Wednesday, 30 May 2007

A hard fact about soft drinks

Did you know that some soft drinks may contain a cancer-causing agent?

I didn't know that until I read about a lawsuit that has been brought against soft-drink manufacturers in New York, including PepsiCo.

The lawsuit alleges that the soft-drink makers are selling drinks, such as Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi, which are made with ingredients that can form a cancer-causing agent known as benzene.

Benzene can form in soft drinks containing vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate. Heat or light exposure can trigger a reaction that forms benzene in beverages.

Coca Cola was formerly involved in the lawsuit, but they settled with the plaintiffs earlier this month.

PepsiCo claim the lawsuit is without merit. However, a federal court has ruled that the case will move forward.
It will be interesting to see what happens. I'll watch this space. In the meantime, soft drink lovers may want to reduce their consumption of the beverages to safeguard their health.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Alcohol Alert

Alcoholic drinks sold in England are to carry health warnings by the end of 2008, following a voluntary agreement between the government and the drinks industry.

The warnings will not be as strong as those on cigarette packs and will, apparently include words like "know your limits".

Currently, more than 7 million people in the UK drink more than the recommended units, which are 3 to 4 for men and 2 to 3 for women.

I don't think many people who drink are going to pay much attention to the health warning on the bottle or can. After all, the strong health warning on cigarette packs doesn't seem to have stopped many people from smoking, has it?

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

High salt diet and ulcer

Many people know that eating a high salt diet increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. It is also known that a diet that is rich in salt increases the risk of gastric cancer.

But new research has found a link between a stomach environment that is rich in salt and the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers. In such an environment, the bacterium overproduces factors that increase the risk of disease in the long term.

It would make sense for anyone who has ulcers to eat a low-salt diet, would it not? So I was amazed to read in an article that Dr Perminder Phull, a consultant in gastroenterology at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said that diet used to be a major factor in how people with ulcers were treated, but that medical advances mean that diet is no longer an issue. Really?

I don't think taking medicines which have side effects is better than watching what one eats. The first option may be easier (for people who don't want to make any lifestyle changes) and more expensive, but is it really more advanced than eating the right diet?

Friday, 18 May 2007

Don't eat that yoghurt, take this drug instead

A team of Dutch scientists have called for "functional foods" to be subjected to checks. Functional foods are foods such as yoghurts and spreads that claim to improve health and well-being.

According to this article, the scientists are concerned that people who are taking drugs for conditions such as high cholesterol are more likely to buy functional foods. They warn that these foods may interfere with drugs designed to target medical conditions.

The researchers reported that:

"Very little is known about exposure, long term or otherwise, and safety under free conditions of use, and whether and how functional foods interfere with drugs designed for the same target."

Hmm... could this not also be said of many drugs? Uncertainty about their long term exposure has not prevented the licensing of some drugs for use by medical professionals. Sure, it's important to monitor the effects of functional foods. But the team of scientists seem not to have considered the possibility that eating such foods may help more people reduce their dependence on those "all-important" drugs.

Now, that would not be good for the pharmaceutical companies would it?

And, Tim Lang, the professor of food policy at City University in London said that functional foods are at best a "technical fix" masking an underlying diet. He could have been referring to prescription drugs.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Vitamin D may ward off TB

As someone who believes it is beneficial to take vitamins and supplements, I was pleased to read about a new study about vitamin D.

The study suggests that taking vitamin D could help prevent tuberculosis (TB). As TB is a major global problem, the research finding is encouraging.
You can read more about the research in this article.

In other studies, vitamin D has also been linked to a reduction in the risk of cancer and diabetes.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Aspartame: some unsweet facts

I remember once when I was shopping at a large supermarket and thought I'd get a bottle of flavoured water. When I noticed they all contained aspartame, I decided to avoid these drinks. And I have.

So what is aspartame? It is an artifical sweetener that is still used in the UK, despite concerns about its toxic effects on the body. Even small amounts taken regularly can impact negatively on one's health.

Aspartame can be found in sweets, drinks, prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications, supplements, and many other foods.

Some of the newer sweeteners are not much better. And many of these are found in "diet" versions of soft drinks.

It's best to read the label. That is, if you want to avoid aspartame.

And if you're wondering what research studies about aspartame have found, go here.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Home test for pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a serious illness that affects up to one in ten pregnant women in the UK every year. Worldwide, one woman dies every six minutes from this condition, which is mostly symptomless.

The good news is that a new home test is being developed to help mothers-to-be find out whether they are at risk of pre-eclampsia. There's more information on the home test in this article.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Drink Shrinks

A new study carried out in the US has found that heavy drinking can shrink brains. Here are a few facts about the study.

People who have been drinking heavily for longer periods have smaller brain volumes than those who have recently joined the group of heavy drinkers.

For the study, people were divided into three groups: non-drinkers, former drinkers, low drinkers (1-7 drinks a week), moderate drinkers (8-14 drinks a week) and heavy drinkers (more than 14 drinks a week).

Heavy drinking had a greater impact on women's brain volume than it did on men's. Heavy drinking seemed to have a greater effect on women in their 70s.

Anyone who drinks regularly may want to rethink their drinking habits in light of this study. Especially if they are female.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Weighing up the risk of asthma

Being overweight increases the risk of developing arthritis, stroke, heart disease, diabetes. Now a new study done in the US has found that asthma can be added to this list of medical conditions.

The research findings show that for every person of normal weight who has asthma, there are 1.5 people who are overweight or obese. It is not yet clear why being overweight increases the risk of asthma. More here.

Overweight people may also experience breathlessness because the lungs do not work properly.

Th new research may encourage more people to control their weight before it controls them.