Roundup: Diet Sodas Linked to Weight Gain, Other Risks; Dementia Risk Reduced Via Lifestyle Changes

Diet sodas continue to be the recipient of negative publicity related to health risks. The latest study finds that these diet drinks, which many Americans consume instead of their sugar-laden counterparts to control their weight, may be doing more harm than good.

An international group of researchers reviewed dozens of studies about the long-term impact of sugar substitutes, or artificial sweeteners, which are common in diet sodas. They were looking to determine any prevailing trends. They found that people who drank them regularly had an increased body mass index (BMI), and a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“Nonnutritive sweeteners (are) significantly associated with modest long-term increases” in body weight, BMI and waist circumference, the researchers concluded in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Being overweight or obese — especially characterized by too much belly fat or visceral fat — has been linked to a greater chance of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

The study’s authors also noted that observational studies found “higher risks of type 2 diabetes and hypertension with regular consumption” of artificial sweeteners.

A note of caution from researches. Most of the studies reviewed focused on people who were trying to lose weight or who had other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure. Most dietitians urge overweight patients to switch from sugary drinks to water, and bypass diet sodas.

Artificial sweeteners can serve as a good tool for diabetics trying to reduce carbohydrates and tightly control their blood-glucose levels. But the latest recommendations stresses moderation, and the need for more studies about the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners.

A study published in January in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported that 41 percent of adults and 25 percent of children currently consume at least one “low-calorie sweetener” item on a regular basis. This represents a 200 percent increase for children and a 54 percent increase among adults, compared to data released in 1999-2000.

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Dementia Risk can be Reduced Via Lifestyle Changes

One-third of cases of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, could potentially be prevented worldwide through lifestyle changes that include eliminating or controlling such factors as smoking, hypertension, depression, physical inactivity and hearing loss over the course of a lifetime, according to a new report.

Across the globe, about 47 million people were living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in 2015. That number is projected to triple by the year 2050 as the population ages. Health care costs associated with dementia are enormous, with an estimated $818 billion price tag in 2015.

The new study, published in The Lancet and conducted by the first Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care, involved 24 international experts who reviewed existing research on dementia. The group issued recommendations for treatment and prevention.

“Dementia is the greatest global challenge for health and social care in the 21st century,” lead study author Professor Gill Livingston, of University College London, told CBS News. “The purpose of the commission was therefore to address it by consolidating the huge strides and emerging knowledge as to what we should do to prevent dementia and intervene and care for people with dementia.”

There is no clinical treatment to prevent or cure dementia. The report, however, stresses the positive effects of non-drug interventions. It cites nine modifiable risk factors through various stages of life — beginning in childhood — that affect the likelihood of developing dementia. These risk factors are described as potentially modifiable and add up to 35 percent of risk factors.. The other 65 percent of dementia risk is considered to be potentially non-modifiable.

Nine factors that contribute to the risk of dementia:

  • Mid-life hearing loss – responsible for 9 percent of the risk
  • Failing to complete secondary education – 8 percent
  • Smoking – 5 percent
  • Failing to seek early treatment for depression – 4 percent
  • Physical inactivity – 3 percent
  • Social isolation – 2 percent
  • High blood pressure – 2 percent
  • Obesity – 1 percent
  • Type 2 diabetes – 1 percent

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CDC Warns of Potential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Homes

Summertime in South Florida and other parts of the nation often includes power outages from severe weather. Outages, in turn, prompt residents to use alternative sources of power that can cause carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in a home and poison the people and animals inside, warns the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Every year, at least 430 people die in the U. S. from accidental CO poisoning, the CDC says. About 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning. There are steps you can take to help protect yourself and your household from CO poisoning. Change the batteries in your CO detector, if you have one, every six months. If you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO detector, buy one, the CDC recommends.

CO is found in fumes produced by portable generators, stoves, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.

For more information, check out the CDC’s carbon monoxide poisoning website.

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