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Dr Russ Blog - Sugary Drinks - Not So Sweet?
Sugary Drinks - Not So Sweet?
Created on 2/26/2010

A new study suggests that taking in lots of sugar in the form of sweetened sodas and fruit juices, even as little as 3 such beverages a week, may increase the risk for pancreatic cancer, a disease that can be very difficult to cure.

Okay, we know very well that high intakes of sugar are not good for us, perhaps leading to weight gain, diabetes, and many other health challenges. But pancreatic cancer, too?

The theory goes something like this - high intakes of sugar lead to high levels of insulin, the hormone that helps deliver glucose (sugar) to cells. Insulin serves an important function, as glucose is the primary source of energy for all the cells of the body.

But very high levels of insulin, the result of consistently eating and drinking products containing refined sugars (sodas, processed baked goods, etc.), is bad for us - for example, high insulin levels are associated with increased inflammation in the body, and plenty of disease states.

In the case of pancreatic cancer, lab work suggests that when pancreatic cells are exposed to high concentrations of insulin they are more likely to turn cancerous. Freaky, since it is specialized cells of the pancreas that produce insulin in the first place.

What should we do when such potentially frightening news comes out?

Take a deep breath, not get freaked out, and take a deep look at the data.

In this case, it's important to note that drinking a lot of sweetened beverages each week was associated with many other potentially unhealthy diet and lifestyle behaviors, like infrequent exercise, increased drinking of alcohol, and higher intake of fatty foods and added sugar.

Scientific research should inform, not frighten. Such is true in this instance, too.

The results of this study, published in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, lay the foundation for further research. Of course, they do also further emphasize the need to limit our intake of highly refined sugars in order to stay healthy. But they shouldn't paralyze us with fear.

As far as beverages go, remember that sweetened sodas are a significant source of empty calories, almost all of them from sugar, and almost no nutrients. Processed fruit juices are also a significant source of sugar without providing much in the way of nutrients, which is why I prefer that we eat the whole fruit, rather than drinking lots of fruit juice.

The best beverage for us? Clean water. But you can splurge on occasion (I write that a lot, don't I?).

Please don't let health news scare you - use it to help make good choices for you and your family. Don't be afraid of sodas and fruit juices. Just drink them less often than you might right now. Even though the results of this study are sobering, even a little scary, they are not completely clean - meaning they may not be completely correct.

If you can't make sense of the information ask your doctor when next you have an appointment.

And if you can't wait that long, remember that I am here to answer your questions on this blog.

So move forward knowing you are an informed consumer - you know you need to watch your intake of highly refined sugars and processed foods, you know you can enjoy them on occasion, and you know that the real enemy is fear.

And we defeat fear with shared knowledge.

Thanks for sharing with me. And be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **



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