don't add salt during cooking or at the table, and avoid salty snacks and processed foods. Look for the word sodium, not salt, on the Nutrition Facts panel. Choose foods labeled “low-sodium.” Often, the amount of sodium in the same kind of food can vary greatly between brands.
Here's a tip: Spices, herbs, and lemon juice can add flavor to your food, so you won't miss the salt.
What about Fat?
Fat in your diet comes from two places–the fat already found in food and the fat added when you cook. Fat gives you energy and helps your body use certain vitamins, but it is high in calories. To lower the fat in your diet:
Choose cuts of meat, fish, or poultry (with the skin removed) with less fat. Trim off any extra fat before cooking. Use low-fat dairy products and salad dressings. Use non-stick pots and pans, and cook without added fat. Choose an unsaturated or monosaturated vegetable oil (check the label) or a nonfat cooking spray. Instead of frying, broil, roast, bake, stir-fry, steam, microwave, or boil foods.
Keeping Food Safe
Older people must take extra care to keep their food safe to eat. As you get older, you are less able to fight off infections, and some foods could make you very sick. Be sure to fully cook eggs, pork, fish, shellfish, poultry, and hot dogs. Talk to your doctor or Nastaran about foods to avoid. These might include raw sprouts, some deli meats, and foods that are not pasteurized (heated to destroy disease-causing organisms), like some milk products and juices in the refrigerated section of the grocery.
Before cooking, handle raw food with care. Keep it apart from foods that are already cooked or won't be cooked, like salad, fruit, or bread. Be careful with tools–your knife, plate, or cutting board, for example. Don't cut raw meat with the same knife you will use to make a salad. Rinse raw fruits and vegetables before eating. Use hot soapy water to wash your hands, tools, and work surfaces as you cook.
As you get older, you can't depend on sniffing or tasting food to tell if it has gone bad. Try putting dates on foods in your refrigerator. Check the “use by” date on foods. If in doubt, toss it out.
Here's a tip: Make sure food gets into the refrigerator no more than 2 hours after it is cooked—whether you made it yourself or brought it home from a restaurant.
Can I Afford to Eat Right?
If your budget is limited, it might take some thought and planning to be able to pay for the foods you should eat. Here are some suggestions. First, buy only the foods you need. A shopping list will help with that. Before shopping, plan your meals, and check your supply of staples like flour and cereal. Make sure you have some canned or frozen foods in case you do not feel like cooking or cannot go out. Powdered, canned, or ultra-pasteurized milk in a shelf carton can be stored easily.
Think about how much of a food you will use. A large size may be cheaper per unit, but it is only a bargain if you use all of it. Try to share large packages of food with a friend. Frozen vegetables in bags save money because you can use small amounts and keep the rest frozen. If a package of meat or fresh produce is too large, ask a store employee to repackage it in a smaller size.
Here are other ways to keep your food costs down:
- Plain (generic) labels or store brands often cost less than name brands.
- Plan your meals around food that is on sale.
- Prepare more of the foods you enjoy, and quickly refrigerate the leftovers to eat in a day or two.
- Divide leftovers into small servings, label and date, and freeze to use within a few months.
Want to eat well, but find it a challenge when you have to eat and run?
Luckily, many “fast food” restaurants are making it easier with healthier menu options. These tips will help you choose wisely!
Super-sized portions usually cost only a little extra, but can pack a whopping nutritional blow. Research shows the larger the serving in front of us, the more we tend to eat.Keep in mind: double the portion = double the calories.
|Compare the Calories,
Fat and Sugar
|Double patty hamburger
with dressing or mayonnaise
+ large fries + large drink
|Double patty hamburger
+ large fries + large soft drink
|Single patty hamburger
+ small fries + smll soft drink
|Single patty hamburger
+ side salad* + 2% milk
* with low fat dressing
Tip: If you can't bear to pass on a deal, consider splitting a large portion with someone else. Smaller serving sizes are especially important for young children.
Watch the “extras”
Those little “extras” like salad dressings, sandwich sauces, mayo, spreads nd gravy can add a lot of fat and calories to your meal. Choose:
veggies as a tasty garnish for sandwiches
lower-fat condiments like ketchup, mustards and relish
lower-fat salad dressings and use only a small amount
Design it yourself
Looking for more ways to keep the calories and fat in check? Want to boost your nutrient and fibre intake? Made-to-orderoptions are a great solution. When you order a sandwich, burger, wrap, salad or pizza, opt for:
Healthy eating is a matter of balancing your food choices over time. So if you overindulge at one meal, try to make healthier choices at your next meals.
Tip: Change your order to add some variety. Take your taste buds on a global adventure with sushi, shwarma or stir-fry.
Go for the grill
Grilled foods are usually much lower in fat and calories than deep fried foods. Go for grilled meats, poultry, fish and veggies rather than deep fried. For example, a battered and deep fried chicken sandwich may have more than twice as much fat as a grilled chicken sandwich.
Not all salads are created equal. The dressings can make them extra high in fat and calories. For example, a chicken Caesar salad with dressing can have about as many calories and as much fat as a deep fried chicken sandwich.
Large servings of soft drink and other sweetened beverages provide empty calories. A large soft drink typically contains about a third of a cup (85 mL) of sugar. Shakes can be very high in fat and calories too. Quench your thirst with water, milk, 100% fruit juices, fruit smoothies and vegetable cocktails.
Tip: Add milk to tea and coffee instead of cream to save calories and fat. Keep in mind that flavoured syrups and whipped cream added to some coffees and teas may net you as much as 200 to 300 calories or more.
Make wise breakfast choices to give you the energy and nutrients you need for a great start to your day. Choose at least 3 of the 4 food groups.
Tip: Try to limit higher fat options like doughnuts, pastries, muffins, croissants, bacon, sausages and fried hash browns.
Fill up on fibre
Make fibre-rich choices more often: whole grain breads; vegetables and fruit; beans, lentils and chickpeas (in chili, salads, and falafel); nuts and seeds.
Think fresh and light when it comes to dessert. Fresh fruit, frozen yogurts, ice milk and fruit sherbets are nutritious alternatives to baked or fried goods and ice creams. And be portion wise, some large cookies may add as much as 400 or more calories.
Get the facts
Ask for nutrition facts at the restaurant. Compare the calories, fat, sugar, fibre and key nutrients – you may be surprised!
Source: Dietitians of Canada. Reproduced with permission.