Science Catch-up. Breaking News: Can Fizzy Water Increase Food Cravings?


by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

Welcome to our Thursday’s Science Catch-up: curated links by The Health Sciences Academy. Get our email updates every other Thursday here (it’s free).

Let’s catch you up with studies and news that recently made the headlines!

Click on your favourite topics to read our summary:

1. Breaking news: Can fizzy water increase food cravings?

2. Food debate: Is ‘organic’ the ultimate solution?

3. Alert: Why you shouldn’t eat at your desk…

4. New hormone involved in “creating fat”

5. Is fructose sneaking into babies via breast milk?

 

Breaking news: Can fizzy water increase food cravings?

Study link

“Fizzy water could cause obesity by encouraging you to eat more” – The Daily Telegraph reported.

But is there any truth to that?

The story comes from a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice.

As you know, a huge number of previous studies showed links between obesity and soft drinks, mostly expected to be caused by their sugar content.

But how about the carbon dioxide in them? Can carbonation lead to weight gain on its own? If so, could sparkling water be another culprit?

To answer this, researchers from Birzeit University in Palestine conducted two studies: the first using rodents and the second with human subjects.

So, what did they find?

The rodents that drank carbonated (sparkling) water ate 20% more and gained more weight over 6 months than those that drank still (flat) water.

Additionally, the rodents drinking carbonated water had higher levels of the hormone ghrelin (a hunger hormone which promotes food consumption).

And what about the human subjects? Interestingly, their ghrelin levels were also higher after drinking carbonated water 1 hour after food… In fact, 6 times higher than after water.

Now, does this mean that carbonation and ghrelin production provide an extra explanation to increased appetite and obesity risk?

Quite possibly… But since the research used a small sample of just 20 male subjects, we cannot extrapolate these findings to every male, or females, or even other populations with different genetics and different food environments.

What I like about this study is that it raises the possibility that carbonated (fizzy) drinks, even if unsweetened, could stimulate appetite and increase weight-gain risk – which I think it’s definitely worth investigating further… That’s the fun part of science!

In the meantime, you can try going “fizzy-free” and see if that has any impact on your hunger levels or body weight… For help on how to do this properly and safely, follow our step-by-step guide: “How to conduct an effective self-experiment” – you’ll also get a fun download at the end so you can track your results :-)

 

Food debate: Is ‘organic’ the ultimate solution?

Study link

While organic trends are ever-growing, are they really the “panacea” for the food system’s environmental and sustainability problems?

If you want an objective review with the pros and cons of buying organic, this is a great one (full PDF here).

Researchers from the University of British Columbia looked at the ups and downs of organic agriculture in different contexts:

  • Production
  • Environment
  • Producers
  • Consumers

One of the points that surprised me the most is that organic may be less sustainable than previously thought

When the efficacy of farms is measured by yield, organic methods have been shown in numerous studies to underperform by 19% to 25%, and for some crops by 40%.

Lower yields like these aren’t good news…

It means that you need more land to produce the same amount of food and this has an environmental cost. But if organic methods could be improved, then we could use less land and help restore natural ecosystems.

In terms of farmers’ health, organic seems less aggressive – particularly in underdeveloped countries where pesticide abuse is an issue and a serious health hazard for farm workers.

However, when it comes to pesticide residues for the end consumer, remember that organic does not mean “pesticide-free” – organic pesticides are indeed used and some of them are also classed as carcinogenic substances.

That said, the amounts of organic or non-organic pesticide residues in food tend to be tiny traces far below intake limits, particularly in developed countries. On the other hand, underdeveloped countries like India, seem to show higher pesticide contamination levels in their produce. That’s why it’s important to improve farming practices and technologies, whether organic or not.

If you want to explore more on this topic, here are two useful reads for you:

 

Alert: Why you shouldn’t eat at your desk…

Study link

If you’re someone who often eats lunch at the desk, or skip your lunchtime break to avoid a backlog at work, or just stay put to read the news while munching that salad… then this is a must-read for you!

Per this new study, we may be going all wrong about our midday break… It appears that a lack of restorative activities could cost us a lower concentration later on…

When concentration and productivity are important components of your daily job or your learning activities, taking a “cognitive timeout” can help you work better and feel better.

In the study, the participants detached from work completely and enjoyed a real break by taking a 15-minute stroll in a park or by doing muscle relaxation exercises.

When performing these restorative activities, they reported significant decreases in end-of-day stress and fatigue, and better concentration at work. This is a great point for employers to keep in mind and even promote this behaviour.

The explanation for these benefits?

Walks in nature or enjoyable relaxation exercises can lead to a recovery from your “cognitive overload” and the restoration of your intellectual focus – a win-win for your health PLUS the bottom line!

The best part is that it works even if you only have 15 minutes.

 

New hormone involved in “creating fat”

Study link

Scientists have discovered that a hormone, called Adamts1, is involved in fat-cell production. It has this name because it’s regulated by the ADAMTS1 gene.

In a combination of laboratory research, mice and human studies, the scientists found that following exposure to stress-inducing corticosteroid (a cortisol-like compound), the expression of the ADAMTS1 gene was reduced and, in turn, the development of fat cells increased.

This discovery opens the doors for new research that will help us better understand how fat-cell formation influences weight gain and obesity risk.

 

Is fructose sneaking into babies via breast milk?

Study link

Maternal diet, even after the baby is born, is critical to the little one’s health… and this new piece of research proves it, too.

Did you know? Fructose is NOT a natural component of breast milk… Yet, it can infiltrate the baby’s diet via breastfeeding!

Higher amounts of fructose found in the moms’ milk meant higher baby weight and fat mass

It’s a known scientific fact that the first year of life cements the foundation of a baby’s metabolic system.

And it may well be that these sneaky fructose amounts have detrimental effects on infant metabolism, as shown by the higher fat storage…

So, if you’re a new mom, keep an eye on your fructose consumption… Higher fructose concentrations are found in jam, syrups, honey, fruit juices, fruit smoothies, sugary drinks, and sugary foods.

Note: Fructose is a type of sugar. To calculate your own free-sugars “limit”, follow these 3 simple steps in here: [CASE STUDY] How much sugar is in that smoothie?

 

 

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The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right
Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. She is a Harvard-trained scientific researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups every other Thursday.
Connect with Alex via email.


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3 Comments

  • Dominic Casanova

    Reply Reply May 18, 2017

    Thankyou very much for all the work that you go to to present us with this important information.

  • Tom

    Reply Reply May 18, 2017

    Excellent info Alex, thank you!

  • Courtney

    Reply Reply May 19, 2017

    Thank you for periodically sending these, Alex. I enjoy the concise way you send the information on such relevant topics.

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