Edward Martin

  1. Soda scare: Sugary drinks linked to new heart risk

    Any time I use the words "soda" and "study" in the same sentence, it's never good news for soda. I can't recall a single study that shows soda benefits anything other than the bank accounts of the people who sell it.

    And the latest research is no exception.

    A new look at data on 42,883 men between the ages of 40 and 75 finds that those who drank the most sugary drinks had a 20 percent higher risk of a heart attack during the 22-year study -- a link that held even after adjusting for risk factors such as smoking, activity levels and a family history of heart problems.

    What's more, the researchers found that for each serving of a sugary drink you down in a day -- like one 12-ounce cola -- your risk of cardiovascular disease is boosted by 19 percent.

    In addition, the men who drank the most sugary drinks also had lower levels of HDL cholesterol -- that's the good stuff -- and higher levels of deadly triglycerides.

    Think that's bad? Hold on -- because the study in Circulation gets even worse: Men who drank the most soda had the highest levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP. That's an inflammation marker that can mean anything from heart disease to cancer to an autoimmune disorder.

    But none of this should be surprising, since all of these problems have been linked to sugar before -- and drinks are one of the biggest sources of sugar in the modern diet.

    A single can of soda, for example, has roughly 40 grams of the sweet stuff. That's like going to Starbucks and ordering a "tall" (or what the rest of us call a "small") 12-ounce coffee... and putting 10 sugars into it.

    It's an insane amount of sugar.

    For some incredible visuals on just how much of it is in each can, bottle, and Big Gulp, check out the images on the "Sugar Stacks" website.

    All that sweet stuff is bound to play havoc with your body. Along with all the risks I mentioned earlier, even a moderate soda habit can cause your blood sugar levels to spike -- eventually leading to metabolic syndrome and even diabetes.

    Don't fall into the trap of thinking you'll be any safer switching to diet either. Other studies have found that diet soda drinkers actually gain weight -- and at least one study linked diet soft drinks to an increased heart risk of its own, along with an increased risk of stroke.

    I'm not done with soda yet -- keep reading for more.

  2. The true risks of soda

    Sugar is probably the most dangerous ingredient in most sodas -- but I have to say "probably" here, because it's got some pretty tough competition.

    Most sodas aren't drinks so much as water mixed with a collection of ingredients that seem like they belong in chemistry kits instead of food and beverages.

    And that includes the so-called caramel color.

    As I told you last year, caramel color isn't a simple food dye, and it's nothing like caramel candy like it's name implies. It's actually the byproduct of a pressurized treatment that combines sugar with ammonia. (Yes, ammonia!)

    One of the "extra" ingredients created by this process is 4-methylimidazole, a chemical with such strong links to cancer that California law requires a warning label on anything that contains certain amounts of it.

    And many sodas contain way more than those amounts -- up to eight times what the state considers to be the safe upper limit.

    Now, soda companies trying to avoid the warning label are starting to use a new version of the color that has less 4-methylimidazole.

    But is that really worth celebrating? Soda now has less of a cancer-causing chemical?

    And let's face it, even if they managed to completely do away with caramel color -- or at least the 4-methylimidazole -- soda would still be bubbling over with cancer risk, thanks to all the sugar.

    Diets high in sugar have been linked to any number of cancers -- and if you're unlucky enough to get the disease, sugar will actually help it to grow and spread. It's like food for tumors.

    Believe it or not, the risks don't stop there.

    Sodas often contain phosphates, which can pull calcium from your bones and leave you battling osteoporosis. They can also cause kidney stones and -- along with that sugar -- rot your teeth right out of your head.

    Some sodas even contain sodium benzoate, a preservative that can cause the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer, cirrhosis, and Parkinson's disease -- just to name a few.

    And the fake sugars used in diet sodas come with plenty of risks of their own -- they've been linked to everything from cancer to migraines.

    So don't waste any time looking at the ingredients labels, trying to figure out which soda might be better than the other. Just skip them all.

  3. Do women really need less of this life saving test?

    If there's any cancer screening that actually works -- one that saves lives without ruining any in the process -- it's the Pap smears used to detect cervical cancer in women.
  4. Turn down the heat with therapy

    It's one of the Holy Grails of the drug industry: A pill to end hot flashes. Think that's a big market? You bet it is! Up to 80 percent of all women battle hot flashes during menopause, making a would-be treatment a billion-dollar dream for the drug industry.
  5. Looks like you need your tonsils after all

    Well, today I'm glad I still have my tonsils because the latest research shows those infection-prone bumps in the back of your throat may actually have an important role to play after all: They can make T-cells.
  6. Snack bars make lousy snacks

    Most of us have done it at some point. Looking for a quick snack, we bypass the candy bars and grab something that's supposedly healthier -- like a cereal, granola, or energy bar.
  7. How seniors get hooked on painkillers

    One minute, you're a healthy and active senior who wouldn't dream of popping an Advil, much less a powerful prescription painkiller. The next, you're a certified addict who can't get through the day without an opioid drug.
  8. Eye disease linked to brain disorders

    Keep an eye on your eyes -- because your peepers just might be the first part of your body to spy dementia coming.
  9. Antibiotics no longer recommended for sinus infections

    Finally, a little common sense when it comes to antibiotics: A leading medical group is urging docs to stop using these drugs for sinus infections.
  10. BPA in new disease link

    One of the worst things in your food and drink isn't an ingredient at all -- not in the usual sense, anyway. It's a hormone-like chemical used in the packaging.
  11. The deadly 'new' superbug -- and how to avoid it

    Going to the hospital is supposed to be the beginning of your recovery -- but for millions of us, it's the beginning of a nightmare.
  12. Berries boost your brain

    And now, a new review of the research shows how berries can actually supercharge your brain and improve the way your neurons communicate. That adds up to better motor control and cognition and lower levels of dangerous inflammation -- all from a handful of delicious blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or cranberries.
  13. Dying to get some sleep

    Some people are lucky enough to fall asleep the moment their head hits the pillow. I've never been one of them, but I've never had to rely on sleep meds to get my rest, either, and that's a good thing: The latest warning finds that these drugs come with one whopper of a death risk.
  14. Get a whiff of concentration

    I always get a kick out of the fridge in my local 7-11. It's loaded with drinks that make all kinds of promises. It's a laugh, because no matter what promise they make, most of these drinks have the same basic ingredients: sugar, water, and artificial flavors combined with small amounts of vitamins or large amounts of caffeine.
  15. Feed your brain some fat

    There are plenty of places on the body where you definitely don't want fat building up. But there's one place you want as fat as can be, and that's right inside your skull.
  16. Power your brain with videogames

    Here's a new way to bond with your grandson: Instead of telling him to turn off the videogames and get outside, tell him to move over so you can join him.
  17. The secret to avoiding skin cancer

    I’m sure you’ve heard it said about a million times by now: The best way to avoid skin cancer is to stay out of the sun -- and don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen when you do dare to step outside. But no matter how many times you hear it, it’s still not true.
  18. Wii Fit won’t make you fit

    But there’s one thing videogames can’t do. They can’t help you lose weight, and that includes games that require movement, like Nintendo’s Wii Fit.
  19. The earl's cure for cholesterol

    If Earl Grey tea is known for anything other than its noble name, it's the distinct smell of bergamot.
  20. Feds finally own up to statin risks

    Well, maybe now the push to give everyone statins will start to slow a bit: The FDA has finally admitted that all those side effects the drug industry and its paid--for experts once brushed off are actually very real.

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