Sugary Drinks



Sugary Drinks or Diet Drinks: What’s the Best Choice?


Table of Contents


Soft drinks are the beverage of choice for millions of Americans. Some drink them morning, noon, night, and in between. They’re tasty, available everywhere, and inexpensive. They’re also a prime source of extra calories that can contribute to weight gain. Once thought of as innocent refreshment, soft drinks are also coming under scrutiny for their contributions to the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Diet soft drinks, made with artificial sweeteners, may not be the best alternatives to regular soft drinks.



The term “soft drink” covers a lot of ground. It refers to any beverage with added sugar or other sweetener, and includes soda, fruit punch, lemonade and other “ades,” sweetened powdered drinks, and sports and energy drinks. In this section of The Nutrition Source, we focus on non-alcoholic sweetened drinks.

Drunk every now and then, these beverages wouldn’t raise an eyebrow among most nutrition experts, any more than does the occasional candy bar or bowl of ice cream. But few people see them as treats. Instead, we drink rivers of the stuff.

According to figures from the beverage industry, soft drink makers produce a staggering 10.4 billion gallons of sugary soda pop each year. (1) That’s enough to serve every American a 12-ounce can every day, 365 days a year.

The average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch provides about 150 calories, almost all of them from sugar, usually high-fructose corn syrup. That’s the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of table sugar (sucrose). If you were to drink just one can of a sugar-sweetened soft drink every day, and not cut back on calories elsewhere, you could gain up to 15 pounds in a year.

Soft Drinks and Weight

Soda BottlesHistorians may someday call the period between the early 1980s and 2009 the fattening of America. Between 1985 and now, the proportion of Americans who are overweight or obese has ballooned from 45 percent in the mid-1960s to 66 percent today. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an online slide show that shows the spread of obesity in the U.S.) There’s no single cause for this increase; instead, there are many contributors. One of them is almost certainly our penchant for quenching our thirst with beverages other than water.

Once upon a time, humans got almost all of their calories from what nature put into food. That changed with the advent of cheap sugar, and then cheaper high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup has been fingered as one of the villains in the obesity epidemic, (2) but in fact, table sugar and corn sweeteners likely have the same physiological impact on blood sugar, insulin, and metabolism. Sugar added to food now accounts for nearly 16 percent of the average American’s daily intake. Sweetened soft drinks make up nearly half of that. (3)



Dozens of studies have explored possible links between soft drinks and weight. It isn’t an easy task, for several reasons (read Sorting Out Studies on Soft Drinks and Weight to learn why). Despite these research challenges, studies consistently show that increased consumption of soft drinks is associated with increased energy intake. In a meta-analysis of 30 studies in this area, 10 of 12 cross-sectional studies, five of five longitudinal studies, and four of four long-term experimental studies showed this positive association. (3) A different meta-analysis of 88 studies showed that the effect appeared to be stronger in women, studies focusing on sugar-sweetened soft drinks, and studies not funded by the food industry. (4) Studies in children and adults have also shown that cutting back on sugary drinks can lead to weight loss. (56)

On the surface, it makes sense that the more ounces of sugar-rich soft drink a person has each day, the more calories he or she takes in. Yet that runs counter to what happens with solid foods. People tend to compensate for a bigger than usual meal or for a snack by taking in fewer calories later. That’s how weight stays stable. This compensation doesn’t seem to happen with soft drinks. No one knows for sure why this happens, but there are several possibilities:

  • Fluids may not be as satiating as solid foods. That means they don’t provide the same feeling of fullness or satisfaction that solid foods do, which might prompt you to keep eating.
  • The body doesn’t seem to “register” fluid calories as carefully as it does those from solid food. This would mean they are added on top of calories from the rest of the diet. (7)
  • It is possible that sweet-tasting soft drinks—regardless of whether they are sweetened with sugar or a calorie-free sugar substitute—might stimulate the appetite for other sweet, high-carbohydrate foods.

How Much is too much added sugar?

Some sources of carbohydrate are healthier than others, and sugar added to foods and drinks falls into the less-healthy group—no matter whether it’s table sugar or brown sugar, honey or high-fructose corn syrup, or any other type of added sugar. A good goal is keeping added sugars from all sources to under 10 percent of your daily calories. But remember—your body doesn’t need to get any carbohydrate from added sugar. That’s why the Healthy Eating Pyramid says sugary drinks and sweets should be used sparingly, if at all.Learn how to find added sugar on a food label.

Soft Drinks and Diabetes

Gulping the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar over the course of a few minutes gives the body’s blood sugar controls a run for their money. Most people handle a blast of blood sugar just fine. Over time, though, a diet rich in easily digested carbohydrates may lead to type 2 diabetes (once called non-insulin-dependent diabetes and adult-onset diabetes).



Strong evidence indicates that sugar-sweetened soft drinks contribute to the development of this potentially disabling disease. The Nurses’ Health Study explored this connection by following the health of more than 90,000 women for eight years. The nurses who said they had one or more servings a day of a sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch were twice as likely to have developed type 2 diabetes during the study than those who rarely had these beverages. (8)

How sugary drinks contribute to the risk type 2 diabetes.

A similar increase in risk of diabetes with increasing soft drink and fruit drink consumption was seen recently in the Black Women’s Health Study, an ongoing long-term study of nearly 60,000 African-American women from all parts of the United States. (9) Interestingly, the increased risk with soft drinks was tightly linked to increased weight.

