Soda and Obesity

type 2 diabetes, obesityWhile a major study relating soda and obesity was done in California, the hypothesis, observations and outcomes are applicable to all the states of the Union.  More than half the adolescents in that state and almost a fourth of the adults treat themselves to at least one sweetened beverage every day.  One of the concerns expressed by UCLA researchers is that the serving size has grown from an average of 6.5 ounces and eighty-eight calories in the 1950’s to 20 ounces and two hundred sixty-six calories by the 2000’s.  In fast food restaurants in 2003, the average serving was 23 ounces (almost 300 calories).  These added caloric sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, are not only markers of a poor diet, but also are associated with overweight and obesity in all age groups.

The UCLA Health Policy Research Brief from September, 2009, reports from its data that, “Adults who drink soda occasionally (not every day) are 15% more likely to be overweight or obese, and adults who drink one or more sodas per day are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese than adults who do not drink soda, even when adjusting for poverty status and race/ethnicity.”  Even though the prevalence of overweight in children is lower than in adults, the rates among children have increased more.  In fact, overweight has tripled in teenagers and quadrupled in those from six to eleven years old in the last three decades.  In California the cost of obesity approaches twenty-one billion dollars a year, burdening families, employers and the health care industry.  The study comments that, “California spends more public and private money on the health consequences of obesity than any other state.”  To compound the matter, the article admits that “…drinking soda is also associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”

One third of American adults are obese. Their health care costs $1500 more a year than it does for an average-weight person.  The Center for Disease Control announced in July, 2011, that obesity in the entire United States costs $147 billion a year in direct medical costs.  Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said the problem is “getting worse rapidly.  The average American is now 23 pounds overweight.”  For Medicare, the cost of obesity is 72% greater just for prescription drugs.  The CDC says that one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes.  How did we get there?  Diet.  Does the rest of the world share the problem?  Yes.  Where does the blame go?  White flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soft drinks and fast food.

Whether it gets marketed as corn sugar or as high fructose corn syrup, which is what it is, this commodity is not equal to other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain.  HFCS costs less than table sugar because, being liquid, it’s easier to transport and blend.  It’s sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), so less is needed, and it’s cheaper because of a combination of corn subsidies and sugar tariffs and quotas.  Cheap corn, in fact, is the building block of the fast-food nation.  Cheap corn created the chubby 20-ounce bottle of soda we have today.

High fructose corn syrup commonly is 55% fructose and 45% glucose, somewhat different from the 50-50 mix in table sugar, where one fructose molecule is attached to one glucose molecule.  Some HFCS may be as high as 80% fructose.  Since all sugars contain four calories per gram, there must be something else about fructose that matters.  Fructose is metabolized more rapidly that glucose, flooding metabolic pathways and increasing triglyceride storage.   It doesn’t spur the production of insulin or leptin, the hormone that sequesters appetite.  The body then lacks satiety.  This elevates serum triglycerides and increases fat storage.  Since it may have less impact on appetite than glucose, fructose contributes to weight gain.  Ingesting lots of fructose may also reduce insulin sensitivity.  (Beck-Nielsen, 1980)

Soft drink consumption has more than doubled in the twenty years from 1977 to 1997.  Not surprisingly, obesity followed the same trend. Cause and effect? It’s been estimated that for each additional sweet drink consumed per day, the odds of obesity increase by sixty percent.  A study of more than fifty thousand nurses by Harvard compared time periods from 1991-1995 and 1995-1999, and found that women whose soda consumption increased had bigger rises in body-mass index than those who drank less or the same amounts of soda. Fast food seems to go well with it.  Unhealthy foods get along nicely with each other.

The debate between the soft drink industry and the health nuts is ongoing.  People who consume lots of fresh-squeezed juices, vegetables and fruits are not the same group that consumes soda and cold cut sandwiches.  The daily calories from soft drinks account for almost a fourth of the recommended daily intake for many Americans, who drink almost fifty-six gallons of soda a year.

In case you’re interested, more than 30% of Americans are obese. More than 24% of Mexicans, 23% of British, 22% of Slovakians, 22% of Greeks and Australians, 21% of New Zealanders, and 15% of Czechs, but only 3% of Japanese and Koreans. Go figure. Obesity, by the way, means being more than 20% above ideal weight for height.


