Diet drink consumption increasing

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by Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY
Diet drink consumption has increased over the past decade, a trend that reinforces other research showing intake of calories from sugar in regular soda has decreased, government statistics out today show.

“The data suggest that diet drinks may have replaced sugar drinks during this time,” says the study’s lead author Tala Fakhouri, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new diet drink analysis shows that the change in diet drink consumption occurred for both women (up from 18% in 2000 to 21% in 2010) and men (up from 14% to 19% in the same period).

Still, only about 20% of people in the USA consume diet drinks on any given day with the majority (80%) not drinking them, the report finds. Diet drinks included calorie-free and low-calorie versions of soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and carbonated water. Diet drinks did not include unsweetened teas or coffees or 100% fruit juice.

Meanwhile, the consumption of sugar found in regular soda has dropped from roughly 150 calories a day in 2000 to 91 calories a day in 2008.

But when it comes to calories from all sugary drinks, including sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweetened bottled waters, males consume an average of 178 calories a day; females consume 103 calories, according to other government data.

Overall, about half of the population, ages 2 and older, consume sugary drinks on any given day. Among boys 2 to 19, 70% consume these types of drinks while 40% of adult women consume them.

STORY: Study: Kids get more added sugar from foods than drinks

STORY: Sugary drinks add 300 calories a day to youths’ diets

The statistics from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics are based on interviews with thousands of people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Food and beverage intake is based on in-person interviews about dietary habits.

Among the findings:

— Diet drink consumption was similar for females and males in 2010, except among adolescents, ages 12 to 19, with 17% girls consuming them on a given day compared with only 9.5% of boys the same age.

— 28% of white adults consume diet drinks compared with 10% of black adults and 14% of Hispanic adults.

“We know that Americans, mainly white Americans, are increasing significantly the consumption of low-calorie diet beverages,” says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and one of the nation’s top experts on beverage consumption. Research suggests that an increased intake of these diet beverages in replacement of sugary beverages reduces weight, he says.

Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, says, “Diet products are controversial because it is unclear whether they are safe and help people control weight.

“We do not recommend diet drinks, particularly for children, but one can make a case for them if they do in fact displace caloric beverages and do no harm.”

Sugary drinks have been in the spotlight for years, and most recently because of news that they may magnify genetic risk

of obesity, according to one study. Other research showed that heavy teens who cut soft drink consumption slow weight gain.

New York City is putting a 16-ounce cap on sweetened bottled drinks and fountain beverages sold at city restaurants, delis, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts. The beverage ban, which goes into effect March 12, applies to drinks that have more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. It does not include 100% juice drinks or beverages with more than 50% milk.


Diet drink consumption increasing

The percentage of men and women consuming diet drinks increased over the past 10 years.

Diet Rich in Tomatoes May Reduce Stroke Risk

A long-term study has found that people who routinely eat a lot of tomatoes are less likely to suffer strokes.  Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that scientists believe reduces the risk of heart disease.  

Researchers followed the dietary habits of more than 1,000 men living near the University of Eastern Finland.  The subjects were divided into four groups based on how much lycopene was measured in their blood at the start of the study.  After more than a dozen years, there were 25 strokes in a group of 258 men with the lowest levels of lycopene, compared to just 11 strokes in the high-lycopene group of 259 males, a reduction in stroke risk of 55 percent.

Larry Goldstein, director of the Duke University Stroke Center in Durham, North Carolina, believes lycopene may reduce the risk of stroke by protecting cells against the damaging effects of free radicals.  These are harmful molecules produced by the breakdown of food and toxic environmental substances such as tobacco smoke and radiation.  Experts say antioxidants can reduce the inflammation and blood clotting that can lead to stroke.

Goldstein says lycopene is a powerful antioxidant.

“Having said that, other ..compounds in that class really haven’t been associated with reduced risk of stroke.  So, again, this is an area for further research,” said Goldstein.

