1. Sugary drinks could be one of the causes of kidney stones

    Soda increases kidney stone risk

    You know how people tend to exaggerate when it comes to pain? Well, there's no exaggeration necessary when it comes to kidney stones and causes of kidney stones. They're every bit as bad as you've heard, maybe worse -- and that's why it's critical to do everything you can to slash your risk.

    You can start by doing something you should've done ages ago: Give up soda and other soft drinks, because a single sugar-sweetened beverage a day can boost your risk of kidney stones by nearly a quarter.

    Soda in particular will cause your stone risk to shoot up by a third, and fruit punch will increase it by 18 percent, according to the eight-year study of nearly 200,000 people investigating possible causes of kidney stones.

    Clearly, it's time to say goodbye to the soda. Along with increasing your risk of kidney stones, it can increase your waistline -- and since obesity is another risk factor for stones, giving up sugar-sweetened drinks could help cut your kidney risk in more ways than one.

    Some drinks can actually lower your risk of stones, but not all of them are good for you. Red wine, for example, may reduce the risk -- but wine also contains alcohol, of course, which can increase your risk of cancer and other health problems.

    A much better option is to drink filtered water or seltzer with a squeeze of lemon to avoid these potential causes of kidney stones. The water will help with your overall hydration, which is good for stone prevention, while the citric acid in the lemon can actually help stop stones from forming.

    Another way to reduce your risk is to get a little exercise. As I told you just a few weeks ago, even light physical activity can reduce your kidney stone risk by a third. And for more on natural ways to slash your risk, be sure to read my free report, "How to avoid kidney stones."

    Don't ignore the risks here -- we're seeing a kidney stone epidemic in this country, with the number of cases doubling in just 16 years. Today, close to 20 percent of men and 10 percent of women can now expect to battle the causes of kidney stones at some point in their lives.

    Make sure you're not one of them.

  2. The caramel color in sodas may be carcinogenic

    How cola can boost your cancer risk

    I don't think there's any such thing as a "safe" level of a known carcinogen, but here in California the safe upper limit for the chemical 4-methylimidazole is set at 30 mcg.

    Why is that important? Because if you don't live in California, you could be getting up to five times that limit every time you pop open a can of soda.

    The chemical, also known as 4-MI, is hidden in the caramel color used to give cola its distinctive look. But "caramel color" isn't extracted from candy. It's a byproduct of mixing sugar with ammonia under pressure.

    When tests found high levels of the stuff in soda, manufacturers were told they'd have to put a cancer warning on each can sold in California, as required under state law.

    So they quickly changed the formula, and a new set of tests found just 4mcg of 4-MI in cans of Coke sold in the state.

    Who says warning labels don't work?

    But while many soda makers have said they'll work to lower levels of 4-MI everywhere else, the same tests found they haven't delivered on that promise as of yet.

    Coke sold elsewhere in the United States as well as in Canada and Britain, for example, contained between 144 and 160 mcg of MI-4. And in Brazil, they found 267 mcg -- or almost nine times California's safe upper limit, according to tests conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    The CSPI called the results "alarming" and I have to agree. But even if the soda companies managed to do away with 4-MI altogether, the drinks wouldn't exactly be health food.

    Soda is a chemical blend of sugars and/or artificial sweeteners along with coloring agents, acids, and a host of other ingredients you don't want to drink. The cans even contain BPA, a hormone-like chemical linked to diabetes, obesity, sexual problems, developmental issues, and more.

    It shouldn't take a warning label to keep you away from all that.

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