UCLA Health Policy Research Brief
September 2009
Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California
Susan H. Babey, Malia Jones, Hongjian Yu and Harold Goldstein

In California, 62% of adolescents ages 12-17 and 41% of children ages 2-11 drink at least
one soda or other sweetened beverage every day. In addition, 24% of adults drink at least
one soda or other sweetened beverage on an average day. Adults who drink soda occasionally
(not every day) are 15% more likely to be overweight or obese, and adults who drink one or
more sodas per day are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese than adults who do not
drink soda, even when adjusting for poverty status and race/ethnicity.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased dramatically in both adults
and children in the last three decades in the United States. In the 1970s, about 15% of
adults were obese and by 2004 the rate had climbed to 32%.1 Although the prevalence of
overweight among children is lower than among adults, the rates among children and
adolescents have increased considerably more. The prevalence of overweight and obesity
nearly tripled among 12-19 year olds and more than quadrupled among 6-11 year olds
in the last three decades.

In California, 21% of adults are currently obese and an additional 35% are overweight. Among adolescents, 14% are obese and another 16% are overweight.2 Similar to national trends, the trend in California is toward increasing weight in both adults and adolescents.3 Each year in California, overweight and obesity cost families, employers, the health care industry and the government $21 billion.4 California spends more public and private money on the health consequences of obesity than any other state.5

Overweight and obesity are associated with serious health risks. In children and adolescents, overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease indicators including high total cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high fasting insulin, an early indicator of diabetes risk.6 In addition, overweight children and adolescents are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults.7 In adults, overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer and premature death.1, 8, 9

Drinking sweetened beverages such as soda and fruit drinks that have added caloric sweeteners (e.g., sucrose, high fructose corn syrup) is one marker of a poor diet, and is
associated with overweight and obesity in people of all ages.10-13 A number of studies have found that greater consumption of sweetened beverages is associated with overweight and obesity among both adults and children.12-19 In addition, randomized controlled trials that examine the impact of reducing intake of sweetened beverages on weight indicate
that reducing consumption of soda and other sweetened drinks leads to reductions in
overweight and obesity.20, 21 Among adults, drinking soda is also associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.13 Moreover, drinking sweetened beverages has
increased, and it is now more common than ever, particularly among adolescents.22
Between 1977 and 2002 Americans increased their calorie intake from soft drinks by
228%.23 Portion sizes have also increased from an average serving size of 6.5 fl oz (88 calories) in the 1950s, to 12 fl oz (150 calories), 20 fl oz (266 calories), and even larger portion sizes common today.24-26 The average serving size of soft drinks in fast food restaurants in 2002 was 23 fl oz (299 calories), with some chains now commonly selling soft drinks in 32 to 64 fl oz portions (416 to 832 calories, respectively).27 Sweetened beverages are a significant contributor to total caloric intake, especially for children and adolescents, and they lack the nutrients our bodies need.24, 26, 28

Additionally, eating habits established in childhood are important determinants of
eating habits as adults.29, 30

Am J Clin Nutr February 1980 vol. 33 no. 2 273-278
Impaired cellular insulin binding and insulin sensitivity induced by high-fructose feeding in normal subjects
H Beck-Nielsen, O Pedersen and HO Lindskov

We have studied whether the sucrose-induced reduction of insulin sensitivity and cellular insulin binding in normal man is related to the fructose or the glucose moiety. Seven young healthy subjects were fed their usual diets plus 1000 kcal extra glucose per day and eight young healthy subjects were fed their usual diets with addition of 1000 kcal extra fructose per day. The dietary regimens continued for 1 week. Before change of diet there were no statistically significant differences between body weight and fasting plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, and ketone bodies in the two groups studied. High- glucose feeding caused no significant changes in insulin binding or insulin sensitivity whereas high-fructose feeding was accompanied by a significant reduction both of insulin binding (P less than 0.05) and insulin sensitivity (P less than 0.05). The changes in insulin binding and insulin sensitivity correlated linearly (r = 0.52, P less than 0.01). We conclude that fructose seems to be responsible for the impaired insulin binding and insulin sensitivity induced by sucrose.

Medscape J Med. 2008;10(8):189. Epub 2008 Aug 12.
Soft drinks and weight gain: how strong is the link?
Wolff E, Dansinger ML.
Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. [email protected]

Soft drink consumption in the United States has tripled in recent decades, paralleling the dramatic increases in obesity prevalence. The purpose of this clinical review is to evaluate the extent to which current scientific evidence supports a causal link between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and weight gain.

