CAT | Heart Health
When it comes to added sugars, sweetened beverages are one of the biggest offenders. Still, Americans today are consuming more sugary soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks than ever before—on average about 2.6 glasses a day.i But as awareness increases about the health risks of a high-sugar diet, some beverage companies are working to significantly reduce their sugar content in the name of public health.
Coca-Cola will soon introduce their green-labeled Coca-Cola Life in the United States as an alternative for cola drinkers. The lower-calorie cola is sweetened with a blend of sugar and stevia and will contain a third less sugar and calories than the traditional red can. “We are committed to working with others across society to promote well-being and help address the public health challenge of obesity,” said Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola UK and Ireland.
Another popular soft drink brand, PepsiCo, is also looking for ways to reduce the sugar content in its soft drinks in the name of public health. According to their website, “We removed approximately 370,000 metric tons of added sugar from our total beverage portfolio in North America since 2006.” They have also stepped up their research and technology efforts to work toward developing naturally sourced sweeteners and flavorings, which they say are “…the best paths to a meaningful reduction in added sugars.”
While these are commendable steps being taken by both companies, the reality is that even with lower sugar content, beverages sweetened with sugar—especially added sugars—still miss the mark. There is hope that the new drinks will raise awareness about the extreme sugar consumption in this country, but we still have a long way to go to truly make a difference.
Just recently the World Health Organization (WHO) cut their sugar recommendations in half, saying the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has contributed to a nationwide rise in obesity and obesity-related disease, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. According to WHO officials, our daily sugar intake should amount to only 5 percent of our total calories (about 6 teaspoons for an adult of normal BMI). A single can of soda may contain up to 10 teaspoons of hidden sugar.
Every year about 720,000 Americans have a heart attack; for more than 200,000 of them, it’s not their first.i Heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States, but we are making strides toward improving nationwide heart health by increasing awareness about healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well and staying active. When it comes to exercise, however, a new study found that overdoing it may have the opposite effect.
Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California recently completed a decade-long study in which they analyzed the effects of increased physical activity on nearly 2,400 heart attack survivors. While increased exercise was shown to reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack by up to 65 percent, excessive exercise—running more than 30 miles a week or walking beyond 46 miles weekly—more than doubled the risk of having another attack.
Although only a small portion of the study participants were excessive exercisers (6%), study author and staff scientist Paul Williams cautions against overdoing it when it comes to physical activity post-heart attack. “More isn’t always better,” said Williams, recommending heart attack survivors stick to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly.