May
31
2014

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

Recently an industry sponsored study was reviewed by the media with this headline: “Diet soda helps weight loss, industry-funded study finds”. Before you get too excited about this study, let me tell you that you are being deceived. Essentially the study compared 150 overweight or obese people on water and a similar group of people on diet sodas. Both groups were counselled on the benefits of exercise and a healthier diet. At the end of 12 weeks the water group that did not drink diet sodas had lost 9 pounds, while the diet soda group that continued their former habit lost 13 pounds. The question now is why this 4 pound difference? The sponsor of the study would like you to think that the soda diet drink is healthier, because it helps you to lose weight. Let me explain to you that there are a few flaws in the study as follows.

1. Most often there are confounding errors in industry-sponsored studies. Even though it looks on the surface that the two groups were comparable, researchers should have checked out various parameters like sex distribution, other underlying illnesses, mental state (depressed or not etc.), diabetes and other factors to make sure that there is no metabolic bias between the two groups from the start of the study.

2. Deception built into study: we know from other studies that on the long-term diet sodas lead to weight gain by stimulating your appetite for sweets and their subsequent consumption. Often short-term studies show the opposite effect, so it would be false to assume that long-term results would be similar. But most readers who read this quickly would be tempted to think “so it must be OK to continue to consume diet soda drinks!” Off you go to the grocery store and buy another 6 or 12 pack. That’s exactly what the industry-sponsored study set out to do. Somewhere in the back-room of a big soft drink corporation the executives discussed among themselves that their statistics were bad; the sales of diet soft drinks were down; there was too much negative press fuelled by the health food industry. They had to do something about this, so they designed a study where the good guy was the diet soft drink. If the consumer is not buying the results, at least the study helped to confuse people and whenever there is confusion, at least part of the confused population will return to their old habits. After all the study showed “ it is OK”.

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

Industry Sponsored Diet Soda Study Deceptive

3. Excitotoxins are not OK. Unfortunately all artificial sweeteners are toxic to your brain, they are excitotoxins. MSG is another excitotoxin. The only exception is the natural sweetener stevia, a plant product, which is OK. Splenda is an insecticide, so this is belongs to the xenoestrogens, bad for you as it acts like a foreign estrogen and has cancer-promoting qualities when exposed to it for several decades. The rest of the artificial sweeteners are excitotoxins: they burn your brain cells very slowly and can lead to dementia. Unfortunately they are addicting and your brain will make you feel good when you drink more of it. So, the real reason why the study group on diet sodas did better than the water group is because they did not have to change that habit, there was no withdrawal to deal with and they felt fine. So they could concentrate on dieting and exercising and of course you would lose 13 pounds in 12 weeks doing that. The water group on the other hand had to cope with diet soda withdrawal and on top was challenged by an exercise and weight loss program. As there was no diet restriction, they could compensate a bit for their trouble of withdrawal and eat a few muffins or some extra bread to make up for the lack of their comfort diet drink fix (the satisfaction of consuming the excitotoxin). This slick short-term study design is what should have alarmed the publisher to ask a few hard questions.

4. There needs to be an internal logic in the study: Let’s do a thought experiment where we repeat the study and start with two comparable overweight/obese groups of people and put them on no sugar and no refined carbs for 2 weeks and also on no diet sodas for the same time. After two weeks they are both accustomed to this diet and the no diet soda habit and they have probably lost the same amount of weight from the calorie restriction. Now we start the one group on diet sodas and the other group on water, but strictly controlled for a similar calorie intake in terms of other foods or drinks as much as is humanly possible. I would predict that after 12 weeks the water group will have at least lost the same weight as the diet soda group, if not more. The diet soda group likely will have had some problems with sugar craving and may have had more dietary indiscretions (sneaking in snacks and underreporting them), but this would show up as weight gain.

You may be proud of having completed this well controlled study. The trouble is that your industry sponsor that produces the diet drinks will not like this outcome and would not allow the results to be published. In fact that kind of result would be actively suppressed.

Conclusion:

The diet soda study discussed here is a lesson in biased publishing. We are constantly bombarded by an endless string of meaningless publications that are designed to make the consumer insecure, or bias us for accepting a company’s product in the hope of achieving a certain result (like high sales). Even, if this is not accomplished the company has sold enough of their product just for giving it a try. Beware of the door-to-door sales person. This figure is very much present right in this publication. In this case it is the sales pitch of the diet soda manufacturers! You are looking at a study that was designed to make you buy more of the excitotoxin (aspartame or other artificial sweeteners), which likely contributed to your extra weight or obesity in the first place. It’s up to you to shut the door on this sales pitch. Instead of a diet soda I suggest you make your own drink: squeeze half an organic lemon and top this with mineral water of your choice. Sweeten it with a tiny amount of stevia. This has no calories and does not stimulate you to eat more sugar and starchy foods; but it quenches any thirst and you even get some water-soluble vitamins in the process.

Last edited May 31, 2014

May
01
2003

Bipolar Disorder In Children And Teens Different From Adults

Bipolar disorder used to be called “manic-depressive illness” in the past, now it is termed “bipolar disorder”. It is a multifaceted mental illness where subtle changes in the mix of brain hormones can lead to periods when the patient is euphoric, manic or even psychotic (manic episode), but at other times it seems that someone “pulled the plug”, so to speak, and the patient is depressed, lethargic and perhaps even suicidal.

To complicate matters even further,and this was the subject of a recent seminar at the Child and Health Resource Institute in London/Ontario, symptoms in children and teens are often completely different from symptoms in adults. This can be very misleading to the healthcare workers and the immediate family members. It can also delay the diagnosis and appropriate treatment of bipolar disorder. The Medical Post in its April 1, 2003 edition (page 54) published a review of this topic, based on a presentation by Dr. Margaret Steele at this seminar in London/Ont. Dr. Steele is a child psychiatrist of the University of Western Ontario.