In the Framingham Heart Study, men and women who had one or more soft drinks a day were 25 percent more likely to have developed trouble managing blood sugar and nearly 50 percent more likely to have developed metabolic syndrome. This is a constellation of factors—high blood pressure; high insulin levels; excess weight, especially around the abdomen; high levels of triglycerides; and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol—that is one step short of full blown diabetes and boosts the odds of developing heart disease. (10)

Soft Drinks and Heart Disease

Obesity and diabetes are both strong risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. Given that drinking sugary beverages increases the risk of both obesity and diabetes, it is a natural question to ask whether drinking sugary beverages increases the risk of heart disease, too.



The answer from the first long-term study to ask that question is a resounding yes: The Nurses’ Health Study, which tracked the health of nearly 90,000 women over two decades, found that women who drank more than two servings of sugary beverage each day had a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease than women who rarely drank sugary beverages. (11)

Of course, people who drink a lot of sugary drinks often tend to weigh more—and eat less healthfully—than people who don’t drink sugary drinks, and the volunteers in the Nurses’ Health Study were no exception. But researchers accounted for differences in diet quality, energy intake, and weight among the study volunteers. They found that having an otherwise healthy diet, or being at a healthy weight, only slightly diminished the risk associated with drinking sugary beverages.

This suggests that weighing too much, or simply eating too many calories, may only partly explain the relationship between sugary drinks and heart disease. The adverse effects of the high glycemic load from these beverages on blood glucose, cholesterol fractions, and inflammatory factors probably also contribute to the higher risk of heart disease. The glycemic load is a way to classify foods that takes into account both the amount and the quality of the carbohydrates that they contain. Foods that are high in rapidly digested carbohydrate—a can of sugary soda pop, a handful of jelly beans, a plateful of pasta—have a high glycemic load. Eating a diet rich in high-glycemic-load foods may, over time, lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. Learn more about the glycemic load and health.

Soft Drinks and Bones

ColaThere’s also some concern about the impact of soft drinks on building bone and keeping it strong and healthy. There is an inverse pattern between soft drinks and milk—when one goes up, the other goes down. (4) Trading milk for soft drinks isn’t a good swap. Milk is a good source of calcium and protein, and also provides vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and other micronutrients (of course you can drink too much milk, too; see Calcium and Milk: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health, for more information). Soft drinks are generally devoid of calcium and other healthful nutrients. And just adding vitamins and minerals to sugar water does not make a healthy drink. Getting enough calcium is extremely important during childhood and adolescence, when bones are being built. Yet soft drinks are actively marketed to these age groups, and they are key consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Cola-type beverages may pose a special challenge to healthy bones. Colas contain high levels of phosphate. On the surface, this sounds like a good thing, because bone needs both calcium and phosphate. But getting much more phosphate than calcium can have a deleterious effect on bone. (3)

What About Diet Soft Drinks? Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Control

Using artificial sweeteners in soft drinks instead of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup seems like it would sidestep any problems with weight or diabetes. Artificial sweeteners deliver zero carbohydrates, fat, and protein, so they can’t directly influence calorie intake or blood sugar. Over the short term, switching from sugar-sweetened soft drinks to diet drinks cuts calories and leads to weight loss. Long-term use, though, may be a different story.



To date, the FDA has approved the use of five artificial sweeteners. Gram for gram, each one is far sweeter than sugar. (12) They include:

  • aspartame (Equal®, NutraSweet®, others), 180 times sweeter than sugar
  • acesulfame-K (Sunett®, Sweet One®), 200 times sweeter than sugar
  • saccharin (Sweet’N Low®, Necta Sweet®, others), 300 times sweeter than sugar
  • sucralose (Splenda®), 600 times sweeter than sugar
  • neotame (no brand names), 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar

One natural low-cal sweetener, stevia, has not yet been evaluated by the FDA. Stevia is a non-caloric sweetener made from the leaves of a shrub that grows in South and Central America. Its manufacturers say that it is safe; while the FDA has not done its own safety evaluation, it has not objected to these safety findings, (13) paving the way for stevia’s incorporation into foods and drinks. Stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar. Early reports that stevia might cause cancer had made the FDA demand more information from manufacturers about its safety. A number of major soft drink companies have begun launching stevia-sweetened beverages, sometimes combining stevia with erythritol, a sugar alcohol. There are no long-term studies of the health effects of stevia, however, so drinkers beware.

Erythritol and xylitol are sugar alcohols, a class of compounds that have been used for decades to sweeten chewing gum, candy, fruit spreads, toothpaste, cough syrup, and other products. Newer, cheaper ways to make sugar alcohols from corn, wood, and other plant materials, along with their sugar-like taste, are fueling their use in a growing array of foods.

Some long-term studies show that regular consumption of artificially sweetened beverages reduces the intake of calories and promotes weight loss or maintenance. Others show no effect, while some show weight gain. (12)

One worry about artificial sweeteners is that they uncouple sweetness and energy. Until recently, sweet taste meant sugar, and thus energy. The human brain responds to sweetness with signals to, at first, eat more and then with signals to slow down and stop eating. By providing a sweet taste without any calories, artificial sweeteners could confuse these intricate feedback loops that involve the brain, stomach, nerves, and hormones. If this happens, it could throw off the body’s ability to accurately gauge how many calories are being taken in.

Studies in rats support this idea. Purdue University researchers have shown that rats eating food sweetened with saccharin took in more calories and gained more weight than rats fed sugar-sweetened food. (14) A long-term study of nearly 3,700 residents of San Antonio, Texas, showed that those who averaged three or more artificially sweetened beverages a day were more likely to have gained weight over an eight-year period than those who didn’t drink artificially sweetened beverages. (15) Although this finding is suggestive, keep in mind that it doesn’t prove that artificially sweetened soft drinks caused the weight gain.



Imaging studies support the idea that sugar and artificial sweeteners affect the brain in different ways. Some parts of the brain become activated when we experience a “food reward.” At the University of California-San Diego, researchers performed functional MRI scans as volunteers took small sips of water sweetened with sugar or sucralose. Sugar activated regions of the brain involved in food rewards, while sucralose didn’t. (16) So it is possible, the authors say, that sucralose “may not fully satisfy a desire for natural caloric sweet ingestion.” More research is needed to tease out the implications of these findings for weight control.

Although the scientific findings are mixed and not conclusive, there is worrisome evidence that regular use of artificial sweeteners may promote weight gain. Because of these mixed findings about artificial sweeteners, drinking diet soda may not be the best replacement for drinking sugary soda.

The Bottom Line: Skip Sugary Drinks and Go Easy on Diet Drinks

Bottle CapsSo what’s the best choice for your health? For adults and children, the evidence is strong that cutting back on sugary drinks—or eliminating them altogether—may help with weight control and will almost surely lower the risk of diabetes. There’s emerging evidence that sugary drinks increase the risk of heart disease. The evidence is less clear-cut for artificially sweetened drinks. For adults trying to wean themselves from sugary soda, diet soda may be the beverage equivalent of a nicotine patch: something to be used in small amounts, for a short time, just until you kick the habit. For children, the long-term effects of consuming artificially-sweetened beverages are unknown, so it’s best for kids to avoid them.

Healthier drinking is not just an individual problem. Beverage makers have flooded the market with drinks that offer gobs of sugar, or an unpronounceable list of artificial sweeteners. What’s sorely lacking in the beverage marketplace is a middle ground—a drink for people who want just a little bit of sweetness, but don’t want too much sugar, and want to shy away from artificial sweeteners or stevia because of health concerns.

There are very few beverages on the market that have no more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce, without any other type of sweetener—sweet enough to please the palate but, at 50 calories per 12-ounce can, not so hard on the waistline, as long as they are drunk in moderation. That’s why researchers at Harvard School of Public Health have suggested that beverage manufacturers introduce more of these lightly sweetened drinks to the market, to help Americans retrain their palates away from sweet drinks.

Even these lightly sweetened beverages don’t get a green light—they should be occasional treats, rather than your daily source of hydration. The Nutrition Source has created a handy guide to the calories andteaspoons of sugar in popular beverages. You can also find ideas for what to drink instead of sugary drinks, as well as a guide to the best beverages for health, based on advice from an independent panel of experts. (17)


1. BeverageDigest. Beverage Digest Fact Book 2008: Statistical Yearbook of Non-AlcoholicBeverages. Bedford Hills, New York, 2008.

2. FulgoniV, 3rd. High-fructose corn syrup: everything you wanted to know, but wereafraid to ask.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008; 88:1715S.

3. Malik VS,Schulze MB, Hu FB. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: asystematic review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006; 84:274-288.

4. VartanianLR, Schwartz MB, Brownell KD. Effects of soft drink consumption on nutritionand health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health. 2007;97:667-675.

5. Chen L, Appel LJ, Loria C, Lin PH, Champagne CM, Elmer PJ, Ard JD, Mitchell D, Batch BC, Svetkey LP, Caballero B.etal. Reduction in consumption ofsugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight loss: the PREMIER trial.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009; 89:1-8.

6. Ebbeling CB,Feldman HA, Osganian SK, Chomitz VR, Ellenbogen SJ, Ludwig DS.Effects of decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption on body weight inadolescents: a randomized, controlled pilot study. Pediatrics. 2006; 117:673-80.

7. DiMeglioDP, Mattes RD. Liquid versus solid carbohydrate: effects on food intake andbody weight.International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders. 2000; 24:794-800.

8. Schulze MB, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, andincidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004;292:927-934.

9. PalmerJR, Boggs DA, Krishnan S, Hu FB, Singer M, Rosenberg L. Sugar-sweetenedbeverages and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in African American women.Archives of Internal Medicine. 2008; 168:1487-1492.

10. Dhingra R, Sullivan L, Jacques PF, Wang TJ, Fox CS, Meigs JB, D’Agostino RB, Gaziano JM, Vasan RS. Soft drink consumption and risk of developingcardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adultsin the community. Circulation. 2007; 116:480-488.

11. Fung TT,Malik V, Rexrode KM, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sweetened beverageconsumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;89:1037-1042.

12. BellisleF, Drewnowski A. Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of bodyweight. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007; 61:691-700.

13. Food andDrug Administration. Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000253, 2008.Accessed March 25, 2009.

14. SwithersSE, Davidson TL. A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energyregulation by rats. Behavioral Neuroscience. 2008; 122:161-173.

15. Fowler SP,Williams K, Resendez RG, Hunt KJ, Hazuda HP, Stern MP. Fueling the obesityepidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain.Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008; 16:1894-1900.

16. Frank GK,Oberndorfer TA, Simmons AN, et al. Sucrose activates human taste pathwaysdifferently from artificial sweetener. Neuroimage. 2008; 39:1559-1569.

