Category Archives: beverages

Think that diet soda is helping control your weight? You might want to think again

150911094912_1_540x360Sometimes what appears to be obvious isn’t as obvious as we assume. Case in point: diet soda help us lose or maintain our weight. It has to be better to order a diet soda with a meal than a sugary soda because consuming 0 calories is better than consuming calories. The truth isn’t as obvious as it appears to be.

A new study that examined the dietary habits of more than 22,000 U.S. adults found that diet-beverage consumers may compensate for the absence of calories in their drinks by noshing on extra food that is loaded with sugar, sodium, fat and cholesterol.

University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An examined 10 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, which asked participants to recall everything they ate or drank over the course of two nonconsecutive days.

An compared participants’ daily calorie intakes, including their consumption of discretionary foods and five types of beverages — diet or sugar-free drinks; sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas and fruit drinks; coffee; tea; and alcohol.

Using a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture food database, An compiled a 661-item list of discretionary foods, which includes foods that do not belong to the major food groups and are not required by the human body but may add variety to a person’s diet. These energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods include products such as cookies, ice cream, chocolate, fries and pastries.

More than 90 percent of the people in the study consumed discretionary foods daily, averaging about 482 calories from these products each day, An found.

Although previous research on beverage preferences and consumption of discretionary foods focused on between-meal snacking, An chose to look at the nutritional quality of the food participants consumed rather than when it was eaten. His paper will appear in a future issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

About 97 percent of the study population consumed at least one of the five types of beverages daily, with about 41 percent of respondents drinking beverages from at least two of the categories. More than 25 percent of the participants consumed three or more types of beverages daily.

Coffee was participants’ beverage of choice, consumed by more than half — 53 percent — of the population, followed by sugar-sweetened beverages (43 percent), tea (26 percent), alcohol (22 percent) and diet beverages (21 percent).

Alcohol consumption was associated with the largest increase in daily calorie intake (384 calories), followed by sugar-sweetened beverages (226 calories), coffee (108 calories), diet beverages (69 calories) and tea (64 calories).

While coffee and diet-beverage drinkers consumed fewer total calories each day than people who preferred alcohol or sugary drinks, they obtained a greater percentage of their daily calorie intake from discretionary foods — a finding that suggests a possible compensation effect, An said.

“It may be that people who consume diet beverages feel justified in eating more, so they reach for a muffin or a bag of chips,” An said. “Or perhaps, in order to feel satisfied, they feel compelled to eat more of these high-calorie foods.”

A third possible explanation might be that people opt to drink diet beverages because they feel guilty about indulging in unhealthy food, An said.

“It may be one — or a mix of — these mechanisms,” An said. “We don’t know which way the compensation effect goes.”

Among people with the most education and highest incomes, diet beverages and alcohol were linked with increased calorie consumption, whereas, sugar-sweetened beverages and coffee were associated with elevated caloric intake among people with the lowest incomes.

Obese adults who drank diet beverages consumed more calories in discretionary foods, as did normal-weight participants who drank sugar-sweetened beverages.

In exploring associations between beverage type and dietary quality, An found that people who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages or coffee had the worst nutrition profiles.

Switching to diet drinks may not help people control their weight if they don’t pay attention to the quantity and quality of the foods they consume, An said.

“If people simply substitute diet beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages, it may not have the intended effect because they may just eat those calories rather than drink them,” An said. “We’d recommend that people carefully document their caloric intake from both beverages and discretionary foods because both of these add calories — and possibly weight — to the body.” has heard many times that the diet soda someone ordered with a fast food meal somehow makes the fast food meal “less bad.” Sometimes, when it’s pointed out that diet soda isn’t going to reduce the calories contained in the burger and fries, we’ve heard that at least it won’t add to them. If diet soda isn’t helping with weight control and it’s not being consumed as part of a “diet,” it’s even more senseless to consume. Considering that diet soda is really just chemicals without calories, people really might want to rethink diet soda consumption. It’s really not worth it.