Lycopene is the substance in fruits and vegetables that gives them their bright red or orange color, including not only tomatoes but red peppers, papayas and watermelon.
Goldstein cautions that studies such as the one carried out in Finland have to be repeated to confirm the results.  He says participants questioned at the beginning of the study a dozen years ago may not remember what they ate over the course of the investigation, and the findings would need to be repeated in different populations – and in groups of women, as well – to draw any firm conclusions.

What has been established, according to Goldstein, is that taking lycopene supplements does not appear to reduce the risk of stroke.

“So it may be something else that we are not measuring that really is leading to the better outcomes,” he said.

The American Heart Association recommends a daily diet of five servings of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes.

An article on lycopene and the reduced risk of stroke is published in the journal Neurology.

Knox St. “road diet” effectively calms traffic, improves safety

Patrick Kennedy of Walkable Dallas-Fort Worth

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Balancing the infrastructure correlated with increased pedestrian activity.

Knox Street before the road diet that reduced it from a four lane road to two travel lanes with a shared center turn lane.

Photo by Patrick Kennedy

Knox Street before the “road diet” that reduced it from a four lane road to two travel lanes with a shared center turn lane.

— As you may know, Knox Street was identified on the Dallas Complete Streets plan as a road suitable for being, ahem, “completed.” The gist of a complete street is that it isn’t just for cars, but the infrastructure is essentially balanced for all forms of transportation.

Though Knox is not well-served by mass transit, to complete it without significant changes to the public transportation system, means a road diet. In this case, the road diet took a four lane road and reduced it to two travel lanes in each direction and a shared center turn lane. The leftover space from the removal of the fourth lane became a two-way cycle track, effectively extending the Katy Trail onto Knox as “an urban detour.”

During the road diet, traffic predictably slowed all along Knox where it was installed.

Photo by Patrick Kennedy

During the “road diet,” traffic predictably slowed all along Knox where it was installed.

Throughout the country, similar road diets such as this one have proved to effectively calm traffic, improve safety, and actually move MORE vehicles with no evidence of any negative economic impact (usually there is economic improvement, but these numbers are harder to come by. This is why I often point out that traffic isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Places need energy. But to create a center of gravity that energy must be “condensed into a slow vibration,” to paraphrase from physics). Though this seems counter-intuitive, there are two primary reasons: 1) the place is more desirable when it is safer, so more people are attracted to it, and yes, drive there, and 2) the slowed traffic reduces headways between vehicles thereby increasing its overall capacity as more cars can fit on the road. As people drive slower, drivers feel more comfortable being within 2-3 car lengths of other vehicles. There is adequate stopping time and even if something were to happen, at such low speeds, damage would be minimal.

Because I knew this was happening, I decided to take speed readings before the installation and after. Here was my methodology:

    Data readings before and during the road diet demonstration were taken at similar times from 12-2pm on a weekday.

    Data readings taken shortly after installation was complete, but before any of the programmed festivities so as to avoid distortions to the data.

    Measurements were taken using a handheld radar gun from behind vehicles so as to avoid detection and subsequent unnatural slowing thinking I might be 5.0

    Vehicular speed measurements were ONLY recorded when there were no break lights present and a green light ahead so as to record only “full speed.”


The ranges shown in black at each segment of road show the full range of speeds on those particular street segments.

No vehicle moved along these segments at speeds greater or lower than these ranges with two exceptions. There were only two exceptions. One was a Porsche heading towards Highland Park at 27 mph and the other was an SUV heading towards 75 at 24 mph.

These are shown in brackets next to the segment where it was recorded.

In red parentheses is the reduction in speed on average per segment.

Predictably, traffic slowed all along Knox where the road diet was installed.

Interestingly, the vehicle speeds as cars entered Knox was the same as before, but then slowed noticeably as they approached McKinney Ave., where the start of the road diet was visible.

This section of Lemmon Avenue ranks 0 for integration because there is no pedestrian crossing.

