Weekend Health Wrap-Up | February 12th, 2011

Posted on February 12, 2011


Good morning, here’s a sample of what’s been cooking recently in the world of health research:

  • Diet Soda May Carry Cardiovascular Risk:  In a preliminary report published this week, researchers suggested that “diet soda is not an optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, and may pose a greater risk of stroke, MI or vascular death than regular soda.”  Subjects who drank diet soda daily were 48% more likely to have a vascular event than those who abstained.  This finding comes after recent conclusions that increased sugar intake in teens raises cardiovascular risk (read my summary of those findings in last week’s wrap-up).  Again, it’s stressed that these findings are preliminary, but it’s this medical student’s opinion that diet soda should be avoided whenever possible.  Artificial sweeteners may dysregulate feeding habits, but this warrants a future post of its own.  I’ll leave you with this:  think of the people in your life who consume the most diet soda, and consider their level of health.


  • “Western” Diet Linked to Kidney Dysfunction:  This data comes from the Nurses’ Health Study, so the results are generalizable only to older white females (the primary demographics of the subjects).  A Western diet was defined as a diet higher in processed foods, red meat, saturated fats, & sweets.  By comparison, the study (abstract) suggests a DASH-style diet is better (what else is knew?).  I recommend reading this article by Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.


  • Metabolic Syndrome Linked to Cognitive Decline in Older Adults:  Last week, as I wrote about aerobic exercise and hippocampal volume in the elderly, researchers published findings suggesting that individuals with metabolic syndrome are at significantly greater risk for cognitive decline, as measured by several established testing methods.  However, the conclusions are not unequivocal (see the results here), and more research is warranted.  I plan on writing a short piece about cognitive reserve in the near future.


  • More Evidence of an Optimal Sleep Time – Cardiovascular Disease:  A couple of weeks ago, I drew attention to research regarding sleep habits, and briefly mentioned the idea of an ideal sleep time between 6 and 8 hours.  The results of a meta-analysis published this week in the European Heart Journal conclude that long (>8-9 hours) and short (<5-6 hours) sleepers were at increased risk of dying from a cardiovascular event.  However, results for total cardiovascular events showed no detectable effect in short sleepers, but a significantly increased risk in long sleepers.  Thus, researchers concluded that long or short sleep habits may be either a predictor or marker of cardiovascular disease.  Either way, it would be wise to examine your own sleep habits.