17. Popkin BM,Armstrong LE, Bray GM, Caballero B, Frei B, Willett WC. A new proposed guidancesystem for beverage consumption in the United States. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006;83:529-542.

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The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source is to provide timely information on diet and nutrition for clinicians, allied health professionals, and the public. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The information does not mention brand names, nor does it endorse any particular products.


Popular drug tied to risk of kidney trouble


 High-strength statins for cholesterol the most widely prescribed pharmaceutical in the world

Statins are so widely prescribed as to be called the Aspirin of the 21st century, but their benefits are not universal – new evidence suggests that the cholesterol-lowering medication can lead to kidney damage.

A study examining the health records of two million patients in Canada, the United States and Britain found that people taking a high-strength version of the drug face a small but increased risk of acute kidney injury compared with those taking a weaker version.

Patients who started high-strength statins were 34 per cent more likely to be hospitalized for acute kidney injury than those who started low-potency statins in the first 120 days of treatment, the study found.

Conducted by the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies, the study published in the latest issue of British Medical Journal suggests doctors and patients should re-evaluate whether the risk of treatment at high doses is worth the benefits.

The consequences of rapid loss of kidney function can be profound and long-lasting, experts say.

About one-third of patients in the study were on higher doses of the cholesterol-cutting drugs, which were defined as rosuvastatin (Crestor), atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor), taken, respectively, at 10, 20 and 40 milligrams or higher.

About one in 500 patients had to be hospitalized within two years of starting low-strength statins. Those in therapy on the higher-strength medication were at a 15 per cent greater relative risk of kidney injury.

The results throw doubt on the common practice of using higher doses of drugs to cut cholesterol levels lower and lower, said lead investigator Colin Dormuth, assistant professor of anesthesiology, pharmacology and therapeutics at the University of British Columbia.

But the key word is “relative” risk, Dormuth said, adding that for patients the absolute risk is small.

“We’re talking about a small effect, but it’s still important information for prescribers to have when they are making their treatment choices,” Dormuth explained.

The higher-dose medications, including Lipitor and Crestor, have become the world’s most widely prescribed drugs with some researchers arguing anyone over 50 should be taking them.

For heart and stroke patients with high cholesterol, statins are considered life-saving drugs, and are often prescribed for people with no history of heart disease. But in younger patients, in women and in those without heart disease, the benefits are small, studies have found.

An estimated 30.3 million prescriptions for the drugs were filled in Canada two years ago, according to IMS Brogan, a prescription-drug tracking firm.

In January, Health Canada updated the labelling for statins, warning users they may be at a small increased risk of developing diabetes, particularly in people with pre-existing risk factors such as high blood-sugar levels and obesity. Other unintended effects linked to statins include degenerative muscle disease called myopathy, liver dysfunction and cataracts.

A commentary that appears along with the study suggests that statins have proven value in the general population when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease, especially with patients who have had heart attacks, but doctors should prescribe weaker cholesterol-lowering drugs whenever possible to minimize kidney damage.

This is the inaugural study published by the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies, established in 2011 by Health Canada with a $17.5-million grant over five years and a mandate to evaluate the risks and benefits of drugs on the market in Canada.

Thanks to the initiative, the network obtained data on millions of patients, said Samy Suissa, who heads the network out of the Lady Davis Institute at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital where he is director of clinical epidemiology.

“We’re very proud to be a part of this.”

Observational studies are limited in scope compared to controlled, randomized trials so there may be other factors to explain the risk of kidney failure, said Suissa.

“However, the method we used is really a state-of-the-art method, which accounts for hundreds of factors in the clinical files of patients that allows, essentially, to eliminate this possibility. We’re very confident of the results,” he said.

The network has other studies in the pipeline, including one looking at anti-psychotic drugs that may cause diabetes.

Six statin drugs and their generics are currently marketed in Canada: atorvastatin (sold under the brand name Lipitor); lovastatin (Mevacor); rosuvastatin (Crestor); simvastatin (Zocor); pravastatin (Pravachol); and fluvastatin (Lescol).

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Avoid Knee Surgery

Physical therapy as good as surgery for torn knee cartilage, arthritis, study finds

Physical therapy can be just as good for repairing a torn meniscus in the knee and at far less cost and risk, the most rigorous study to compare these treatments concludes.

Photograph by: Nick Brancaccio , The Windsor Star

You might not want to rush into knee surgery. Physical therapy can be just as good for a common injury and at far less cost and risk, the most rigorous study to compare these treatments concludes.

Therapy didn’t always help and some people wound up having surgery for the problem, called a torn meniscus. But those who stuck with therapy had improved as much six months and one year later as those who were given arthroscopic surgery right away, researchers found.

“Both are very good choices. It would be quite reasonable to try physical therapy first because the chances are quite good that you’ll do quite well,” said one study leader, Dr. Jeffrey Katz, a joint specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

He was to discuss the study Tuesday at an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons conference in Chicago. Results were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

A meniscus is one of the crescent-shaped cartilage discs that cushion the knee. About one-third of people over 50 have a tear in one, and arthritis makes this more likely. Usually the tear doesn’t cause symptoms but it can be painful.

When that happens, it’s tough to tell if the pain is from the tear or the arthritis — or whether surgery is needed or will help. Nearly half a million knee surgeries for a torn meniscus are done each year in the U.S.

The new federally funded study compared surgery with a less drastic option. Researchers at seven major universities and orthopedic surgery centres around the U.S. assigned 351 people with arthritis and meniscus tears to get either surgery or physical therapy. The therapy was nine sessions on average plus exercises to do at home, which experts say is key to success.