Thinking of cooling off with a Coolatta?

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 12.42.51 PMAs the weather starts heating up across the U.S., Dunkin Donuts is hoping that you’ll choose to cool off with one of their appealing Coolatta flavors. From the mocha and caramel coffee to the mango passion fruit, Minute Maid orange, strawberry, Arnold Palmer and vanilla bean, the frozen Coolatta has become an incredibly popular way to cool off as the mercury begins to rise for the coming summer months.

So many times, when we choose a beverage, we’re really not thinking about what’s actually in that cup. But the nutrition facts and ingredient lists for drinks can easily be just as bad as any number of foods. What’s going on with the Coolatta?

We’re going to look at the Frozen Mocha Coffee Coolatta. Since the Frozen Coffee Coolattas appeal to consumers as a frozen iced coffee, the appeal of this beverage is pretty compelling. Iced coffee that’s frozen and even more cooling than its non-frozen counterpart — sounds like the perfect thing on a hot day. Not so much.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories:                      500
Fat:                               7 grams
Saturated Fat:            4 grams
Sugar:                          102 grams

You read that right. The medium Frozen Mocha Coffee Coolatta contains OVER 25 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR! That’s not just over the top, it’s off the charts!

INGREDIENTS: Frozen Coffee Base: Water, Frozen Coffee Concentrate (Water, Sugar, Coffee Extract, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor); Milk; Mocha Flavored Swirl Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Water, Cocoa processed with alkali, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Citric Acid, Salt.

The Coolatta concoction includes caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, and high fructose corn syrup, with a little coffee extract and cocoa thrown in for good measure.

The next time you’re looking to beat the heat with something cold and refreshing, don’t look for a Coolatta.

The counterintuitive effect of diet soda: belly fat

article-0-0EE9B85F00000578-823_634x425There are people out there who know that soda is bad for them. They love it though. They reason that if they aren’t drinking soda every day or limiting their consumption to one can each day, they’re limiting the harmful effects that are associated with it. Even better, they think, if they’re only drinking diet soda. After all, it’s a diet product. It contains less sugar and no calories. If there aren’t any calories in diet soda, it can’t be associated with obesity the way that sugary drinks have been. would agree that this is a seemingly logical thought process. We have to remind ourselves, though, that we’re applying a seemingly logical thought process to a chemical concoction with zero nutritional benefits. Logic may, as they say, fly right out the window. There’s a study out that seems to open that window up for all of us.

Researchers examined data taken periodically for nearly 10 years from 749 Mexican-Americans and European-Americans ages 65 and older in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (known by the fine acronym SALSA).

They determined that daily and occasional diet soda drinkers gained nearly three times as much belly fat as non-drinkers, after they ruled out other factors such as age, exercise and smoking. The diet soda drinkers added an average of 2.11 centimeters (.83 inches) to their waist circumferences, while the non-drinkers added .77 centimeters (.3 inches). Daily consumers gained a striking 3.04 centimeters (1.19 inches).

Men, European Americans, people with a body mass index greater than 30 and people who did not have diabetes fared the worst.

You don’t want belly fat (visceral fat in technical terms), especially as you reach your later years, when it is associated with greater incidence of mortality, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. High waist circumference is also one component of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that also includes high triglycerides, blood pressure and blood glucose.

“This is a more vulnerable population,” Sharon Fowler, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and lead author of the study said in an interview. According to one study, about a fifth of the U.S. population consumed some form of diet drink on any given day in 2009-2010, and 11 percent of those people drank 16 ounces or more.

A couple of caveats here that are worth mentioning: There is considerable debate over the impact of diet soda and artificial sweeteners, with various studies showing conflicting results. (Another Fowler study in 2008 showed significant increases in body mass index among diet soda drinkers.)

