Scary Reports: The Latest on Sugar, Coffee & Chronic Fatigue

Too Many Sugary Drinks vs. Smoking: What’s Worse for Premature Aging?

Is that sweet can of soda leaving a bitter aftertaste on your skin and other organs? Can a daily dose of 20 ounces of soda be just as harmful as smoking in terms of premature aging? Perhaps so, according to University of California San Francisco (UCSF) researchers, authors of a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, a medical publication.

“Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence disease development, not only by straining the body’s metabolic control of sugars, but also through accelerated cellular aging of tissues,” said Elissa Epel, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at UCSF and senior author of the study.

The UCSF team studied 5,300 individuals and tracked their soda consumption and the length of telomeres—a substance that covers the ends of chromosomes. By preventing chromosomes and cells from unraveling, telomeres serve the same protective purpose as the plastic coatings on the tips of shoelaces.  And the longer the telomere, the greater the level of anti-aging protection provided to cells in the body.

“Based on the way telomere length shortens on average with chronological age, the UCSF researchers calculated that daily consumption of a 20-ounce soda was associated with 4.6 years of additional biological aging. This effect on telomere length is comparable to the effect of smoking,” according to a statement from UCSF.

CNN News anchor Anderson Cooper discussed the topic of soda, aging and the UCSF research during a recent broadcast.  Other health dangers of sugar have also been widely covered on this blog:

  • Added Sugars Amount to More Heart Risks
  • Recipes for Fun: Cooking With Kids
  • New Sugar Guidelines: Cut Down on Hidden Sugar
  • —Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

    Caffeine Intoxication?

    If you’re sitting down to read this with a cup of Joe, take heed. Next time your doctor advises you to drink less coffee, he or she may use the term “caffeine intoxication.” That’s because the phrase is a recent addition to the diagnoses listed in the American Psychiatric Association‘s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a respected mental health reference guide

    But can you really get impaired by drinking too much caffeine?

    Many studies over the years highlight healthy benefits of caffeine, such as its ability to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and relieve migraines.  On the opposite side, reports warn about the negative effects of consuming too much caffeine, including increased cholesterol and blood pressure.  This past summer, an Ohio teenager died from an overdose of caffeine powder.

    So the question becomes, “How much coffee is too much?”

    Most of the time, too much caffeine yields non-life threatening consequences, such as the jitters, rapid heartbeat or insomnia.  But for some people, especially those who have an underlying health condition like an irregular heartbeat or anxiety, too much caffeine can be dangerous.

    And it doesn’t take as much as you would think to compromise some people’s health. One of the criteria of “caffeine intoxication” is ingesting more than 250 mg of caffeine in a 24-hour period, which can be met by drinking only 2-3 cups of coffee.

    However, life-threatening effects are usually unlikely unless someone “took multiple caffeine pills or drank many cans of energy drinks,” said Matthew Johnson, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, in an interview for the Wall Street Journal.

    This blog has covered the pros and cons of coffee and caffeine. Read more:

  • A Cupful of Reality
  • A Dangerous Dose of Energy?
  • Powdered Caffeine Warning
  • —Tanya Walton

    Researchers: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is Real

    Chronic fatigue syndrome, which refers to extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any underlying medical condition, has been the subject of much debate over the years.

    Diagnosing the condition is difficult because there is no definitive screening. But a new development may bolster the validity and diagnosis of chronic fatigue.

    Scientists at Stanford University found distinct differences when comparing the brains of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and those of healthy people, according to a study published in Radiology.

    Researchers discovered that the patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had slightly less white matter in their brains. White matter refers to the part of the brain composed of long fibers that essentially serve as the communication cables between nerve cells.

    The findings could help doctors definitively diagnose the syndrome. The study also will likely fuel more research into causes and symptoms related to CFS, said Dr. Michael Zeineh, an assistant professor of radiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

    “Most CFS patients at some point in time have been accused of being hypochondriacs and their symptoms dismissed by others,” Zeineh says. “And there is still skepticism in the medical community about the diagnosis. That’s one of the reasons these findings are important.”

    CFS is estimated to affect between 1 million and 4 million Americans.

    —John Fernandez

    Healthcare that Cares

    With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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