Photo by Patrick Kennedy

This section of Lemmon Avenue ranks “0” for integration because there is no pedestrian crossing.


    The vast majority of vehicles actually moved slower than above, as most approached red lights or used their brakes. As noted, these were not recorded.

    During the time of recording, traffic generally moved at a steady flow, generally 1-3 car lengths apart. Stacking at red lights rarely over a few cars at a time.

    Choke points/backups/conflicts occurred not at intersections but at mid-block alleys, curbcuts, and crossing traffic into on-street parking.

    There were more pedestrians present at this time than before, though not in overwhelming numbers. Also, it was 92 degrees during, and 98 degrees when the Before measurements were taken.

    The right turn only lane from Knox to McKinney was critical in reducing conflicts.

This section of Greenville Avenue ranks a 1 because pedestrians can cross, but only at control points, such as crosswalks and intersections.

Photo by Patrick Kennedy

This section of Greenville Avenue ranks a “1” because pedestrians can cross, but only at control points, such as crosswalks and intersections.

How “Tethered” is the street?

A street can be considered knitted together based on the degree to which pedestrians are willing to cross a road for various reasons including cross-shopping, an intricate component to synergy of place. How knitted a street is, is a measure of inherent pedestrian comfort and confidence in their safety.

    A road where pedestrians do not cross at all can be considered to have 0 knitted value.

    Where they cross only at control points, such as crosswalks and intersections is a 1.

    Where pedestrians cross at desire lines, a road can be considered to have a ‘knitted’ value of 2.

This section of Main Street can be considered to have a knitted value of 2 because pedestrians cross at desire lines.

Photo by Patrick Kennedy

This section of Main Street can be considered to have a “knitted” value of 2 because pedestrians cross at desire lines.

Based on observation, it is believed that Knox as it is currently designed and operating generally functions as a 1 or slightly below. When pedestrians cross, they will use the crosswalks at signalized intersections. However, there seems to be little evidence of cross-shopping, partially due to tenant mix/location, and partially due to road design.

During the demonstration project however, pedestrian crossing at intersections was rare as most crossed where they pleased, at desire lines between origin and destination. Though pedestrian activity at the time was relatively low (compared to Main Street as shown above, though higher than normal), it operated closer to a 2. As traffic speeds were suitably reduced by the demonstration road diet to below 20 mph, pedestrians felt more comfortable to cross the street without using crosswalks or waiting for the crossing signal.

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Great White Shark Diet is More Than Seals

A shark-bitten elephant seal rests on an Año Nuevo State Park Beach. Photo by the author.

Late last year, while on a tour of California’s Año Neuvo State Park, I saw a shark attack victim lying on the beach. She was a Northern elephant seal, and looked quite placid despite the gaping, crescent-shaped hole in her neck. She bore the traumatic hallmark of the great white shark.

Years of watching Discovery’s Shark Week taught me that seals and sea lions are the preferred prey of Carcharodon carcharias. Nothing like blubber to fuel the body of a constantly-swimming predator with a physiology that runs hotter than that of the average shark. I remember one researcher likened baby elephant seals, in particular, to hot dogs – the bread of the snack corresponds to the fat content of the young pinnipeds, making the weener seals easy-to-catch and energy-rich mouthfuls for the sharks.

When the sensational documentaries weren’t showing awful re-enactments of great white shark attacks on humans, they brought their cameras in close to seal kills. The programs took a philosophy similar to the fictional marine biologist Matt Hooper in JAWS – all great white sharks do is swim and eat. (Yes, yes, “and make little baby sharks”, but I have yet to see that on basic cable.) If they aren’t chomping people, then they strip the fat from seals. We think of them in the typological way that we approach many species. Great white sharks eat seals and sea lions. That’s all that there is to it.