MEDLINE search of articles published in all languages between 1966 and December 2006 containing key words or medical subheadings, such as “soft drinks” and “weight.” Additional articles were obtained by reviewing references of retrieved articles, including a recent systematic review. All reports with cross-sectional, prospective cohort, or clinical trial data in humans were considered.

Six of 15 cross-sectional and 6 of 10 prospective cohort studies identified statistically significant associations between soft drink consumption and increased body weight. There were 5 clinical trials; the two that involved adolescents indicated that efforts to reduce sugar-sweetened soft drinks slowed weight gain. In adults, 3 small experimental studies suggested that consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks caused weight gain; however, no trial in adults was longer than 10 weeks or included more than 41 participants. No trial reported the effects on lipids.

Although observational studies support the hypothesis that sugar-sweetened soft drinks cause weight gain, a paucity of hypothesis-confirming clinical trial data has left the issue open to debate. Given the magnitude of the public health concern, larger and longer intervention trials should be considered to clarify the specific effects of sugar-sweetened soft drinks on body weight and other cardiovascular risk factors.  PMID: 18924641

Diabetes Care. 2010 Nov;33(11):2477-83. Epub 2010 Aug 6.
Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis.
Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després JP, Willett WC, Hu FB.

Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, and Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), which include soft drinks, fruit drinks, iced tea, and energy and vitamin water drinks has risen across the globe. Regular consumption of SSBs has been associated with weight gain and risk of overweight and obesity, but the role of SSBs in the development of related chronic metabolic diseases, such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, has not been quantitatively reviewed.

We searched the MEDLINE database up to May 2010 for prospective cohort studies of SSB intake and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. We identified 11 studies (three for metabolic syndrome and eight for type 2 diabetes) for inclusion in a random-effects meta-analysis comparing SSB intake in the highest to lowest quantiles in relation to risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Based on data from these studies, including 310,819 participants and 15,043 cases of type 2 diabetes, individuals in the highest quantile of SSB intake (most often 1-2 servings/day) had a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those in the lowest quantile (none or <1 serving/month) (relative risk [RR] 1.26 [95% CI 1.12-1.41]). Among studies evaluating metabolic syndrome, including 19,431 participants and 5,803 cases, the pooled RR was 1.20 [1.02-1.42].

In addition to weight gain, higher consumption of SSBs is associated with development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These data provide empirical evidence that intake of SSBs should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases.

J Public Health Policy. 2004;25(3-4):353-66.
The obesity epidemic in the United States.
Morrill AC, Chinn CD.
Capacities Inc., Watertown, Massachusetts 02471, USA. [email protected]

We describe the epidemic of obesity in the United States: escalating rates of obesity in both adults and children, and why these qualify as an epidemic; disparities in overweight and obesity by race/ethnicity and sex, and the staggering health and economic consequences of obesity. Physical activity contributes to the epidemic as explained by new patterns of physical activity in adults and children. Changing patterns of food consumption, such as rising carbohydrate intake–particularly in the form of soda and other foods containing high fructose corn syrup–also contribute to obesity. We present as a central concept, the food environment–the contexts within which food choices are made–and its contribution to food consumption: the abundance and ubiquity of certain types of foods over others; limited food choices available in certain settings, such as schools; the market economy of the United States that exposes individuals to many marketing/advertising strategies. Advertising tailored to children plays an important role.  PMID: 15683071

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Diet Soda is Not A Free Ride

diet soda & weight gainThere is little doubt that obesity in America is on the upswing. Lots of people think that an artificially-sweetened beverage can offset the poor dietary decisions to which they have become accustomed. There has been established a relationship between non-sugar sweeteners and weight gain based on physiological responses to the message of satiety and the perceived need to consume more calories to achieve it. While the perception of sweet taste is supposed to satisfy appetite, the calculated deception to the body just might boomerang and call off all bets.

In the San Antonio Heart Study that ran from 1979 to 1988, researchers examined the association of artificially sweetened beverages with long-term weight gain, and found that, “A significant positive dose-response relationship emerged between baseline ASB (artificially sweetened beverage) consumption and all outcome measures…”  These outcome measures included overweight / obesity, weight gain, and changes in body mass index (BMI).  As with most nutrition research, considerations were made for demographics and behavioral characteristics.  Drinking more than twenty-one ASB’s a week had the most impact, with “…almost double risk of overweight / obesity among 1,250 baseline normal-weight individuals.”  For those with a body mass index already elevated, the changes were more pronounced.  This report concluded with, “These findings raise the question whether AS (artificial sweetener) use might be fueling—rather than fighting—our escalating obesity epidemic.”

