family practice issues and general life events

Posts tagged ‘diet’

Soda intake and health

Throughout my day, I spend a lot of time trying to counsel patients on how to lose weight, eat healthier, decrease their blood sugars.  And it has not ceased to surprise me the amount of people that don’t seem to realize the problems with drinking large amount of sodas.  We will focus on the non-diet variety to start with.

Empty calories, no benefit

Sodas are terrible for diets because of the amount of calories that have no nutritional value.  Now Coca Cola likes to advertise that they contain 100 calories per serving.  I guess that helps to go with the fad of the 100 calorie packs, but are you aware of what a serving size is?  It is not the 12 ounce can nor the 20 ounce bottle.  It is 8 ounces.  How many of you stop at 8 ounces when you drink a can.  I know I don’t, and I admit I am a coca cola addict.  (well actually cherry coke or cherry Dr. Pepper) But I have had to force myself to cut down, and most days to remove it completely out of my diet.  And most of the sodas are similar in calories.  There is some differences in the amount of sugar and caffeine neither of which in high amounts are great for the diet.

And people who drink high amounts of sodas tend to have increased risks of urinary tract infections and fibrocystic breast disease.  The greater amount of caffeine increases the risk for both.

For those of you who are drinking a 2-liter (or more) a day, well since you don’t want to have a massive caffeine withdrawal for about 5 days (Been there done it, got the t-shirt) I would recommend cutting down. by 8 – 16 ounces every three days.  But seriously consider cutting down.

Diet Sodas

With the studies that have come out over the last several years it is important to know that there are significant health issues that have contradicted previous theories on diet sodas.  Initially I used to advise patients to change from regular soda to diet to help with their weight loss.  We told diabetics that diet sodas were ok.  They aren’t.

About 3 or 4 years ago, studies first came out showing that there was not a significant difference in weight gain between drinking diet and regular sodas over the long term.  There is a belief that it is something in the soda itself that triggers the appetite.  In fact, diet soda might even be worse with the artificial sweetener increasing the desire for a sugary snack.

For years, there have been reports from individuals that diet sodas and aspartame with headaches, abdominal pain and cancer in rats.  The last is probably the least worth discussing.  For one thing the amounts introduced in rats is more in quantity than a human would intake in actually amount, increase it to the size of a human body would be a ridiculous amount.

As for the headaches, it can trigger migraines, whether it is the aspartame or the caffeine well in those cases it is best to avoid all together.

The most damning of all came out in the journal Circulation about 2 weeks ago, linking diet sodas to increased risk of heart attack.  This was done in a study of 42,000 men over a period of 22 years.  One serving a day increases the risk for a heart attack 19%.  19% this is incredible.  People get upset about a 0.1% risk in vaccines for side effects, or a 1% increase risk in breast cancer.  This increase risk is that out of 5 people that drink diet sodas, 1 person will suffer a heart attack.  And this was after controlling for factors that include smoking, age, exercise and family history.  Twenty percent.

A similar study came out 2 years ago which illustrated the same changes and risks in woman.  These drinks both sodas and diet sodas have adverse risks on HDL (good cholesterol), triglycerides, and c reactive protein (which is a marker for inflammation in the body)  Elevated C reactive protein is found in disease states such as cancer and heart disease.

As a side note, I would also like to mention fruit juice, while one cup a day can provide some nutrients and vitamins, making them slightly better than sodas, they are packed with sugar.  And giving your child more that 8-16 ounces in a day is not any better than the coca cola in a bottle.

I would also like to discuss that sports drinks are not necessary for anyone who is not actively competing at the time of intake.  If you have just run a marathon, it is an ok way to help replace vital nutrients lost through sweat.  However, sports drinks are not healthy.  They are packed full of sugar and carbohydrates and if you are trying to eat healthy and lose weight or maintain, routine intake of these drinks will not help you.  They will actually increase calories because many who are drinking them are viewing them as a health drink and therefore free.  But they are not.  Gatorade has 50 calories and 14 grams of sugar for an 8 ounce serving.  G2 is better with 20-30 calories and about half the carbs.

The brand names selected are examples of their group.  I am not saying that pepsi is better, it is not.  And none of the other sports drinks are better than gatorade for the calorie and nutritional information.

Let’s be honest, any excessive amount of calorie intake will cause you to gain weight.  So limiting these drinks are better, and just cutting intake in half will often help.  But these are sneaky calories, they tend to be overlooked during the day, because they are liquid.  Fruits are better than their juice counterparts.  The initial fruit is healthier and allow for fiber without sugar added.  So for health reasons alone, try to limit if not eliminate them from the diet all together.


Regular check ups

Sorry about the length of time between posts, but returning to real life seems to have gotten in the way.  It is funny how returning to vacation always does that to you.


Today I wish to address the importance of regular check ups.  Check ups are an easy thing to overlook, and once all of the vaccinations are complete, parents tend to focus more on sick visits and such.  However, regular check ups, about once a year for children over two, are in fact an important need in a child’s life.  It is through check ups that developmental delays are addressed.  For example if you only bring your child in for strep throat, which is usually a shorter work in visits, a delay in speech or other aspects might be missed.  And in the case of speech, the earlier the intervention, the better the end result might be.


Additionally, important tests such as lead levels, and blood counts can be drawn at routine visits to make sure that the child is not anemic, or have to be treated for too much lead which can lead to development problems in brain development.  Lead level tests are especially important for those living in old houses that might have lead based paint, which could be covered up by newer paint or still there.  And in recent years, toys from China keep being recalled due to lead based paint in them.  These make no one immune from the need for lead testing.  Current recommendations are for lead tests to be done at 12 and 24 months and when exposure is suspected.


For those with healthy children, not needing vaccinations, health check ups are also important.  It is at these, that time is allowed in the schedule for questions that parents might have, and to discuss important landmarks.  Sometimes the questions are simple, like child number one was already walking at this age, why isn’t he?  Sometimes they are more complicated, and might need further work up and discussion.  Additionally, it is even more important today with the rapid increase in childhood obesity.  Early intervention can help to prevent the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes in children, and discussion of appropriate food intake is always important.  While juice is often marketed on the television as a healthy alternative to soda, many juices out there have just as much if not more sugar than soda, and in any case should be limited to two servings a day.


The older child has issues such as puberty, diet fads, drug and alcohol usage.  All that should be address, as well as STD prevention.  These are important to have before the child is sexually active.  I can’t tell you how many times, I have had these conversations with teenagers which have no idea, what STDs are nor what they can cause in the long term.  And many times, parents are shocked to find out that their child is sexually active.  So it is important to address all of these issues before they are a problem


Anyway, children in all stages of development need to have routine checkups  If only to prevent potential future problems.  In most cases it is easier to prevent the disease from happening, than to treat it later


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