autoimmune disorder

  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. Worm your way out of MS

    I can't think of anything less appetizing than a drink filled with thousands of worm eggs -- but if it meant beating a serious and life-wrecking disease with limited options, I'd swallow it all without thinking twice.

    I know -- as far as the gross-o-meter goes, this one is off the charts... but a series of new studies finds that stomach worms can actually help defeat multiple sclerosis.

    In one small study, four of the five MS patients who drank a solution of 2,500 pig whipworm eggs every two weeks for three months had fewer of the brain lesions that mark the condition.

    In an upcoming study, 70 patients will let researchers infect them with hookworms. Instead of drinking eggs, these worms will burrow into the shoulder and wriggle their way to the stomach.

    Both lines of research are promising, but there's at least one big difference between the two: Your body will take care of whipworms on its own, but you'll need de-worming tablets to flush out the hookworms.

    So, of the two, it would seem as if the worm juice might be the better option -- but I'm sure most MS patients would eat a plate live earthworms if it meant a cure for the disease.

    I don't think a trip to your doctor's office will ever resemble an episode of "Fear Factor," but stomach worms might be part of the mainstream care for this disease soon enough -- because if earlier studies are any indication, the research under way now should get some serious results.

    In one study out of Argentina just a few years ago, researchers compared 12 MS patients who suffered a parasite infection to 12 with no worms. Those with the worms had just three relapses over an average follow-up of 4.6 years
    versus 56 among those without the parasites.

    The worm patients also had less disability, fewer brain lesions as revealed on MRI scans, and measurable beneficial changes in the blood.

    MS isn't the only autoimmune disorder that you can worm your way out of. Other studies have shown that the creepy-crawlies can help fight Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome along with asthma and even some allergies.

    These are all tough-to-beat conditions... yet some of the simplest creatures on the planet may be able to stop them cold.

    That's humbling... and yes, a little bit gross.

  3. Clearing the air on asthma remedies

    Researchers from the West Virginia School of Medicine recently took a group of kids with allergies and asthma and moved them from an Italian city to the countryside for a week of camp.

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