HOPE OR HYPE? Diet soda, dementia, 'obesity gene' studies - KMSP-TV

HOPE OR HYPE? Diet soda, dementia, 'obesity gene' studies

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Headlines about health discoveries tend to be attention-grabbers, but some that claim to offer hope really offer hype instead. Dr. Archelle Georgiou broke down three stunners on "The Pulse."

IS DIET SODA DANGEROUS?

Many people who are watching their weight will turn to a diet soda to avoid consuming extra calories from sugar, but a number of studies are starting to warn that diet soda can do more harm than good.


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The studies single out artificial sweeteners as the problem, saying the fake sugar tricks the body into thinking it just got real food; however, when the body doesn't get the benefit of nutrients, it changes how it regulates blood sugar and pressure.

Worse still, some studies claim those who drink diet soda tend to pack on more pounds than those who don't drink -- but Dr. Georgiou says these studies are often over-hyped.

While it is a fact that sugar-sweetened beverages are related to obesity, it is also true that choosing a diet option does reduce sugar and calorie intake. Although substituting water would be ideal, those who drink several cans of soda a day aren't likely to drop cola cold turkey.

Furthermore, Georgiou says the studies that claim diet soda drinkers actually gain weight are overlooking a trend where diet soda drinkers choose the calorie-free fizz to justify eating a different sugary snack.

DELAY RETIREMENT, PREVENT DEMENTIA?

New research suggests delaying retirement can help people avoid dementia and Alzheimer's disease in later age on the grounds that working keeps people physically active, socially connected and mentally sharp.


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The study out of France, which is globally recognized for quality Alzheimer's research, is the largest of its kind -- and Georgiou says people who want to find hope in those findings definitely should.

Staying social helps people maintain mental clarity and keep mental decline at bay. After surveying half a million people, the researchers were able to show that the risk of dementia decreased by 3 percent for every year retirement is delayed. That means those who push retirement back to 70 have decreased their risk by 15 percent.

Yet, Georgiou adds that the study doesn't necessarily mean retirement should be delayed. She recommends "rewiring" after retiring by volunteering, staying active and keeping up connections.

IS THERE AN 'OBESITY' GENE?

When an international group of scientists announced the discovery of a fat-boosting gene linked to a high risk of obesity, a lot of people wanted to learn more.

The study claimed a genetic flaw makes fatty foods more tempting for some people and changes their hunger habits, but it's not quite that simple.


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Georgiou explained that people who do have both copies of the FCO gene, there is hope to be found. The research indicates that those people will still feel hungry even after they eat a meal -- but only 6 percent of the population has two copies.

Meanwhile, 64 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. So, that clearly can't be the only cause, and the Georgiou admitted she worries the headline could be used as an excuse because genetics do not define anyone's destiny.

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