That last sentence from the San Antonio Heart Study is quite the incrimination, would you say?
Diet soft drinks have long been thought to be healthier alternatives to their sugary counterparts, but reports like this one have linked increased incidence of weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and even diabetes to frequent intake of diet soft drinks.  Keep in mind, though, that all studies in all areas of health care are subject to scrutiny and critique.    Regardless of the topic, there are always two—or more—sides.  But here it may have been discovered that fooling the body is the instigator behind the concern.

When the body is told that something sweet has been ingested, it launches the production of insulin to carry the sweet to the cells to be burned for energy.  By the time the body finds out that there really is no sugar to be burned—in the form of glucose—the insulin has already been sent on its way to work.  Now the insulin has to find something to do, so it initiates a signal that says, “Feed me.  I need to carry glucose.”  That arouses hunger.  What do we grab for immediate satisfaction?  Carbohydrates, the simpler, the better.  Most of them spike glucose rapidly, which, if it fails to get burned for energy, is stored as fat.  It now appears that a lack of exercise becomes part of the equation.

There’s another tack to look at.  Some artificial sweeteners are alleged to block the brain’s production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that controls mood, learning, sleep, and…appetite.  When the body experiences low levels of serotonin—and that can affect depressed mood—it seeks foods that can bring the levels back up.   Those foods happen to be the ones that will also bring the belt size up. Real sugar, of course, provides empty calories that can also cause weight gain as excessive energy intake.  But a weight conscious public does what it thinks is right.

Sweet taste enhances appetite.  Aspartame-sweetened water, for example, increased subjective hunger ratings when compared to glucose-sweetened water.  (Yang. 2010)  Other artificial sweeteners were associated with heightened motivation to eat, with more items selected on a food preference list. (Blundell. 1986)  This suggests that the calories in natural sweeteners trigger a response to keep overall energy intake constant, and that inconsistent coupling between sweet taste and actual caloric content can lead to compensatory overeating and consequential positive energy balance.  (This means that more energy came into the body than went out.)  People associate taste with calorie content.  You can tell that a crème brulee has more calories than the eggs from which it is made, but you’d probably eat more of it if made with artificial sweetener than with cane sugar.

Humans have a hedonic component.  We like those things that appeal to the senses and activate our food reward pathways.  That contributes to appetite increase.  But artificial sweeteners fail to provide completeness.  Unsweetening the American diet over the long haul, a little at a time, might just do the trick.  After all, it seems to work with salt.


Obesity (2008) 16(8), 1894–1900.
Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain Sharon P. Fowler, Ken Williams, Roy G. Resendez, Kelly J. Hunt, Helen P. Hazuda and Michael P. Stern

Diabetes Care. 2009 Apr;32(4):688-94. Epub 2009 Jan 16.
Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Nettleton JA, Lutsey PL, Wang Y, Lima JA, Michos ED, Jacobs DR Jr.
SourceDivision of Epidemiology, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, Texas, USA. [email protected]

Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):55-62. Epub 2010 Jan 6.
High-intensity sweeteners and energy balance.
Swithers SE, Martin AA, Davidson TL.

SourceDepartment of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, 703 Third Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, United States. [email protected]

Yale J Biol Med. 2010 June; 83(2): 101–108.
Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings
Neuroscience 2010
Qing Yang

The Lancet, Volume 327, Issue 8489, 10 May 1986, Pages 1092-1093

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Is Sugar Affecting Your Immunity?

sweet-drinkThere is a metabolic difference between simple and complex carbohydrates.  The simple ones become glucose soon after they are eaten.  The complex ones take longer to turn into sugar and are less apt to spike insulin and cause energy crashes down the line.  But that isn’t the only difference between the two.

