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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Drs. Roizen and Oz: Is the sugar fix in?

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, February 13, 2017 03:22 am
Q: Is it true that some of our national health organizations are accepting money from the sugar industry? Isn't that a conflict of interest? — JoAnn F., Columbus, Mo. A: It's well-documented that health organizations are taking money from the sugar industry. Is it a conflict of interest? You'd think so, since we know how much damage added sugar does to the body and brain.

According to a study done by researchers at Boston University School of Public Health, between 2011 and 2014 the Coca-Cola Company spent on average more than $6 million per year, PepsiCo spent more than $3 million annually, and the American Beverage Association spent more than $1 million per year on lobbying efforts that included 96 national public-health organizations. At the same time, these companies were lobbying against 29 public-health bills that would have imposed a tax on sodas and mandated advertising restrictions. (Those companies spent a lot more in 2009, when they successfully fought the 2009 federal soda tax; in that year, Coca-Cola spent $9.4 million, PepsiCo $9.5 million, and the American Beverage Association $18.9 million!)

The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Save the Children are among those organizations that stand out as having taken sugar money. The researchers conclude: "By accepting funding from these companies, health organizations are inadvertently participating in their [beverage industry] marketing plans."

The AHA offers the explanation that they still support a tax on sugary soda, but that the soda companies also sell water, fruits and vegetables, which are good for you.

What about that soda tax? The idea of tax on sugary beverages is again gaining ground in the U.S. since Great Britain passed a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages beginning in 2018. Would a U.S. national SSB tax reduce sugar consumption (it's an astounding 66 pounds per year per person!), save lives and be a fountain of tax dollars for national health care? What do you think?

Q: My grandmother is 92 and as sharp as ever, but she's worried because her blood pressure has become a bit high (135/80). She's talking about cutting back on her daily walks, but I am not sure if she should. What do you advise? — Carmen D., Springfield, Ill.

A: First, tell your grandmother to continue walking, because that decreases overall health risks including those from high blood pressure and that she may have hit the golden age good-health jackpot. A recent study out of U.C. Irvine found that among adults 80 to 89, the onset (that means they did not have it before) of hypertension is associated with a lower risk of dementia. And those who developed hypertension after age 90 have the lowest dementia risk of all the groups studied! The operating hypothesis is that for the elderly, the increased blood pressure allows for sufficient blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which keeps it functioning well. Tell her to ask her doctor about that.

While middle-age folks who develop high blood pressure are making their RealAge older and increasing their risk for heart disease, cognitive decline and stroke — and need to lower it — it's not known if treatment for a minor degree of new onset HBP over age 90 is harmful or not.

Also, walking regularly like she does helps keep heart and blood vessels healthy, strengthens her muscles and improves balance. A recent study from the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System has shown that exercise and the resulting cardio fitness promotes "positive memory performance" in aging adults. If she sits around she may shorten her telomere length (they're proteins on the end of your DNA that protect it from damage) and that, according to yet another new study, translates to an older RealAge by up to eight years.

So tell your Gram to keep walking, check with her doc and in the meantime not to worry too much about her new-onset HBP.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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