Sweetened drinks


Roundup: Artificially Sweetened ‘Diet’ Beverages Linked to Risk of Irregular Heartbeat; Just 3,600 Daily Steps May Reduce Heart Failure Risk; and More News

American Heart Association: New Study Links Sweetened Drinks to Risk of Irregular Heartbeat

Adults who said they regularly consume a certain amount of sodas or other drinks containing either artificial sweeteners or real sugar had a higher risk of an irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation (AFib), compared with adults who drank fewer such beverages, according to new research published in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

The higher risk of AFib was associated with consuming at least 67 ounces of sweetened beverages per week, or roughly one 12-ounce drink six days a week. Researchers found a higher risk linked to artificially sweetened drinks, which can include popular diet sodas or soft drinks.

Compared to people who did not consume any sweetened drinks, there was a 20 percent increased risk of AFib among people who said they drank more than 2 liters per week (or roughly one 12-ounce drink six days a week) of artificially sweetened beverages, the American Heart Association (AHA) states in a news release. There was a 10 percent increased risk among participants who reported drinking 2 liters per week or more of beverages sweetened with sugar.

The study could not confirm whether the sweetened drinks caused AFib, yet the association remained after accounting for a person’s genetic susceptibility to the condition, the AHA states. Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart beats irregularly, increasing the risk of stroke by five-fold. More than 12 million people are expected to have AFib by 2030, according to the AHA’s 2024 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics.

Consuming drinks sweetened artificially or with sugar has been linked to higher risks of type 2 diabetes and obesity in previous research.

“This large study of health data in the UK Biobank is among the first to assess a possible link between sugar- or artificially sweetened beverages and AFib,” the AHA states.  Researchers reviewed dietary and genetic data from more than 200,000 adults free of AFib at the time they enrolled in the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical and research database in the United Kingdom.

Physicians and dietitians generally agree that everyone should monitor and reduce the amount of artificial sweeteners in the diet primarily because these sugar substitutes can cause more cravings for unhealthy sweet foods.
2018 science advisory from the American Heart Association found that there is a “scarcity of large, long-term, randomized trials on the efficacy and safety of artificial sweeteners.”

“Our study's findings cannot definitively conclude that one beverage poses more health risk than another due to the complexity of our diets and because some people may drink more than one type of beverage,” said lead study author Ningjian Wang, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher at the Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital and Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai, China, in a statement. “However, based on these findings, we recommend that people reduce or even avoid artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages whenever possible. Do not take it for granted that drinking low-sugar and low-calorie artificially sweetened beverages is healthy, it may pose potential health risks.”

Conversely, the study also found that drinking one liter (about 34 ounces) or less per week “of pure, unsweetened juice, such as orange or vegetable juice, was associated with a lower risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib), the AHA said.

Study: Just 3,600 Daily Steps May Reduce Heart Failure Risk in Women Age 60 and Older

A goal of 10,000 steps a day is commonly cited as ideal, but recent studies have found fewer daily steps can still produce substantial health benefits.

A new study, published today in JAMA Cardiology, involved nearly 6,000 women in the U.S. age 60 and older. At least 3,600 steps per day at a normal pace was associated with a 26 percent lower risk of developing heart failure, concluded the study’s authors from the University at Buffalo in New York.

The observational study examined accelerometer-measured physical activity, sedentary time and heart failure risk. There were 407 heart failure cases confirmed by physicians and identified during a mean follow-up of 7.5 years, researchers said.

For each 70 minutes per day spent doing “light intensity” physical activity, such as household chores, participants were 12 percent less likely to develop heart failure. For every 30 minutes of “moderate-to-vigorous” activity, such as brisk walking, the risk of heart failure fell by 16 percent. Sitting more was linked to a higher heart failure risk. Each hour and a half of sedentary time was associated with a 17 percent higher risk of heart failure.

Heart failure is a lifelong condition in which the heart muscle can't pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Ejection fraction – a key step in diagnosing and treating heart failure -- measures the amount of blood the left ventricle of the heart pumps out to your body with each heartbeat. An ejection fraction below 40 percent means the heart isn't pumping enough blood and may be failing. A normal ejection fraction is about 60 percent to 75 percent.

“In ambulatory older women, higher amounts of usual daily light and moderate intensity activities were associated with lower risk of developing heart failure with preserved ejection fraction independent of demographic and clinical factors associated with heart failure risk,” said the study’s lead author, Michael J. LaMonte, Ph.D., research professor of epidemiology and environmental health in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, in a statement. “Accumulating 3,000 steps per day might be a reasonable target that would be consistent with the amount of daily activity performed by women in this study.”

esearchers point out that the average number of steps per day among women in the study was 3,588, but the average among U.S. women of similar age is 2,340 steps.

“It appeared that intensity of stepping did not influence the lower risk of heart failure as results were comparable for light intensity steps and for more vigorous steps,” said Mr. LaMonte, in a statement.

Scientists Develop ‘Simple Blood Test’ to Diagnose Sarcoidosis, Inflammatory Disease That Affects Mostly the Lungs

Researchers with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have developed a “simple blood test” to quickly diagnosis sarcoidosis, a chronic inflammatory disease that mostly affects the lungs and can cause severe fatigue in a majority of patients.

The blood test “could allow for selective use of more invasive diagnostic tests often used to identify the disease,” states the NIH in a news release. The findings published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“More testing needs to be completed before this screening method is ready for clinical use, but it’s possible that could be a reality within a few years,” said Lobelia Samavati, M.D., of Wayne State University in Michigan and senior author of the study, in a statement.

The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. The NIH states that researchers suspect it is an immune disorder triggered by a group of specific antigens, which are generally foreign substances that incite an immune response in the body.

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that causes groups of cells to form clusters or lumps of inflamed tissue called "granulomas" in one or more organs of the body, states the American Lung Association. Sarcoidosis most commonly affects the lungs and lymph nodes, but it can affect any organ including the eyes, skin, heart and nervous system. In severe cases, sarcoidosis can be life-threatening if it progresses to heart or severe lung disease.

Diagnosing sarcoidosis can be challenging and requires tissue removal as part of a biopsy to rule out other potentially more serious conditions.

“Currently, diagnosing sarcoidosis isn’t a straightforward process, and requires tissue removal and testing with additional screenings to rule out other diseases, such as tuberculosis or lung cancer,” said James Kiley, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Lung Diseases at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of NIH, in a statement. “Using a blood test will help diagnose faster, particularly in those organs that are more challenging to biopsy and with less harm to the patient.”

The NIH researchers verified the accuracy of the blood test by comparing blood samples from 386 people, which included patients with sarcoidosis, patients with tuberculosis, patients with lung cancer, and healthy individuals. “The researchers confirmed that their test was able to differentiate patients who had sarcoidosis from those with other respiratory diseases,” the NIH states.

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