Almost forty years ago scientists had an interest in the relationship of diet to health, specifically of sugar intake to immunity.   But their curiosity went past simple sugar to include carbohydrates other than glucose.  The cells that are the backbone of the immune system are supposed to kill, swallow, and dispose of alien bodies, including bacteria, viruses and cancer cells.  Scientists at Loma Linda University in California examined the activity of neutrophilic phagocytes (cells that dissolve the enemy) after subjects ingested glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice and found that “…all significantly decreased the capacity of neutrophils to engulf bacteria…”  (Sanchez, Reeser, et al. 1973)  Looking more closely, the researchers also discovered that the greatest effects occurred within the first two hours after eating, but “…the effects last for at least 5 hours.”  (Ibid.)  If there is any promise, it’s that the effects can be undone by fasting from added sugars for the next two or three days.

At the start of the twentieth century, Americans consumed only about five pounds of sugar a year.  By the fifties, that had grown to almost 110 pounds a year, and to more than 152 by the year 2000.  Corn sweeteners account for 85 of those pounds.
(USDA Economic Research Service, )  America’s sweet tooth increased 39% between 1950 and 2000 as the use of corn sweetener octupled.

Although the cited study is decades old, its message is contemporary. HFCS began replacing sugar in soft drinks in the 1980’s, after it was portrayed by marketers as a healthful replacement for demon sugar.  It didn’t hurt the industry that it cost less, either.  The biological effects of sugar and HFCS are the same, however.  Neither has any food value—no vitamins, protein, minerals, antioxidants, or fiber—but they do displace the more nutritious elements of one’s diet, and we tend to consume more than we need to maintain our weight, so we gain.

Even though the number of calories from the glucose in a slice of bread or other starch is the same as that from table sugar (half fructose and half glucose), they are metabolized differently and have different effects on the body.  While fructose is metabolized by the liver, glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body.  When fructose reaches the liver, especially in liquid form (as in soda), it overwhelms the organ and is almost immediately converted to fat.  (Taubes. 2011)

Innate immunity is that which occurs as part of your natural makeup and defends you against infection by other organisms.  Short-term hyperglycemia, which might come from a pint of vanilla, has been found to affect all the major components of the innate immune system and to impair its ability to combat infection.  Reduced neutrophil activity, but not necessarily reduced neutrophil numbers, is one of several reactions to high sugar intake.  (Turina. 2005)  Way back in the early 1900’s, researchers noted a relationship between glucose levels and infection frequency among diabetes sufferers, but it wasn’t until the 1940’s that scientists found that diabetics’ white cells were sluggish. (Challem. 1997)  More recent study has corroborated the diabetes-infection connection, agreeing that neutrophil phagocytosis is impaired when glucose control is less than adequate.  (Lin. 2006)  Impaired immune activity is not limited to those with diabetes.  As soon as glucose goes up, immune function goes down.

Some folks think they’re doing themselves a favor by using artificial sweeteners.  Once the brain is fooled into thinking a sweet has been swallowed, it directs the pancreas to make insulin to carry the “sugar” to the cells for energy.  After the insulin finds out it’s been cheated of real sugar, it tells the body to eat in order to get some, and that creates artificial hunger, which causes weight increase from overeating.   Even environmental scientists have a concern with fake sweeteners in that they appear in the public’s drinking water after use.  You can guess how that works. (Mawhinney. 2011)

Mineral deficiencies, especially prevalent in a fast-food world, contribute to immune dysfunction by inhibiting all aspects of the system, from immune cell adherence to antibody activity.  Paramount among minerals is magnesium, which is part of both the innate and acquired immune responses.  (Tam. 2003)  Epidemiological studies have connected magnesium intake to decreased incidence of respiratory infections, and intravenous administration has shown effective in treating asthma. (PDR. 2000)  But sugar pushes magnesium—and other minerals—out of the body.  (Milne. 2000)  This will compromise not only immune function, but also bone integrity.  (Tjäderhane. 1998)

Zinc has been touted for its ability to shorten the duration of the common cold.  Like magnesium, zinc levels decrease with age, and even tiny deficiencies can have a large effect on immune health, particularly in the function of the thymus gland, which makes the T-cells of the immune system.  Zinc supplementation improves immune response in both the young and the old.  (Haase. 2009)  (Bogden. 2004)  (Bondestam. 1985)  All the microminerals, in fact, are needed in minute amounts for optimal growth and development…and physiology.  Low intakes suppress immune function by affecting T-cell and antibody response. Thus begins a cycle whereby infection prevents uptake of the minerals that could prevent infection in the first place.  Adequate intakes of selenium, zinc, copper, iron plus vitamins B6, folate, C, D, A, and E have been found to counteract potential damage by reactive oxygen species and to enhance immune function.  (Wintergest. 2007)

Who would have viewed something as sweet as sugar as being so hostile? It taste great to eat but has a nasty habit of pushing everything else out.


