Globally, Sugary Beverages May Lead to 184,000 Deaths from Cancer, Other Diseases

Sugary sodas and other drinks lead to an estimated 184,000 deaths around the world each year, including over 6,000 from cancers alone, suggests a new analysis that quantified the effects of these drinks for the three leading causes of death.SodaGlass_canstockphoto2131264

While many health organizations — including AICR — recommend avoiding sugary drinks, this analysis highlights the powerful effect that cutting out one single part of the diet may have, independent of other healthy changes.

For cancer, AICR research has found that sugary drinks lead to weight gain and being overweight, which is linked to increased risk of ten cancers.

In this analysis, sugar sweetened beverages was defined as any beverage that contained at least 50 calories per serving. This included sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, and homemade drinks: 100 percent fruit juice was excluded. Continue reading


Want to Sip on Something Sweet -and Healthy? Try this.

Although most people recognize that soda may pose health risks, many are unaware of the damaging effects of other ‘sugary’ beverages, such as fruit and sports drinks. (It was the topic of a Cancer Research Update last month.)canstockphoto14236519

It’s easy to gain weight from drinking sweetened beverages, and since obesity is linked to increased cancer risk, decreasing consumption of these drinks can help you both lose weight and decrease your cancer risk.

However, if you’re like me, you might not enjoy drinking plain water. This can make it challenging to cut back on sweetened beverages.

If you regularly drink juice, soda or sports drinks, start by using smaller sized cups and set goals to wean yourself off rather than going cold-turkey. For example, instead of 3 cups per day, reduce the amount to 1 cup per day, then after a week or two, reduce the amount further to 1 cup every other day. Write out a plan that will allow you to wean off of the beverage completely (or to only 1 time per week) over the next few months. I have seen this strategy work very well for patients of mine – it’s easier to adapt if you change your behaviors slowly.

In addition to cutting back, find low-sugar beverage alternatives you enjoy to have instead. Here are some of my favorite alternatives to sugary drinks that are still full of flavor, and just a tad sweet:

Iced teas – Try out different types of tea until you find one you like (or continually change it up so you don’t get bored). Some great options are mint, passion tea, hibiscus, chai or black raspberry. Make a big batch on the weekend and keep it in a large pitcher in your fridge. If you still need a little sweetness, add just a teaspoon of honey or agave to your tea (or one tablespoon for the pitcher). Some of these teas, like chai, taste great with a little skim or almond milk.

Flavor your water with fruit – You can simply add fresh lemon or lime, but if you’re looking for sweeter flavors, try combinations like fresh pineapple and mint, pear with fresh ginger and a cinnamon stick, or a handful or any frozen berries (which helps cut the cost of using lots of fresh fruit). Most fruit will stay fine for a week when kept in the fridge, so you can keep adding water to the pitcher as it empties (and change out for new fruit once a week). For more ideas, read this  blog I wrote on flavoring your own water.

Sparkling water and juice – Instead of a full glass of fruit juice, fill your cup with sparkling water and add just a splash of your favorite juice (orange, grapefruit, pineapple or cranberry are all good options).

canstockphoto7522520It’s also worth purchasing a glass pitcher with a spout at the bottom that fits in your fridge. This makes it convenient and easy to grab a healthier drink.

What are your favorite ways to stay hydrated with less sugar?

Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. You can follow her @SonjaGoedkoopRD on twitter.


Celebrate with a Colorful, Healthy Toast to the New Year

How are you ringing in the New Year – with a few friends at home or out on Times Square? Whatever your plan, you want to celebrate and maybe drink a toast to the New Year. But maybe after weeks of holiday festivities, you’re not feeling like overdoing on food and drink. bigstock-Drinks-with-splashing-citrus-f-28116119

If you want to indulge in one glass of Champagne, that one midnight bubbly won’t break your calorie bank or exceed the healthy limit for alcohol. But if you party for several hours, those pre-midnight beverages can add up. With a little planning though,  you can still stick with AICR’s recommendation to lower your cancer risk: limit your alcoholic drinks to no more than one drink per day for women, two for men.

Going Out Plan:

Look for the low or non-calorie drinks – grab choices like sparkling waters, sugar-free sodas and tea. Or put a splash of wine or juice into a glass of sparkling or soda water for a light spritzer. And focus on dancing – you can stay active and not need to have a drink in your hand all night.

Hosting Plan:

Get creative and become a mixologist or let your guests try their hand at mixology. Offer a “Create Your Own Beverage Bar” starting with a variety of pretty glasses and stemware along with these colorful and tasty ingredients:

Beverage Base (plain or flavored; sugar-free)

  • Club soda or seltzer water
  • Sparkling and mineral waters
  • Tonic water

Flavors

  • Fruit juices and nectars – pomegranate, citrus, apricot
  • Coconut water
  • Teas (black, green, white, chai)
  • Wine
  • Liquors

Healthy Enhancers

  • Herbs – mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage
  • Fresh or frozen fruits, whole or sliced; berries, melon, pomegranate seeds, kiwi
  • Citrus peels and slices of lemon, lime, grapefruit or orange
  • Chopped fruit: apples, mangoes, papaya, pineapple
  • Flavored ice cubes: green tea, 100% fruit juice, chopped fruit

You and your guests can have fun creating new combos and maybe hit on some ideas that will help you work toward a healthier weight for lower cancer risk and better overall health or just add color and flavor to your drinks.

Please share your healthy creations with us and have a happy healthy New Year!

See AICR’s Test Kitchen beverages section and a Sonja’s blog on infused waters for more healthy beverage ideas.