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Soft Drinks: Too Much of a Bad Thing?

Regular Drinking May Indicate Overall Unhealthy Lifestyle
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Aug. 24, 2004 -- Sugar-sweetened sodas and fruit punch, already considered notorious contributors to childhood obesity, can also lead to serious health problems in adults -- and may even indicate an overall unhealthy lifestyle, suggests new research.

The study shows that women who increased their intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks or fruit punch from one can per week to one per day gained more weight and doubled their risk of type 2 diabetes compared with women who did not increase their intake. Diet soft drinks were not associated with increased risks.

What's more, these women usually live a less healthy lifestyle and get more calories overall.

Meanwhile, those who increased their intake of fruit juice also experienced weight gain but no increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

The women in the study were from the ongoing Nurses Health Study and were practicing nurses between ages 24 and 44 during the study period. The study appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researcher JoAnn E. Manson, MD, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says her team expected to find a significant weight gain among the study participants consuming the most sugar-sweetened soft drinks. "These drinks are pretty much liquid candy -- just sugar and water," she tells WebMD.

"But we didn't think it would lead to this great an increase in type 2 diabetes risk. It's pretty substantial, an 83% increased risk among women having one can of soda a day and a doubling among those having fruit punch daily."

Doctors Should Ask About Soda Intake

These findings prompted one expert to call upon doctors to specifically ask their patients, whether children or adults, about their intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks -- just as they do about other factors known to cause health problems.

"They should be asking this if they are interested in helping their patients lose weight," says Caroline M. Apovian, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study but wrote an accompanying editorial to it. "They may not be doing that now, but I think this study is going to change that."

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

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However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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