Albert Sanchez, J. L. Reeser, H. S. Lau, P. Y. Yahiku, et al
Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov 1973; Vol 26, 1180-1184

Profiling Food Consumption in America

Taubes G.
“Is Sugar Toxic?”
in New York times Magazine, 13 April, 2011

Turina M, Fry DE, Polk HC Jr.
Acute hyperglycemia and the innate immune system: clinical, cellular, and molecular aspects.
Crit Care Med. 2005 Jul;33(7):1624-33.

Challem J and Heumer RP.
The Natural health Guide to Beating the Supergerms.
1997. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York.  Pp. 124-125

Lin JC, Siu LK, Fung CP, Tsou HH, Wang JJ, Chen CT, Wang SC, Chang FY.
Impaired phagocytosis of capsular serotypes K1 or K2 Klebsiella pneumoniae in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients with poor glycemic control.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Aug;91(8):3084-7.

Mawhinney DB, Young RB, Vanderford BJ, Borch T, Snyder SA.
Artificial sweetener sucralose in U.S. drinking water systems.
Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Oct 15;45(20):8716-22.

Tam M, Gómez S, González-Gross M, Marcos A.
Possible roles of magnesium on the immune system.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Oct;57(10):1193-7.

PDR:  Physicians’ Desk reference for Herbal Medicines.  Magnesium.  2nd edition.  Mintvale NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2000:  5340540

Milne David B, PhD and Forrest H. Nielsen, PhD
The Interaction Between Dietary Fructose and Magnesium Adversely Affects Macromineral Homeostasis in Men
J Am Coll Nutr February 2000 vol. 19 no. 1 31-37

Tjäderhane Leo, and Markku Larmas
A High Sucrose Diet Decreases the Mechanical Strength of Bones in Growing Rats
J. Nutr. October 1, 1998 vol. 128 no. 10 1807-1810

Fuchs, Nan Kathryn Ph.D.
Magnesium: A Key to Calcium Absorption
The Magnesium Web Site on November 22, 2002

Haase H, Rink L.
The immune system and the impact of zinc during aging.
Immun Ageing. 2009 Jun 12;6:9.

Bogden JD.
Influence of zinc on immunity in the elderly.
J Nutr Health Aging. 2004;8(1):48-54.

Bondestam M, Foucard T, Gebre-Medhin M.
Subclinical trace element deficiency in children with undue susceptibility to infections.
Acta Paediatr Scand. 1985 Jul;74(4):515-20.

Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH.
Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function.
Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(4):301-23. Epub 2007 Aug 28.

Smolders I, Loo JV, Sarre S, Ebinger G, Michotte Y.
Effects of dietary sucrose on hippocampal serotonin release: a microdialysis study in the freely-moving rat.
Br J Nutr. 2001 Aug;86(2):151-5.

Jack Challem, Burton Berkson, M.D., Ph.D., Melissa Diane Smith
Glucose and Immunity
Accessed 11/2011

Van Oss CJ.
Influence of glucose levels on the in vitro phagocytosis of bacteria by human neutrophils.
Infect Immun. 1971 Jul;4(1):54-9.

Bernstein J, Alpert S, et al
Depression of lymphocyte transformation following oral glucose ingestion
Am J Clin Nutr. 1977; 30: 613

Robert A. Good, Ellen Lorenz
Nutrition and cellular immunity
International Journal of Immunopharmacology. Vol 14, Iss 3, Apr 1992, Pp. 361-366

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

What’s The Big Deal If My Insulin Spikes?

complex-carbsInsulin is the pancreatic hormone responsible for distributing the carbohydrates you eat in the form of glucose, whose job is to get inside each cell to provide the fuel you need for energy. If the glucose inside a cell is not burned because of inactivity, that which is floating around has no place to go, so it gets into trouble. If it then creates advanced glycation end products*, cells get crystallized like the topping of a crème brulee. That can make cell membranes brittle. If that happens, blood vessels and organs lose resilience and cause problems, such as high blood pressure. Even heart failure can result if the left ventricle stiffens. If carbs don’t get burned, they can get stored as fat because insulin likes to store things. Just like a squirrel, eh? The more insulin you have, the more storage goes on and the more fat builds up. After a while, cells get tired of being teased by insulin, expecting glucose to be escorted in, but frustrated in their anticipation because the old glucose still hasn’t been burned. Now the cells ignore the insulin and become resistant to its serenade. That is the start of type 2 diabetes. A big belly promises big problems. How do you feel about sticking yourself with a needle every day?