This study, because of the way it was designed, could not prove cause and effect; it showed an association between drinking diet soda and increases in waist circumference. Most strangely, the data revealed no relationship between consumption of regular, sugary soda and waist circumference growth, which Fowler acknowledged would have been expected.

In a statement, the American Beverage Association, said that “previous research, including human clinical trials, supports that diet beverages are an effective tool as part of an overall weight management plan. Numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of diet beverages – as well as low calorie sweeteners, which are in thousands of foods and beverages – in helping to reduce calorie intake.”

The Calorie Control Council, which represents producers of no- and low-calorie foods and beverages, also urged that the study “be treated with caution” due to some limitations. The organization noted that older people tend to lose muscle mass and gain waist circumference as a result of aging and contended that some important information on Mexican-American lifestyles, diet records and family histories were not available to the researchers.

Nevertheless, she said, there are a number of possible explanations for the findings. A psychological one may be that regular diet soda drinkers conclude (as I have) that they are saving calories by not consuming sugary drinks and let themselves go overboard on other foods.

“There can be underestimation of the impact of other foods,” she said. “People can give themselves extra permission to eat. They also can just do bad calorie math.”

Based on other research, she said, the sweeteners and/or the acid in diet soda may have an impact on gut bacteria, the ability to handle sugar from other food and drink or the part of the brain that signals us to stop eating.

With so much uncertain, Fowler said, a safe path is to drink water, milk, 100 percent fruit juice, tea and coffee – perhaps adding a tiny bit of sugar or fruit juice for added sweetness in some.

Personally, most diet soda drinkers we know aren’t drinking it in order to give themselves permission to eat more food. Many don’t like the flavor of sugared sodas. Others feel like the zero calorie count fits into their already existing dietary plan. Most aren’t thinking that a savings of a few hundred calories opens them up to increasing their food consumption. We’re more likely to agree with the acids in diet soda or the artificial sweeteners having an impact on gut bacteria. That makes more sense from our perspective, especially when it comes to the chemical profile of diet soda.

We know sometimes that iced cold, bubbly diet soda would hit the spot. We also know that you can make a better decision in the moment. Iced cold water or iced tea will quench your thirst without chemicals — or belly fat.

New York City may be leading the way … new studies show stronger links between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity has learned that this has been a busy week for the sugar-sweetened beverage and obesity debate. Coming right off the heels of the New York City ban on the sale of large-sized sugary beverages at certain establishments, there were three new studies published this week that are suggesting that New York City has the right idea and may, in fact, be leading the way towards stronger regulations from the federal government.

We know that a third of American adults and about 17% of American kids are currently obese. It has been suggested that sugary beverages have contributed to the obesity problem as the rate of consumption of those drinks has risen at the same pace as the obesity problem since the late 70s. But these new studies which were published this past week in the New England Journal of Medicine directly explored the effects of sugar-sweetened drinks on weight.

The first two studies were random trials. One involved over 600 children split into groups. One group was given a sugar-sweetened beverage to drink and the other a sugar-free version of the same drink. They were followed for a year and a half. While both groups of children gained weight over the period, the group consuming the sugar-sweetened beverage gained over two pounds more over the same period of time.

The other involved tracking over 200 overweight or obese adolescents whose diets regularly included sugary beverages. One group was given only diet beverages and water over a full year period. This group had the beverages delivered directly to their homes for tracking purposes. The other group continued to drink the sugary beverages they had always consumed without any change to their habits.

By the end of the study period, the group drinking the sugar-sweetened beverages had appreciably higher BMIs than the group given the diet beverages and water.

The final study focused on over 30,000 men and women of European ancestry over a course of time. Among those involved in the study who were genetically predisposed to obesity, higher consumption levels of sugar-sweetened drinks were linked to higher BMI.

The American Beverage Association released a statement regarding the studies, “Obesity is a serious and complex public health issue facing our nation and the rest of the world, and we all must work together to solve it. We know, and science supports, that obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage. Thus, studies and opinion pieces that focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages, or any other single source of calories, do nothing meaningful to help address this serious issue.”

