Calling all Pop Drinkers!

Soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar worldwide, and have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. But, who doesn’t like soda pop? I don’t know of very many people who would say no to an ice-cold soda pop on a hot day (while at work, because I know you’d all rather drink something tastier on a hot day off!). There is no harm in the odd soda pop once in awhile. The harm comes when you drink many of them in a week, or worse, many of them in a day. I didn’t have to look very hard to find many, many sources discussing the harmful effects that soda pop and other sugar-sweetened beverages have on your body and your health. I’ve attempted to summarize these for you in this article.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 20.21.59

To start with, I like visuals and I found the following powerful ones online.  I think it is important that we all actually see how many calories and how much sugar is in some of the commonly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages.  Click on the photo to see a comparison of many sugar-sweetened drinks (Rockstar, Vitamin Water, Juices, etc).  And the table outlines calories and sugar in many common soda pops.

sugar and calories in pop

Now, to get into some of the effects on your body. I will start with diabetes as that is likely what most people associate sugary drinks with. People who consume 1-2 servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages have a 26% greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over people who consume less than 1 serving a month of sugar-sweetened beverages (Malik et al., 2010). Read that again…if you drink 1-2 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages a day you have a 26% greater chance of developing diabetes than someone who rarely drinks them. That is pretty significant!

Next I’ll touch on weight gain. The consumption of sugar-added beverages has a significant link between amount of consumption and becoming overweight or obese. People who drink more than one soda per week have a greater probability of becoming overweight than in those who drink less than 1 soda per week (70% compared with 47% of women aged >50 years old and 77% compared with 58% of men aged >50 years old) (Malik, Schulze, & Hu, 2006).

Having a fatty liver isn’t a very sexy subject, nor would many people understand why this even matters. I will attempt to explain it as easily as I can, but for more in depth information read the very well written paper that I reference. During regular soft drink consumption, fat accumulates in the liver by the primary effect of fructose which increases lipogenesis (formation of fat), and in the case of diet soft drinks, by the additional contribution of aspartame sweetener and caramel colourant which are rich in products that potentially increase insulin resistance (Nseir, Nassar, & Nimer, 2010). The metabolism of fructose is distinct from glucose. The ‘Coles Notes’ version of the paper explains that fructose consumption causes inflammation in the liver. It also promotes insulin resistance, issues with cholesterol, and increased blood pressure. These symptoms (high cholesterol, hypertension, and hyperglycaemia) are commonly known as metabolic syndrome and fructose contributes to them all. And fructose isn’t just found in soda pop. It is commonly named ‘high fructose corn syrup’ in many packaged foods.

Now a brief note on diet pop for those of you now scared of fructose in regular pop! Aspartame and caramel (colourant) are also used as sweeteners in diet pop. Aspartame can contribute to weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Aspartame is not as harmless as many people think it is. Consider this the next time you choose the diet version of your pop thinking it is the healthier choice (Nseir, Nassar, & Nimer, 2010).

I hope you reconsider grabbing that pop today, or your second pop today after reading through this article. I still enjoy the occasional sugar-sweetened drink, but just like many other things we like to treat ourselves with, it is important to consume them in moderation.
References:

Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Després, J.-P., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 33(11), 2477 LP-2483. JOUR. Retrieved from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.abstract

Malik, V. S., Schulze, M. B., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 84(2), 274–288. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/long/84/2/274

Nseir, W., Nassar, F., & Nimer, A. (2010). Soft Drinks Consumption and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 16(21), 2579–2588.

Other articles of interest:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/08/sports-drinks-are-abomination-even-when-theyre-organic

 

Advertisements

So you want to be a healthier shift worker?

Of course we all want to be healthier!  Anyone who works shift work knows that we have a higher risk of almost everything (disease, earlier death, etc).  So why would anyone choose a job where shift work is the norm?!  Because we LOVE it and are passionate about it!  So, what can you do to try and minimize the risks?  I have a few ideas, some of which I’ve discussed in previous blog posts but are worth mentioning again because they are just that important!