After six months, both groups had similar rates of functional improvement. Pain scores also were similar.

Thirty per cent of patients assigned to physical therapy wound up having surgery before the six months was up, often because they felt therapy wasn’t helping them. Yet they ended up the same as those who got surgery right away, as well as the rest of the physical therapy group who stuck with it and avoided having an operation.

“There are patients who would like to get better in a ‘fix me’ approach” and surgery may be best for them, said Elena Losina, another study leader from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

However, an Australian preventive medicine expert contends that the study’s results should change practice. Therapy “is a reasonable first strategy, with surgery reserved for the minority who don’t have improvement,” Rachelle Buchbinder of Monash University in Melbourne wrote in a commentary in the medical journal.

As it is now, “millions of people are being exposed to potential risks associated with a treatment that may or may not offer specific benefit, and the costs are substantial,” she wrote.

Surgery costs about $5,000, compared with $1,000 to $2,000 for a typical course of physical therapy, Katz said.

One study participant — Bob O’Keefe, 68, of suburban Boston — was glad to avoid surgery for his meniscus injury three years ago.

“I felt better within two weeks” on physical therapy, he said. “My knee is virtually normal today” and he still does the recommended exercises several times a week.

Robert Dvorkin had both treatments for injuries on each knee several years apart. Dvorkin, 56, director of operations at the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, had surgery followed by physical therapy for a tear in his right knee and said it was months before he felt no pain.

Then several years ago he hurt his left knee while exercising. “I had been doing some stretching and doing some push-ups and I just felt it go ‘pop.'” he recalls. “I was limping, it was extremely painful.”

An imaging test showed a less severe tear and a different surgeon recommended physical therapy. Dvorkin said it worked like a charm — he avoided surgery and recovered faster than from his first injury. The treatment involved two to three hour-long sessions a week, including strengthening exercises, balancing and massage. He said the sessions weren’t that painful and his knee felt better after each one.

“Within a month I was healed,” Dvorkin said. “I was completely back to normal.”

Read more:

A Cure For Cancer? Eating A Plant-Based Diet

I have been working closely recently with a few extraordinary nutritional researchers, and I find that the information they have compiled is quite eye opening. Interestingly, what these highly esteemed doctors are saying is just beginning to be understood and accepted, perhaps because what they are saying does not conveniently fit in with or support the multi-billion dollar food industries that profit from our “not knowing”. One thing is for sure: we are getting sicker and more obese than our health care system can handle, and the conventional methods of dealing with disease often have harmful side effects and are ineffective for some patients.

As it is now, one out of every two of us will get cancer or heart disease and die from it – an ugly and painful death as anyone who has witnessed it can attest. And starting in the year 2000, one out of every three children who are born after that year will develop diabetes–a disease that for most sufferers (those with Type 2 diabetes) is largely preventable with lifestyle changes. This is a rapidly emerging crisis, the seriousness of which I’m not sure we have yet recognized. The good news is, the means to prevent and heal disease seems to be right in front of us; it’s in our food. Quite frankly, our food choices can either kill us – which mounting studies say that they are, or they can lift us right out of the disease process and into soaring health.

In the next few months, I will share a series of interviews I’ve conducted with the preeminent doctors and nutritional researchers in the fields of their respective expertise. And here it is straight out: they are all saying the same thing in different ways and through multiple and varying studies: animal protein seems to greatly contribute to diseases of nearly every type; and a plant-based diet is not only good for our health, but it’s also curative of the very serious diseases we face .

On the subject of cancer, I’ve asked Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Cornell University and author of the groundbreaking The China Study to explain how cancer happens and what we can do to prevent and reverse it. Dr. Campbell’s work is regarded by many as the definitive epidemiological examination of the relationship between diet and disease. He has received more than 70 grant years of peer-reviewed research funding, much of which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and he has authored more than 300 research papers. He grew up on a dairy farm believing in the great health value of animal protein in the American diet and set out in his career to investigate how to produce more and better animal protein. Troublesome to his preconceived hypothesis of the goodness of dairy, Dr. Campbell kept running up against results that consistently proved an emerging and comprehensive truth: that animal protein is disastrous to human health.

Through a variety of experimental study designs, epidemiological evidence, along with observation of real life conditions which had rational biological explanation, Dr. Campbell has made a direct and powerful correlation between cancer (and other diseases and illnesses) and animal protein. Following is a conversation I had with him so that I could better understand the association.
KF: What happens in the body when cancer develops? What is the actual process?

TCC: Cancer generally develops over a long period of time, divided into 3 stages, initiation, promotion and progression.

Initiation occurs when chemicals or other agents attack the genes of normal cells to produce genetically modified cells capable of eventually causing cancer. The body generally repairs most such damage but if the cell reproduces itself before it is repaired, its new (daughter) cell retains this genetic damage. This process may occur within minutes and, to some extent, is thought to be occurring most of the time in most of our tissues.

Promotion occurs when the initiated cells continue to replicate themselves and grow into cell masses that eventually will be diagnosed. This is a long growth phase occurring over months or years and is known to be reversible.

 occurs when the growing cancer masses invade neighboring tissues and/or break away from the tissue of origin (metastasis) and travel to distant tissues when they are capable of growing independently at which point they are considered to be malignant.

KF: Why do some people get cancer, and other don’t? What percentage is genetic, and what percentage has to do with diet?