Health and medical groups are now appealing to the U.S. Surgeon General to publish a report on sugary beverages and obesity. The report they are seeking is based on the idea that sugar-sweetened beverages need the same treatment from the federal government as cigarette smoking and its relationship to cancer.

Perhaps, despite the tremendous concern among New Yorkers regarding the ban on large-sized sugary beverages, the city’s mayor is actually on the cutting edge of the fight against obesity. is looking forward to following this issue and bringing our community breaking information regarding other bans that may ensue from the results of these new studies – and possibly even some action from the Surgeon General’s office as well.

We invite you to read more:

New York’s proposed ban on super-sized sugary beverages …the right thing to do or government interference? Thoughts from our community, please

Food Facts wants our community to weigh in on this very controversial piece of news. Last month, Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor proposed a ban on the sale of large sized sodas and other sugary drinks. The ban would affect restaurant establishments, movie theaters and street food sellers. Mayor Bloomberg is proposing this ban in order to curb the rising problem of obesity in New York City.

The ban would apply to drinks that are larger than 16 fluid ounces and range from sodas to energy drinks to sweetened iced teas which would be prohibited from sale in delis, fast-food outlets, sporting venues and even hot-dog and sandwich carts which are common on most New York City street corners. If the proposal is approved, it could go into effect in March of 2013. In New York City, more than half of adults are obese or overweight. And about one-third of New Yorkers drink more than one sugary drink per day. This information comes from the New York City health commissioner. The proposed ban would not apply to drinks with fewer than 30 calories per 8-ounce serving, so unsweetened iced teas, diet sodas and flavored or vitamin waters with no calories would not be affected.

According to the mayor, the only thing the ban actually would do is make it less convenient to consume more than 16 ounces of a chosen sugary beverage. After all, a consumer would be free to buy a second one. Because the city does have jurisdiction over local eating establishments they are confident they have the authority to restrict the sales of these beverages.

Since the proposal, other mayors around the country are considering similar actions. Many in the health and nutrition community are supportive of the measure. Many in the New York City community and the government are not.

Here, in our Food Facts community, many are aware of the unhealthy and possibly downright harmful ingredients in soda. But, we’re also pretty aware that those statements don’t just involve sugary sodas and pretty much extend to diet versions, as well. You can check out two examples right here:

We’d like our Food Facts friends to weigh in on this issue. Let us know:

1) Is the ban, and others like it that will undoubtedly follow, an infringement on our basic rights? If the New York City government can ban large sized sugary beverages, what other nutrition-based decisions can they go on to force on adult residents?

2) Is the ban a viable way to attempt to control a growing obesity problem in New York and other cities like it?

3) Does the ban actually not go far enough? If we know that the ingredients in soda are actually harmful to our health and that’s true for both diet and sugar-laden beverages, why aren’t governments trying to control the intake of all kinds of drinks? Aspartame is just as controversial as high-fructose corn syrup and phosphoric acid and potassium benzoate certainly don’t qualify as additives we don’t need to worry about.

It’s a fascinating conversation and one that can be looked at from many points of view. As a member of the Food Facts community, we’d like to hear your stance and reasoning. As educated consumers, your opinions are valuable, not only to us, but to all communities and cities considering ways and means to curtail the growing problems of obesity and poor nutrition becoming more and more prevalent in our country every day.

Ingredients that make Diet Cola a bad choice… understands that informed food choices are the best food choices. So we wanted to make sure you’re well acquainted with four disturbing ingredients in Diet Colas that could help you to make more educated beverage selections.

Potassium Benzoate
Potassium Benzoate is used as a preservative in foods. It prevents bacteria and fungi from contaminating food, beverages, cosmetics, dental care products, and pharmaceuticals, Fruit juice, pickles, and soft drinks can be preserved with potassium benzoate. Most countries approve the use of potassium benzoate, but the European Union suggests children not consume products preserved with it.

