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WebMD's 10 Top Health Stories of 2007

Recalled Toys, Unsafe Food, Bad Bugs, New Stem Cell Source Top List

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Over studies lasting a year or more, Padwal and colleagues found that Xenical users lost an average of 6 pounds.

So what's the bottom line? Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, director of nutrition for WebMD, says diet drugs can help some people, but only in the context of a balanced, restricted-calorie diet and regular exercise.

And if you're willing to do that, you might just try being patient. Sidney Wolfe, MD, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, notes that you can lose one-half to one pound a week by adding 2 miles per day of walking to your exercise regimen and by eating 300 fewer calories per day.

"It's slow, but it works and has no risks," Wolfe tells WebMD.

No. 10: Soda Battle Pops

Can just one soda a day hurt your heart, even if it's just a diet soda?

That was the provocative conclusion from one of the most controversial health news stories of 2006. It came from a study, published in a major medical journal, from Boston University researchers who analyzed diet data on 3,500 of the men and women in the huge Framingham Offspring Study that began in 1971.

The researchers found that people who drank one or more sodas a day -- regardless of whether they were sugared or diet sodas -- had a 50% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

A person with metabolic syndrome has three of the following five criteria: a large waistline, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar, elevated fasting triglycerides, or reduced HDL or "good" cholesterol. If you have metabolic syndrome, your risk of diabetes and heart disease is greatly increased.

Drinking one soda a day does not give a person metabolic syndrome. But for whatever reason (replacing healthier beverages? a marker for a poor diet? creating a craving for sweets?), soda drinkers have this extra risk.

That study might not have had such a huge impact if it hadn't come on the heels of an earlier analysis of 88 soda studies by Yale University researchers. That study found that on days when people drank soft drinks, they took in more calories than they did on days they didn't consume soft drinks.

Even lab rats aren't immune. Another 2007 study found that juvenile rats fed low-calorie foods later overate when fed similar-tasting full-calorie foods. So should we stop letting our kids drink diet sodas? Not because of this study, child obesity expert Goutham Rao, MD, tells WebMD.

"Parents often ask me if their children should drink diet sodas," says Rao, director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "I tell them that diet soda is better than regular soda, but my preference would be water or low-fat milk."

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