*Advanced glycation endproducts—AGE’s—are made when sugars react with proteins or amino acids, without the control of an enzyme, in a process called glycation. This is the equivalent of browning food in a sauté pan or in the oven, and is equally irreversible. When proteins accumulate AGE’s, they do, in fact, turn brown. Because they are cross-linked, the body cannot break them down. As a result, tissues lose tone and resiliency, and destruction begins.

How did this ever happen to me? Probably from simple carbohydrates. You know what they are—foods made from one or two sugars, having very little nutritional value. They’re digested faster than the blink of an eye, and demand immediate burning or they get stored as…well, you know. One-sugar carbs include fructose, galactose and glucose. Two-sugar carbs are lactose, maltose and sucrose (table sugar). Got white flour, honey, milk, candy, chocolate, fruit juice, fruit, jam/jelly, soda, packaged cereal, biscuits or molasses in the pantry?  You’ve got simple carbohydrates. That includes cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies, and the Pillsbury Doughboy. The fibers, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in real, honest-to-goodness fruits bail them out…mostly. But the same can’t be said about juices, especially apple.

How about moderation? How about it? Try giving up wheat—that’s white flour—for a week and see what happens. Replacing white sugar with artificial sweeteners, by the way, might be upsetting the apple cart from another angle. If the brain is fooled into thinking something sweet has been eaten, it’ll still signal insulin to start flowing. At this point, insulin really has nothing to do, so it makes you hungry in order to get some glucose to carry. Now, what? You just took in more calories than you need. They get stored as…well, you know.

Carbohydrates include sugar, starch and fiber, the last not able to be broken apart into simple sugars, so it passes through without being digested. Fibers, both soluble and insoluble, provide no nourishment, but they do promote health. There isn’t much fiber in breads and sweets, but there is in vegetables, legumes and whole grains, the latter associated with increased insulin sensitivity (Liese, 2003) (de Munter, 2007). Restricting carbohydrates in favor of fats and proteins will not only help to control insulin spikes, but also to make your trousers bigger (Foster, 2003) (Samaha, 2003). If you’ve heard about drinking vinegar after a carb-studded repast, you might be interested to know that it seems to help control spikes (Ostman, 2005) (Leeman, 2005), but that’s a topic for another time.


Jeroen S L de Munter, Frank B Hu, Donna Spiegelman, Mary Franz, Rob M van Dam
Whole Grain, Bran, and Germ Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Cohort Study and Systematic Review
PLoS Med 4(8): e261. 2007

Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, McGuckin BG, Brill C, Mohammed BS, Szapary PO, Rader DJ, Edman JS, Klein S.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Sweet And Large

sweetnersA corned beef special with extra Russian dressing, a side of cole slaw, and a hunk of New York cheese cake for dessert, chased with a Diet Coke. This was pretty common lunchtime fare for a raft of patrons at a local eatery. Were they looking to cut calories? Or was diet soda merely the rage? If these folks were trying to fight the Battle of the Bulge, they chose the losing faction. If marketing diet soft drinks, they joined the pack.

Not too long ago scientists re-examined the effects of artificial sweeteners on human physiology, prompted, it seems, by the obesity epidemic that is sweeping the country and a considerable part of the Western World. It is presumed that eliminating the cause will also eliminate the effect. The cause in this case has multiple personalities, starting with saccharin, the oldest fake sugar, discovered at Johns Hopkins in the late 1870’s…from coal tar. Sounds yummy, right? Yep, a little waterproofing/shampoo in your coffee gets the day off to a running start, and it’ll even treat dandruff and kill lice. In its infancy, saccharin was featured on drug store shelves as a sugar replacement for people with diabetes. It was put into soda in the 1940’s for those who wanted to limit sugar intake, which was ironic because sugar was limited during World War II anyway. Saccharin is 300 times sweeter than table sugar and has a bitter aftertaste. Cyclamate came out in the 30’s, and was blended with saccharin to improve the flavor. Both were GRAS—generally recognized as safe—at first, in the late 50’s. In the late 60’s, however, cyclamate was abandoned by the U.S. as a carcinogen, and saccharin was viewed with suspicion. Other countries allow cyclamates to this day. Saccharin had received a warning label, but that was removed in 2000 by the Sweetness Act. How adorable! In 2010, the EPA took saccharin off its hazardous chemical list. Did you know this stuff is made from toluene, which has limited carcinogenic potential but still is paint thinner?