But great white sharks don’t live on a strict diet of marine mammals. Study sites situated near pinniped colonies, as well as nature films, have restricted our view of what great white sharks feed on. In actuality, great white sharks consume different prey based upon age, size, and location. When they are just pups, for example, the leviathans-to-be seek out a wide variety of smaller fare before graduating to more difficult menu options. And, as a new paper indicates, many sharks retain their cosmopolitan tastes as they age.

A great white shark. Photo by Terry Goss, image from Wikipedia.

In a PLoS One study published this week, University of Wyoming researcher Sora Kim and colleagues used chemical clues in great white shark vertebrae to track feeding preferences among fifteen individuals collected between 1957 and 2000. The logic behind their technique is simple, and has been used on a variety of other creatures – living and extinct – to outline diet. As an animal feeds, chemical tracers in the form of carbon and nitrogen isotopes become incorporated into their teeth and bones. There is a correspondence between certain carbon isotope ratios and particular food sources. Match the chemical signature in the consumer in with the isotopic profile of what’s being consumed, and you can reconstruct an animal’s diet.

Even better, shark vertebrae contain long-running records of these isotopes. As great white sharks grow, their vertebrae accrete new rings on a yearly schedule. Each ring, therefore, holds a chemical snapshot from a year in the shark’s life. By comparing the isotope ratios in different vertebral bands, Kim and collaborators were able to follow how the diets of individual sharks shifted during their lives.

Contrary to assertions that pinnipeds are a great white shark staple, the fish sampled in the study were highly variable. Both age and individual variation were at play in their diets. For example, five sharks in the sample showed the expected shift from a diet of fish and small prey to marine mammals and other more substantial fare at about age four. But this wasn’t true of all sharks. Five other sharks in the same sample showed no difference between juvenile and adult diet. These sharks may have scavenged pinniped carcasses or fed on large squid while young, giving them an “adult” feeding profile at a young age. There are some possible confounding factors with this hypothesis – such as young sharks inheriting an adult isotope signal from their mothers – but the researchers appear to favor the idea that some sharks were more precocious in their prey choices than others of their kind. Not all great white sharks follow the same life history.

While Kim and colleagues point out that some sharks followed the expected dietary switch, the change was not the dominant signal in their results. Many of the Pacific great white sharks they sampled were generalists who took different prey in varying locations. Some sharks were nearshore marine mammal specialists, but others had more flexible foraging approaches. And even though the isotopic data are not refined enough to tell us exactly what species the sharks were eating, the cataloged chemical traces are enough to detect distinct dietary patterns.

The study raises new questions about great white shark biology. For one thing, why did the sharks have such individualistic diets? Competition may be the key, Kim and co-authors hypothesize. Imagine if all adult great white sharks were seal specialists who congregated at the same beaches. There may not be enough food for all, and swimming in the same waters as bigger, more experienced sharks would be risky for smaller novices who could wind up as meals themselves. By being flexible – able to tackle elephant seals as well as squid, tuna, and other food sources – great white sharks may lessen competition with their own kind.

As the researchers behind the new study state, further isotopic studies and satellite tracking programs may help marine biologists better understand the ecology of their prodigious fish. For now, though, one thing is clear. The sharks weren’t all cruising near shore, looking up for seal silhouettes. Great white sharks have much more varied tastes than blood-spattered basic cable shows would have you believe.


Kim SL, Tinker MT, Estes JA, Koch PL (2012). Ontogenetic and Among-Individual Variation in Foraging Strategies of Northeast Pacific White Sharks Based on Stable Isotope Analysis PLoS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045068

Illegally labeled diet, immune-boosting pills ‘potentially dangerous,’ report …

Dozens of weight loss and immune system supplements on the market are illegally labeled and lack the recommended scientific evidence to back up their purported health claims, government investigators warn in a new review of the $20 billion supplement industry.

The report, being released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general, found that 20 percent of the 127 weight loss and immune-boosting supplements investigators purchased online and in retail stores across the country carried labels that made illegal claims to cure or treat disease.