TCC: Although the initiated cells are not considered to be reversible, the cells growing through the promotion stage are usually considered to be reversible, a very exciting concept. This is the stage that especially responds to nutritional factors. For example, the nutrients from animal based foods, especially the protein, promote the development of the cancer whereas the nutrients from plant-based foods, especially the antioxidants, reverse the promotion stage. This is a very promising observation because cancer proceeds forward or backward as a function of the balance of promoting and anti-promoting factors found in the diet, thus consuming anti-promoting plant-based foods tend to keep the cancer from going forward, perhaps even reversing the promotion. The difference between individuals is almost entirely related to their diet and lifestyle practices.

Although all cancer and other diseases begin with genes, this is not the reason whether or not the disease actually appears. If people do the right thing during the promotion stage, perhaps even during the progression stage, cancer will not appear and if it does, might even be resolved. Most estimates suggest that not more than 2-3 percent of cancers are due entirely to genes; almost all the rest is due to diet and lifestyle factors. Consuming plant based foods offers the best hope of avoiding cancer, perhaps even reversing cancer once it is diagnosed. Believing that cancer is attributed to genes is a fatalistic idea but believing that cancer can be controlled by nutrition is a far more hopeful idea.
KF: You said that initially something attacks the genes, chemicals or other agents; like what?

TCC: Cancer, like every other biological event–good or bad–begins with genes. In the case of cancer, gene(s) that give rise to cancer either may be present when we are born or, during our lifetimes, normal genes may be converted into cancer genes by certain highly reactive chemicals (i.e., carcinogens).

Consider ‘cancer genes’ as seeds that grow into tumor masses only if they are ‘fed’. The ‘feeding’ comes from wrongful nutrition. It’s like growing a lawn. We plant seeds but they don’t grow into grass (or weeds) unless they are provided water, sunlight and nutrients. So it is with cancer. In reality, we are planting seeds all of our lifetime although some may be present at birth, not only for cancer but also for other events as well. But this mostly does not matter unless we ‘nourish’ their growth.

The chemicals that create these cancer genes are called ‘carcinogens’. Most carcinogens of years past have been those that attack normal genes to give cancer genes. These are initiating carcinogens, or initiators. But more recently, carcinogens also may be those that promote cancer growth. They are promoting carcinogens, or promoters.

Our work showed that casein is the most relevant cancer promoter ever discovered.

Aside from chemicals initiating or promoting cancer, other agents such as cosmic rays (energetic particles) from the sun or from the outer reaches of space may impact our genes to cause them to change (i.e., mutate) so that they could give rise to cancer ‘seeds’. The most important point to consider is that we cannot do much about preventing initiation but we can do a lot about preventing promotion. The initiating idea is fatalistic and outside of our control but the promotion idea is hopeful because we can change our exposure to promoting agents and reverse the cancer process, thus is within our control.

KF: What exactly is so bad about animal protein?

TCC: I don’t choose the word “exactly” because it suggests something very specific. Rather, casein causes a broad spectrum of adverse effects.

Among other fundamental effects, it makes the body more acidic, alters the mix of hormones and modifies important enzyme activities, each of which can cause a broad array of more specific effects. One of these effects is its ability to promote cancer growth (by operating on key enzyme systems, by increasing hormone growth factors and by modifying the tissue acidity). Another is its ability to increase blood cholesterol (by modifying enzyme activities) and to enhance atherogenesis, which is the early stage of cardiovascular disease.

And finally, although these are casein-specific effects, it should be noted that other animal-based proteins are likely to have the same effect as casein.
KF: Ok, so I am clear that it’s wise to avoid casein, which is intrinsic in dairy (milk and cheese), but how is other animal protein, such as chicken, steak, or pork, implicated in the cause and growth of cancer?

TCC: I would first say that casein is not just “intrinsic” but IS THE MAIN PROTEIN OF COW MILK, REPRESENTING ABOUT 87% OF THE MILK PROTEIN.

The biochemical systems which underlie the adverse effects of casein are also common to other animal-based proteins. Also, the amino acid composition of casein, which is the characteristic primarily responsible for its property, is similar to most other animal-based proteins. They all have what we call high ‘biological value’, in comparison, for example, with plant-based proteins, which is why animal protein promotes cancer growth and plant protein doesn’t.
KF: Isn’t anything in moderation ok, as long as we don’t overdo it?

TCC: I rather like the expression told by my friend, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD, the Cleveland Clinic surgeon who reversed heart disease and who says, “Moderation kills!” I prefer to go the whole way, not because we have fool-proof evidence showing that 100% is better than, say, 95% for every single person for every single condition but that it is easier to avoid straying off on an excursion that too often becomes a slippery slope back to our old ways. Moreover, going the whole way allows us to adapt to new unrealized tastes and to rid ourselves of some old addictions. And finally, moderation often means very different things for different people.

KF: Are you saying that if one changes their diet from animal based protein to plant-based protein that the disease process of cancer can be halted and reversed?

TCC: Yes, this is what our experimental research shows. I also have become aware of many anecdotal claims by people who have said that their switch to a plant-based diet stopped even reversed (cured?) their disease. One study on melanoma has been published in the peer-reviewed literature that shows convincing evidence that cancer progression is substantially halted with this diet.
KF: How long does it take to see changes?

TCC: It is not clear because carefully designed research in humans has not been done. However, we demonstrated and published findings showing that experimental progression of disease is at least suspended, even reversed, when tumors are clearly present.
KF: Consider a person who has been eating poorly his whole life; is there still hope that a dietary change can make a big difference? Or is everything already in motion?

