Not Just Sodas — Those Lattes and Other Sugary Drinks Increase Your Diabetes Risk
By Ginger Vieira
Reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes may be as simple as changing what's in your glass.
Recent research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports that people who drink increasing quantities of sugary beverages (including soda and 100 percent fruit juice) face a "moderately" higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
The study tracked consumption of sugary beverages in 192,000 study participants over the course of 26 years while assessing their general health every 4 years.
Researchers said they found that people who drank increasing amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages and 100 percent fruit juice had a 16 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
With obesity rates continuing to climb, obesity, diabetes and weight loss experts are frustrated that many people would still choose to consume soda on a daily basis.
"I don't understand why you'd want to spend those calories and sugar intake on a drink versus something you can actually eat," said Alexis Elliott, LCSW, LISW-CP, CDE, a health coach with a specialty in treating people with diabetes and those living with obesity and eating disorders.
"Sure, people know it's not good for you, but they don't understand just how much sugar is in one can of soda," Elliott told Healthline.
Many people may not know the beverage they're drinking contains more sugar than 1 serving of Skittles candy, for example:
- one 12-ounce can of Coca Cola contains 39 grams of sugar
- one 12-ounce glass of 100 percent orange juice contains 30.9 grams of sugar
- one 12-ounce cup (a "Tall") of Starbucks Chai Tea Latte contains 32 grams of sugar
- one quarter-cup of Skittles contains 29 grams of sugar
Fruit juice also continues to be confusing for those trying to improve their nutrition, especially with trendy "juicing" gadgets.
"The problem with fruit juice is that you're just getting the sugar without any of the fiber or nutrients you need and benefit from when you eat an apple," explained Elliott.
"Below the neck, your body doesn't know the difference between apple juice and sugar water, but it does know the difference between an actual apple and a cup of fruit juice — even if it's 100 percent juice," she said.
Diet Soda Doesn't Help
This research shouldn't send you to the store in search of diet sodas either.
People who drink artificially-sweetened beverages (ASBs) had an 18 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes, but the study authors cautioned other variables play into this finding.
"The findings regarding ASBs should be interpreted with caution due to the possibility of reverse causation (individuals already at high risk for diabetes may switch from sugary beverages to diet drinks) and surveillance bias (high-risk individuals are more likely to be screened for diabetes and thus diagnosed more rapidly)," explained the report.
Aspartame — the most common artificial sweetener in diet sodas — has come under the microscope before.
While it doesn't raise blood sugars immediately after being consumed, a 2018 study suggested the sweetener may potentially affect cortisol levels and insulin resistance.
Experts say switching from soda to diet soda isn't the answer. Instead, the goal should be to focus on drinking more water.
Keeping Some Soda in Your Diet
Reducing the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on your health doesn't mean you have to quit cold turkey.
Replacing 1 serving of soda or juice with water or unsweetened coffee or tea can lessen your risk of type 2 diabetes by anywhere from 2 to 10 percent, the researchers reported.
"The study results are in line with current recommendations to replace sugary beverages with noncaloric beverages free of artificial sweeteners. Although fruit juices contain some nutrients, their consumption should be moderated," Dr. Frank Hu, MPH, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology as well as a senior author of the study, said in a press release.
Are You Addicted to Sugar?
"Sugar can be more addictive than heroin," explained Elliott. "But we are exposed to sugar all the time, and society considers it an acceptable form of addictive substance, so it's much harder to manage or avoid."
When working with clients, Elliott often sees this dependence on sugar in the most seemingly harmless food choices, such as flavored coffee creamer.
"I have so many clients who can't quit those sugar-sweetened coffee creamers, and there's so much sugar in one tiny serving," she said.
While some details in the criteria for addiction don't strictly apply to sugar, many others do, explained Elliott.
"First, are you drinking the substance in larger amounts to get the same effects? Did you used to drink 1 can of soda a day, and now you're having 2 or 3 a day?" she said.
"This happens with caffeine very easily," said Elliott. "You used to drink 1 cup of coffee, but now you don't feel like yourself until you've had at least 2 or 3 cups."
"Secondly," continued Elliott, "have you been wanting to cut down on the substance but can't manage to? And spending a lot of time or energy thinking about quitting? These are signs of addiction."
"This next one is a big one for sugar and diabetes — do you continue to use the substance even though you know you have a problem that is negatively affecting your life? Like a diabetes diagnosis," Elliott said. "And lastly, do you have withdrawal symptoms when you do stop using the substance?"
A drastic reduction in your sugar intake will likely lead to withdrawal symptoms that include headaches, irritability, fatigue and even a bit of trembling.
"Some people do tend to use soda or that sugar-laden frappuccino as a crutch. Maybe they were raised with it and it's that vice they won't give up. Or they say, 'Well, I don't smoke or drink alcohol, but I just have my soda,'" explained Elliott.
"It is a coping mechanism for a lot of people," she added. "When things get stressful, you reach for your can of Coke the same way some people reach for a beer, a cigarette or a pint of ice cream."
Elliott added that reducing or quitting your sugar-sweetened beverage habit comes down to creating new habits.
"You can train your taste buds just like you train your muscles, and one day you'll take a sip of something with sugar that you haven't had in a long time, and you'll think, 'How did I used to drink this every day?'"
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.