Phosphoric acid
Phosphoric acid is a corrosive acid that can form three different classes of salts, namely primary phosphates, dibasic phosphates and tribasic phosphates. Phosphoric acid is soluble in water. It is incompatible with strong caustics and it is corrosive to ferrous metals and alloys. It readily reacts with metals to form flammable hydrogen gas.
It is used as an anti-oxidant in food, as a flavor additive for sharp taste in food (jellies, preserves) and soft drinks, as a tang (Food Additive 338) and for the manufacture of yeasts and gelatin. Phosphoric acid has been shown to decrease bone density and erode tooth enamel.

Caramel Coloring
There are many different types of caramel coloring, each engineered to serve a particular purpose in food chemistry. The caramel coloring used in soft drinks adds ammonia and sulfites to the production of the beverage. In addition to possible dangers of these unwanted ingredients, caramel coloring can also be derived from food products that are common allergens and should be avoided by people with allergies.

One of the most common artificial sweeteners is aspartame. It is 200 times sweeter than table sugar and lower in calories. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the acceptable daily intake of 50 mg/kg of body weight/day. The European Food Safety Authority recommends only 40 mg/kg. There is much controversy on whether aspartame causes cancer. Expert agencies in the United States declare aspartame as safe to consume. A few studies have given rats aspartame with leukemia and lymphomas occurring in rats. However, many studies in the lab and by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) examined the effects of aspartame and saw no signs of aspartame as a carcinogen, or causing cancer. Health problems can still occur with the consumption of aspartame.

When you reach for a beverage, there’s more to consider than calories and taste and wants you to be as informed as possible when making decisions about different products.

Misleading Beverage Labels

yhkjdrfw4ndc1yokrl4tdenfo1_400 came across an article this morning which verifies that nutrition labels are often very misleading and boast unrealistic claims, such as “improving brain function.” Many of our followers already know that nutrition labels can’t be trusted 100 percent, however, this can be eye-opening for the few still trying to figure things out.

How well do you really know what you’re drinking?

Savvy shoppers know not to take product labels at face value. Still, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for consumers trying to keep the facts straight about what’s in what they drink.
First it was the news about how not-so-one-hundred-percent 100% orange juice is. For those who may be unaware of the controversy, here’s what you need to know: During processing, things like orange aroma, oil, and pulp can get separated from the actual juice. Specifically, the process of removing the oxygen from the juice (which is done to keep it from spoiling without the use of preservatives) strips the juice of a lot of its natural flavors. And so to make up for the loss, those natural components — in the form of “flavor packs” — get added back in after processing. Not surprisingly, the backlash among the OJ-drinking set was fast and furious.

Now, hot on the heels of this revealing information, comes word that some of the popular brands of coconut water fail to deliver the “promised” amount of sodium — an electrolyte key to the drink’s appeal as a sports and energy drink. A report from revealed that only one out of the three tested beverages offered an amount of electrolytes comparable to other sports drinks like Gatorade. Even though some may not outright call themselves sports drinks on the label (O.N.E. Coconut Water has), that’s certainly how they’re marketed (not to mention some even boast athlete endorsements). As ConsumerLab president Dr. Tom Cooperman told the Huffington Post, “People should be aware that the labels are not accurate on some of the products, and they shouldn’t count on coconut water for serious rehydration.”
Thing is, when it comes to finding out news like this, are you really even surprised? Beverage labels, and labels in general, are a product’s face to the world — that they’re used as a canvas to improve the image of their product and make it more appealing to consumers is easy to understand. Of course, some cases are more egregious than others. For instance, how Snapple’s teas were labeled as “all natural” despite listing citric acid as an additive. Or worse, the example of Nestle’s Juicy Juice Brain Development Fruit Juice claiming that it “Helps Support Brain Development.” Apparently, such claims, called structure/function claims, require no FDA pre-certification.

(Huffington Post)