TCC: Yes, a variety of evidence shows that cancers and non-cancers alike can be stopped even after consuming a poor diet earlier in life. This effect is equivalent to treatment, a very exciting concept.
KF: This is sounding like it’s a cure for cancer; is that the case?

TCC: Yes. The problem in this area of medicine is that traditional doctors are so focused on the use of targeted therapies (chemo, surgery, radiation) that they refuse to even acknowledge the use of therapies like nutrition and are loathe to even want to do proper research in this area. So, in spite of the considerable evidence–theoretical and practical–to support a beneficial nutritional effect, every effort will be made to discredit it. It’s a self-serving motive.

KF: What else do you recommend one does to avoid, stop, or reverse cancer?

TCC: A good diet, when coupled with other health promoting activities like exercise, adequate fresh air and sunlight, good water and sleep, will be more beneficial. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
For help on how to lean into a plant based diet, check out my blog post here; and for recipes click here.

For more information about diet and cancer, visit

Red Wine Compound Activates Gene Needed for Healthy Cells

By Ryan Flinn – Mar 7, 2013 3:00 PM AT

Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the vine in Amissville, Virginia.

Harvard scientists said they have settled a debate over whether a compound found in red wine activates a gene that keeps cells healthy.

Researchers repeated a 10-year old study using a new method to validate earlier findings that resveratrol turns on a gene that recharges mitochondria, tiny structures that produce fuel for cells. By revving up mitochondria, the agent may protect against aging-related diseases, said David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School genetics professor and the study’s senior author.

Sinclair’s earlier research was disputed in studies in 2009 and 2010 saying that resveratrol only activated the gene, a sirtuin called SIRT1, in experiments that used a synthetic fluorescent chemical to track activity. Since these chemicals aren’t found in cells or nature,other studies said the effect would only work in lab tests and not in humans. The new study, published today in the journal Science, got rid of the chemical.

“Controversy is a difficult thing to deal with, and I hope this paper gives some clarity to the field,” Sinclair said in a telephone interview.

The Harvard group set out to see if the effect was an artifact of the synthetic chemicals or was something that occurred naturally as well. They swapped out the fluorescent chemicals for a group of naturally occurring amino acids, including tryptophan, and found resveratrol did activate SIRT1.

Resveratrol Drugs

Sinclair’s earlier work led to the formation of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals which focuses on developing drugs from resveratrol. GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) acquired the company in 2008 for $720 million. A little more than two years later, Glaxo shelved development of the lead compound from that acquisition, SRT501, when the medicine didn’t appear to work well enough in cancer patients and worsened kidney damage.

Resveratrol is currently being tested in at least two dozen clinical trials to gauge its effects on human health. It’s also packaged as a natural supplement, with $34 million in U.S. sales last year, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.

Further doubt was cast on resveratrol’s abilities after a prominent researcher and promoter of the compound, Dipak Das, who was the director of the University of Connecticut Health Center’s cardiovascular research center, was found to have fabricated and falsified data in numerous studies.

Overall, not enough evidence currently exists to recommend the compound for the prevention of lifestyle diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, the 2nd International Science Conference on Resveratrol and Health, held in December at the University of Leicester, Englandconcluded. Still, its effects in animals shouldn’t be dismissed, Ole Vang, chairman of the conference’s scientific committee, said in an e-mail.

“Several markers for various cancers, coronary heart disease as well as diabetes are clearly reduced in experimental animals by resveratrol,” Vang wrote. “So it does have a promising effect in these models, but we can’t translate this promising effect directly to humans.”

More research is needed to test whether patients can benefit from these studies, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Flinn in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

Hydrogenated Oils And Your Health

 What Is Hydrogenation

by DR. RUSSELL on AUGUST 8, 2008


Hydrogenation is a high-heat, chemical process that changes the molecular structure of a vegetable oil in such a way that it will practically never spoil, which is great for increasing product shelf-life, but terrible for anyone who actually consumes a product containing the plasticized oil.
To hydrogenate oil you take a natural, healthy vegetable oil and heat it to over 400 degrees and then bubble hydrogen through it for several hours in the presence of a metallic catalyst, typically nickel or aluminum.

The hydrogenation process kills all biological activity and changes the oil molecularly by causing carbon atoms in the oil to bond differently.

Hydrogenated oil is slow to spoil because, after hydrogenation, there’s nothing biologically active left to spoil. It’s not far from the truth to describe hydrogenated oil as “plastic oil”, and it doesn’t take a health expert to know that food made with plastic cooking oil can’t be good for you.

There’s mounting evidence these distorted cooking oils cause a number of serious health problems. In addition to containing metallic residue from the aluminum and nickel, the once healthful oil is molecularly deformed and transformed into what is called a trans-fatty acid, and trans-fatty acids are BAD for you!

The chemically distorted trans-fatty acid molecule has an extremely odd shape and does not fit into the pattern of human biochemistry. Its presence disrupts the natural flow of things in your body; like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.

Other molecules that don’t fit naturally in human biochemistry include pesticides, synthetics chemicals, and certain drugs; these substances are specifically designed to DISRUPT the normal flow of electrons and cause cells to behave abnormally.


There’s no doubt about it, hydrogenated oils are bad for you and are linked in research to health problems including; high blood pressure, heart disease, an increased tendency toward allergies and reduced immune function and more.