Aspartame was stumbled upon when Big Pharma was looking to make a new ulcer drug in the mid 1960’s. A combination of the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid linked to a methanol backbone, aspartame is supposed to be avoided by those with phenylketonuria, a rare inherited metabolic disorder that fails to process phenylalanine, leading to mental retardation and other serious problems. Popular reports cite aspartame as causative of seizures and mood changes, an allegation that is still hotly debated (Magnuson, 2007) (Pediatrics, 1997). Its sweetness parallels that of saccharin.

Neotame, a product of Monsanto’s NutraSweet, is 7,000 times sweeter than sugar. That was approved in 2002. It’s the sweetest child on the block. Acesulfame potassium (K) hit the streets in dry foods in the 80’s and as a general sweetener in ’03. But the hot one these days is sucralose–Splenda®. It’s the most popular artificial sweetener, used mostly in soft drinks, but also in some baby foods (Why?).

What’s this got to do with obesity? For starters, the brain doesn’t appreciate being fooled. As soon as it gets the message that something sweet is eaten it initiates the secretion of insulin by the pancreas to start metabolizing glucose. When there is no nutritive entity to provide glucose, the brain makes you hungry enough to get some. You then eat.

Dr. Yanina Pepino and her team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine found that sucralose is not an inert ingredient, but one that has a definite effect on blood sugar peaks. When subjects drank a sucralose beverage prior to drinking a glucose beverage, their sugar levels rose 20 percent higher than when they drank plain water before the glucose drink. The analysts related this to enhanced insulin and glucose responses caused by the artificial sweetener (Pepino, 2013), possibly leading to insulin resistance. True sweet taste cues serve to regulate energy balance, while non-nutritive sweeteners may promote increased food intake and consequent weight gain (Swithers, 2010).

Sucralose has chlorine groups replacing hydroxide groups in a glucose molecule, making it an organochloride that is related to some pesticides and plastics. It has the capability of lowering intestinal pH, making it acidic and hostile to beneficent colonic bacteria. Even after stopping sucralose, the changed pH may persist (Abou-Donia, 2008). Isn’t chlorine used in swimming pool and bathroom cleaners to kill bacteria?

Before sucralose hit the market, similar investigations focused on then-current artificial sweeteners, aspartame paramount among them. Where a 1986 project found ambiguity concerning appetite signals (Blundell, 1986), later study found that aspartame-sweetened carbonated water increased appetite in the short term (Black, 1993), implying a subsequent intake of excess energy. While the cheesecake crowd was enjoying its low-cal sodas, scientists were already looking at weight management in a highly homogeneous group of middle-aged women, learning that heavier gals were more likely to use non-nutritive sweeteners than their normal weight counterparts, but that, in the long term, artificial sweeteners were not able to prevent weight gain or help weight loss (Stellman, 1986). As with much of what we ingest, dose makes the difference. Those imbibing up to three artificially-sweetened drinks a day appear more likely to risk overweight and obesity than those who consume none (Fowler, 2008). For those who exercise, the difference is insignificant.

So, now, what’s the worry, insulin resistance or weight gain? Being a little overweight doesn’t automatically translate to type 2 diabetes, but it is one of the risk factors. Daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36% greater relative risk of metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater risk of incident type 2 diabetes, compared to non-consumption, in a 2009 report from the U of TX (Nettleton, 2009). Whatever the concern might be, fake sugars stir the soup and promote insulin release (Malaisse, 1998). One of the mechanisms involves faking out the brain, not only with renegade appetite signals, but also with altered reward processing of the sweet sensation that rightfully belongs outside the sphere of artificial sweeteners (Green, 2012). As with all heath topics, the debate goes on because some people remain completely unaffected. And we thought that only Superman was bulletproof. The bottom line is that artificial sweeteners do not activate the food reward pathways in the same fashion as natural ones (Smeets, 2005).


[No authors listed]
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.