  1. SLEEP!  Sleep is so so so important!  Not just after your day shifts and night shifts, but every single time you sleep!  You need to strive for 8 hours or as close to it as possible.  I discussed some nights shift sleep tips in this blog post.
  2. FOOD!  You need to eat real, whole foods and stay away from packaged foods that are full of sugar and other garbage!  See this blog post about sugar, and this blog post about reading food labels.
  3. WATER!  Everyone needs to drink lots and lots of water in a day.  I know you’ll need to pee lots, and that sometimes this is not a great thing on a busy shift as a Paramedic (unless you want to have to use your patient’s bathroom!).  So, just drink as much as you can!  No, Red Bull and coffee and pop don’t count!  Here’s a few tips to help you drink more water.
  4. STRETCH!  Even just for 5-10 minutes a day.  Before shift, during shift, after shift, at home, whenever!  I wrote about a few on duty stretches that are easy to do in uniform here.
  5. EXERCISE!  I don’t care what you do, just get out and move!  Run, walk, ride your bike, go to a class at a gym, sign up for a community association program (bonus…these are usually cheaper than at a gym!), anything!  Find something you enjoy doing and/or find a buddy to do it with you!  You’ll help keep each other accountable!
  6. LAUGH!  I hope you work somewhere as fun as I do and can laugh a TON with your fabulous co-workers!  Find some fun friends outside of work that you can have a blast with as well!  Go to a funny movie, anything that will make you laugh!  It truly is the best medicine!

None of these are new ideas, and I know you’ve all heard them before.  But maybe this is the one time you’ll take one of the suggestions to heart and change something in your lifestyle.

Feel free to share any tips you have to become a healthier Medic!

Front Label Trickery

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 15.38.00.png
http://www.theexercisepro.com

I would bet you have seen some of these health claims (& likely many others) on food labels of items you’ve bought.  And I’d bet that you have been suckered in to buying items based on these claims…I’ll admit that I have.

Here are some truths behind some of the common health claims you’ll see on food labels in Canada…

“Calorie Free” – less than 5 calories per serving size.  The “per serving size” is the catch here…you then have to look at the nutrition label to see how big the serving size is.  The serving size may only be ¼ or less of the actual size you’ll eat at a time.

“Low calorie” – 40 calories per serving size.  Same catch as above…you have to check the serving size.

“Reduced calorie or fat or sodium ” – the food is processed or otherwise modified so that it contains at least 25% less calories/fat/sodium than the regular version.

“Fat-free, Non-fat, etc” – less than 0.5g per serving size.

“Low fat” – less than 3g of fat per serving size.

“Lean” (as in ‘lean ground beef’) – contains 10% fat or less.

“Extra lean” (as in ‘extra lean ground beef’) – contains 7.5% fat or less.

“No saturated fat” and “Trans fat free” – less than 0.2g of saturated fatty acids or trans fats per serving size.

“Low in saturated fat” – less than 2g of saturated fatty acids per serving size.

“Cholesterol free” – less than 2mg of cholesterol per serving size.

“Low cholesterol” – less than 20mg of cholesterol per serving size.

“Sodium free” – less than 5mg of sodium per serving size.

“Low in sodium” – 140mg or less of sodium per serving size.

“Sugar free” – less than 0.5g of sugars per serving size.

“No added sugar” – no added sugar, and no ingredients that contain added sugars. (“unsweetened” falls under this category as well).

“Source of fibre” – contains 2g or more of fibre per serving size.

“High source of fibre” – contains 4g or more of fibre per serving size.

Any vitamin or mineral that claims it’s a “source of” – contains >5% recommended daily intake (RDI) of that item.

“Good source of” or “High in” a vitamin or mineral – contains >15% RDI of that item.

“Excellent source of” a vitamin or mineral – contains >25% RDI of that item.