According to the Harvard Education Report on Trans Fatty Acids, “By our most conservative estimate, replacement of partially hydrogenated fat in the U.S. diet with natural unhydrogenated vegetable oils would prevent approximately 30,000 premature coronary deaths per year, and epidemiologic evidence suggests this number is closer to 100,000 premature deaths annually.”

I don’t know about you, but this is more than enough evidence for me to avoid these plastic oils like the plague  Here are some tips on how.

Before you can just say no to eating plastic cooking oil, you have to know all the sneaky ways it can end up in your home, on your plate and in your mouth.

Most cooking oils are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated and that means they are super-rich in transfatty acids. Corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, and canola oil (unless cold pressed and sold refrigerated) are all hydrogenated.

The label may say zero trans-fatty acids, but it’s not true.

First, transfatty acids are an unavoidable molecular structure made during the process of hydrogenation. They are made as the natural result of heating a vegetable oil to 400+ degrees in the presence of an aluminum or nickel catalyst.

Second, labeling laws today, (in my opinion), are little more than a License To Lie. On a label zero is not zero. The law permits a manufacturer to list an item as having a ZERO amount of something as long as it contains less than a certain amount per serving.

Saying a hydrogenated oil has a zero transfatty acid content is like saying you can have water with a zero oxygen content… when you understand the science, you know the statement is patently absurd.

You may notice aluminum and nickel are never listed on the labels of these oils, yet, like transfatty acids, aluminum and nickel are a necessary byproduct of chemical process. The reason these toxic metals are not listed in the ingredients is because they are not additives… they are simply used in the manufacturing process.

In other words, if something is not intended to be part of the product it does not have to be listed in the ingredients.  Sounds like a license to lie to me.

The only reason trans-fatty acid content is now listed on labels is because doctors and health activists finally persuaded congress to change the law and force manufacturers to include trans fat content on the nutrition panel label.

Buyer Beware…

Hydrogenated oils are added to hundreds of products including bread, crackers, cookies, cakes, snack foods, dips, spreads, dressings, margarine, candy, and many more.

Do you ever eat out?

You know those little tubs of margarine you get with the bread, rolls or crackers?

Odds are close to 100% that the bread, rolls or crackers are made with hydrogenated oils and, unless the tub contains pure butter, the margarine or whipped spread is nothing but pure hydrogenated oil.

What about the little tubs of non-dairy coffee creamer?

Read the labels and you’ll discover they contain nothing more than hydrogenated oil and preservatives.

Most popular salad dressings, like blue cheese, thousands islands, Roquefort, honey mustard and others, (olive oil and vinegar excluded), are made with hydrogenated oil. Whether you go out to eat or dine at home, if you dump that dressing on your otherwise healthy salad you’re loading up with transfatty acids.

Ever have breakfast out?

If you do, beware of the scrambled eggs and omelets. Why? Because it’s common practice to make scrambled eggs and omelets out of an egg mixture poured from a carton instead of cracking fresh eggs out of an eggshell and carton eggs contains hydrogenated oil, corn syrup and preservatives.

One chain restaurant, known for its international pancake selection, actually adds pancake batter to the carton eggs as an extender to make omelets larger, thicker, and fluffier. Unsuspecting customers think they’re getting a great omelet are getting sugar, flour, hydrogenated oil and transfatty acids along with their eggs.

Do you enjoy hard candy?

Those little cellophane wrapped morsels of flavor are made entirely of sugar and hydrogenated oils.

Sucking on hard candy throughout the day is like being hooked up to a transfatty acid I-V drip all day long, no wonder heart disease is such a tremendous problem. By the way, not just hard candy that contains hydrogenated oils. Practically ALL candy is made with hydrogenated oil. Read the labels and see for yourself.


Imagine a perfectly smooth, round marble like you used to play with when you were a kid; now imaging rolling that smooth marble around between the palms of you hands. Nice and smooth, no problems right?

Molecules of vegetable oil, BEFORE hydrogenation, are smooth and symmetrical, no jagged edges, no sharp corners, nothing to stick, scratch, poke, or damage. If you could roll the molecules in your hand, they would be smooth just like the marble.

Hydrogenation distorts those smooth molecules and produces molecules with a claw-like appendage. That claw sticks out and scratches or scrapes anything it comes into contact with, including the inside of your veins and arteries, scratching, scraping and doing damage fom the inside.

If you get a scratch, the first thing you do is put some medicine on it and cover with a Band-Aid.

Natures’ Band-Aid for scratches and scrapes inside arteries is called LDL cholesterol.

When you consume hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated you load your blood up with molecules that have jagged little claws that scratch and scrape the inside of the arteries and cause LDL cholesterol to be deposited there to help heal the scrape.

LDL cholesterol is extra sticky and acts like a magnet or like flypaper, attracting every little bit of particulate matter and debris. The result is arterial occlusion, which is a fancy way of saying hardening of the arteries.

If the blood pathway narrows, the heart must beat harder and harder to supply blood. Narrower arteries and a heart beating harder and harder is high blood pressure, and high blood pressure sets the stage for potentially life threatening health problems.


Olive oil, peanut oil and coconut oil are not hydrogenated and they are naturally stable with a naturally long shelf life.

In upcoming posts, I’ll reveal the virtues of each of the healthy oils,  So stay tuned!

If you or someone you care about want’s to lose some weight, take a look at my 5 Steps To Optimal Health Program.  A lot of people have benefit, so check it out here:

One more thing… people who sign up for Health News You Can Use frequently gain free access to content not published on this site.  Check it out.



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