Some products went so far as to state that the supplements could cure or prevent diabetes or cancer, or that they could help people with HIV or AIDS, which is strictly prohibited under federal law.

Consumers may not just be wasting their money on pills or tablets, but they could be endangering their health if they take a supplement in place of a drug thinking it will have the same effect, the report concluded.

“Consumers rely on a supplement’s claims to determine whether the product will provide a desired effect, such as weight loss or immune support,” the report said. “Supplements that make disease claims could mislead consumers into using them as replacements for prescription drugs or other treatments for medical conditions, with potentially dangerous results.”

The market for dietary supplements — which can include anything from Vitamin C tablets to capsules of Echinacea — is a huge one with hundreds of products. The inspector general’s investigation focused on one segment that officials said is booming.

Federal regulations do not require the Food Drug Administration to review supplement companies’ scientific evidence for most of their products’ purported health benefits before they hit the market.

The Office of Inspector General found that in numerous cases, when companies did submit evidence to back up their health claims, it fell far short of government recommendations.

One company submitted a 30-year-old handwritten college term paper to substantiate its claim, while others included news releases, advertisements and links to Wikipedia or an online dictionary, according to the report.

Overall, the review raises questions about whether the system is allowing companies to mislead consumers, investigators said, and recommended that FDA ramp up its oversight. The report did not name individual brands or products, and also did not estimate the total number of dietary supplements on the market.

In response, the food safety agency said it would consider asking Congress for more oversight powers to review supplement companies’ evidence proving their products’ purported health benefits. FDA agreed that the agency should expand surveillance of the market to detect spurious claims that supplements can cure or treat specific diseases.

Investigators also found that 7 percent of the weight loss and immune support supplements they surveyed lacked the required disclaimer stating that FDA had not reviewed whether the statement on the label was truthful.

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Diet Chef comments on the news that junk food diets increase stroke risk

UNITED KINGDOM, Oct. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Diet Chef is reminding people of the importance of a healthy diet following new research that has shown eating junk food diet could increase the risk of stroke or death at a younger age.

A study conducted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery in Canada suggested people who eat so called ‘cafeteria diets’, which are high in calories, sugar, fat and salt, are more likely to suffer a stroke or even die at a younger age.

To conduct the research, rats were given unlimited access to both nutritional food pellets and junk food items like cookies and sausages. They could also choose between water and a 30 per cent sucrose solution, similar to soft drinks.

It was discovered that the majority of rats preferred the junk food and, as a result, they suffered from high levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, obesity and blood pressure after just two months. They presented a combination of these symptoms, often referred to as metabolic syndrome, which is thought to increase the risk of suffering from a stroke.

Dr Dale Corbett, scientific director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery, said: “I think we’ll soon start to see people in their 30s or 40s having strokes, having dementia, because of this junk food diet. Young people will have major, major problems much earlier in life.”

Caron Leckie, Diet Chef nutritionist, comments: “The junk food style ‘cafeteria’ diet is one more example of excess; high calories, high sugar, high fat and high salt. With growing public health concerns such as stroke and metabolic syndrome it is important now more than ever to encourage moderation and balance in our food choices”

Diet Chef is a specially designed, delivered meal plan that helps people to lose weight, while ensuring they get all the vitamins and nutrients they need to stay fit and healthy. All meals are prepared by an expert chef, meaning they are calorie and portion controlled, allowing individuals to shed the pounds the healthy way.


Diet Chef carefully counts the calories of all meals so dieters on the plan will be averaging less than 1,200 calories per day. The daily menu allows you to get delicious home delivered food, as well as offering a tasty and varied, healthy balanced plan encouraging dieters to lose weight at a healthy pace.

Those on the diet looking to check their own progress can do so using the weight loss calculator as well as sharing their weight loss success stories via the website or Diet Chef social media channels.

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Media Contact: Diet Chef Three Sixty Communications Diet Chef, 0207 580 8360,

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