Dr. Steele explained that bipolar disorder is relatively rare in children and adolescents. About 0.5% or less of children in pre-puberty and about 1% of adolescents are affected. But these children/adolescents usually have a family history of either bipolar disorder or depression. 20% of adults with bipolar disease experienced their first episodes of the disease during the teen years.

Bipolar Disorder In Children And Teens Different From Adults

Bipolar Disorder In Children And Teens Different From Adults

Below is a summary of her findings with regard to depressive symptoms in children/teens when compared to adults in tabular form.

Comparison Of Symptoms Of Depression In Bipolar Disorder Patients Depending On Age
Adult Symptoms:
Symptom Presentation In Children/Teens:
depressed mood irritability is more common; normally easy-going, but suddenly being oppositional and grouchy
anhedonia (difficulty to think positive and enjoy living) “I am bored” may be the only comment, retreating into a shell
sleep disturbance, mostly insomnia (problems sleeping) they may have the opposite, namely hypersomnia (sleeping too much and too long); this may cause problems when they sleep in during the week or they fall asleep in school
appetite disturbance (usually associated with weight loss) young children fail to grow and gain weight; adolescence may crave junk foods (sugar and starch) and overeat
lethargy in children a decrease in concentration may only become evident as a decrease in school performance (slipping marks)
psychomotor agitation or retardation these symptoms are similar in both adults and children, may be evident as pacing, fighting (agitation) and as “laziness”, moving slowly (retardation)
Suicidal thoughts
or behavior
similar in adults and children, but could be more concealed at a younger age (see below)
hopelessness when asked “what do you see in the future?” an answer like “I see nothing at all, I have no goals” could indicate hidden suicidal thoughts
masked depressive symptoms younger children may have temper tantrums, which would be out of character from their normal behavior; adolescents may “act out”
somatic complaints adolescents present with headaches and other physical symptoms (e.g. abdominal pain etc.) meaning a “screen of mood” should be done

The other part of the equation of bipolar disorder is mania. Different names are used for this hyperactive state of the mind depending on how severe it is: ‘hypomania’ for the lower end, ‘mania’ for an abnormally elevated and expansive mood lasting for at least 1 week. The most severe form of mania is a ‘manic psychosis’ where the person is “completely out of it” and needs to be hospitalized. Again there are some differences of how a manic episode is expressed in children/teens when compared to adults. Dr. Steele covered this in the seminar mentioned above as well and I have summarized the findings in tabular form again as follows.

Child psychiatrists are most familiar with assessing whether a child or adolescent has bipolar disorder. Apart from symptoms being quite variable as mentioned above, there are also lower-key versions of bipolar disorder.

A milder, scaled down version of a manic episode is called ‘hypomania’ as explained above and when expressed in bipolar disease this can lead to ‘bipolar II disorder’. In 60% of adolescents with bipolar disease a ‘mixed bipolar episode’ can be diagnosed. Typically, in these cases the teenager would have depressive symptoms in the morning (feeling low energy, feeling terrible etc.), but later in the day after school would get revved up having problems winding down at night. Often such behavior is very stressful for the parents, particularly as bipolar disorder is running in families and one of the parents may have established bipolar disorder that is being treated.

The reason for including this overview here is that many parents may recognize some symptoms in their offspring that warrant a closer look by a child psychiatrist. By diagnosing this condition early and treating it, these children and teens can have a normal life and prevent a lot of needless suffering and danger.

Click for links about bipolar disorder , depression and watch for suicide.

Manic symptoms in bipolar disorder patients depending on age
Manic symptoms in adults: Manic symptoms in children/teens:
inflated self-esteem elevated, irritable mood; it is beyond being giddy and silly, which many teens normally display; children may say that they are ‘Spiderman’, it can be difficult to separate from normal play, but on further questioning manic children have racing thoughts and hear voices (delusions), which normal children do not have
racing thoughts, often detected in conversation as ‘flight of ideas’ racing thoughts express themselves more as ‘distractibility’; a child might pick up a toy, drop it after a short time and suddely play with something else
pressured speech increased chattiness
excessive pursuit of activities that are potentially harmful (speeding in car, excessive drinking or drugs, risk taking in the stock market, etc.) risk taking expressed differently: kids might steal despite never having done this before; manic children may exhibit sexual behavior such as flirtatious behavior, etc.
medical conditions may mimic symptoms of mania (e.g. diabetes out of control) side-effect of oral corticosteroid therapy for asthma can lead to a psychosis and mimic a manic episode

Child psychiatrists are most familiar with assessing whether a child or adolescent has bipolar disorder. Apart from symptoms being quite variable as mentioned above, there are also lower-key versions of bipolar disorder.

A milder, scaled down version of a manic episode is called ‘hypomania’ as explained above and when expressed in bipolar disease this can lead to ‘bipolar II disorder’. In 60% of adolescents with bipolar disease a ‘mixed bipolar episode’ can be diagnosed. Typically, in these cases the teenager would have depressive symptoms in the morning (feeling low energy, feeling terrible etc.), but later in the day after school would get revved up having problems winding down at night. Often such behavior is very stressful for the parents, particularly as bipolar disorder is running in families and one of the parents may have established bipolar disorder that is being treated.

The reason for including this overview here is that many parents may recognize some symptoms in their offspring that warrant a closer look by a child psychiatrist. By diagnosing this condition early and treating it, these children and teens can have a normal life and prevent a lot of needless suffering and danger.

Click for links about bipolar disorder , depression and suicide prevention.

Last edited October 25, 2014