“Fortified” or “Enriched” – usually means the food has been altered or processed.

“Natural” – the manufacturer started with a natural source, however once processed it usually doesn’t resemble anything natural.

“Organic” – trust only “certified organically grown” if you want true organic foods.

“Made with wheat, multigrain, etc” – doesn’t tell you how much whole grains are in the product.  Look for 100% whole grain products.
The list is long, but all items in the list are similar and misleading.  You MUST check the serving size as there are no regulations on this (meaning, the manufacturer can make the serving size ridiculously small and then include a health claim from the list above).  You also need to be aware of what “high in” or “low in” means in regards to fats and nutrients.  Zero does not mean zero in the world of health claims!

And as I said in the previous post…it is best to choose items with no ingredient list when possible (whole foods), or choose items with a small ingredient list and items you can pronounce!

References:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/nutrient-content/eng/1389905941652/1389905991605

http://www.freedieting.com/food_labels.htm

 

 

 

 

Sugary Sugar Sugariness

There is a lot of misleading information out there about sugar!

I want to start this post with a disclaimer…I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or any other food specialist…and I only have minimal nutritional education as a Peer Fitness Trainer through the IAFF. But, over the years I have done lots reading and learned some information about food nutrition labels and ingredient lists.

There are a few loose rules manufacturers have to follow when it comes to food labels (I use the term “loose rules” on purpose).

They are required to list the total sugar content, but they don’t have to separate the natural from the added sugars.  So, it’s impossible to know how much of the total grams of sugar are natural (i.e. fructose) vs. added (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).

We’ll first talk about the nutrition label and how to determine how much sugar may be in the product you want to buy.   I’m only going to touch on the part of the nutrition label that discusses sugar.

Total carbohydrates – listed first, in grams, and includes all of the useable carbs (starch, dietary fibre, all sugars, and complex carbohydrates)

Dietary fibre – usually listed next, in grams.  Is indigestible, doesn’t raise your blood sugar, and slows down the impact of the other carbs.

Sugar – usually listed 3rd, in grams.  Total amount of sugar from natural (i.e. fructose) and added sugars (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).  They are not required to separate out natural vs. added sugar, so you will need to read your ingredients to take a closer look to see if you find any added sugars (I discuss this in more detail below).

Sugar alcohols – not always included, but if it is it will be listed next.  Manufacturers would choose these because they are lower in calories than the other sugars, but they still have the same effect on your body.  Tricky!

Now, the sum of all these numbers rarely adds up to the “total carbohydrates” because some starches are not required to be listed on the nutrition label.

Nice and confusing, hey?!

Now that you’re even more confused about nutrition labels lets touch on ingredient lists! The best choices of foods don’t have ingredient lists at all (whole foods such as meat, fruit, veggies, nuts, etc).  But, if you are going to buy a packaged food, try to buy ones with the smallest ingredient lists and with ingredients that you can pronounce!  And remember that the ingredients are listed from most to least, so if you see a sugar listed close to the top it’d be best to avoid that item if you can.

As far as sugars on ingredient lists…there are apparently over 60 different names for added sugars.  There’s no way you can remember them all, but there are a couple ways to help you identify them a little easier.

  1. anything that ends in “ose” (i.e. maltose, sucralose, etc).
  2. anything with “dex” (i.e. maltodextrin, dextrose).
  3. anything “syrup” (i.e. high fructose corn syrup [HFCS], malt syrup, rice syrup).
  4. anything “tol” (i.e. sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol), which are sugar alcohols.

It’s very sneaky how manufacturers can get us eating extra sugars when we think we are making wise choices.  It is important to be informed on how to read labels and ingredients to make the best choices for you and your family.

Watch for my next post on front label trickery!  These manufacturers are sneakier than you realize!

 

References:

http://www.sugarscience.org/hidden-in-plain-sight/#.Vx0wW8evHHQ

http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/family-nutrition/food-labels/how-read-package-label

http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/labelingnutrition/ucm274593.htm