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Artificial Sweeteners May Not Be As Beneficial As Expected

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If you are trying to lose weight or are watching your sugar intake because of diabetes, you may be very interested in the latest study on artificial sweeteners and whether they are beneficial or harmful.

Sugar vs. Sugar Substitutes

Sugar has been deemed a toxin by researchers and doctors alike who say it can disrupt the normal hormonal cycles of the body and harm internal organs. Excessive consumption is one of the primary causes of metabolic disorders and obesity.

To combat the alleged ill-effects of sugar, the industry created, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a list of high-intensity artificial sweeteners that have few to no calories, such as:

  • Saccharin – sold under the brand names– Sweet and Low, Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, and Necta Sweet
  • Aspartame – sold under the brand names Nutrasweet, Equal, Sugar Twin
  • Acesulfame potassium – sold under the brand names Sunett, Sweet One, and listed in ingredients as Ace-K, acesulfame K
  • Sucralose – sold under the brand name Splenda
  • Neotame – sold under the brand name Newtame
  • Advantame – used in food as flavor enhancer and sweetener
  • Steviol glycosides – sold under the brand name Stevia

After so many artificial sweeteners hit the market, researchers determined they might not be all that good for you. In fact, some studies have concluded that artificial sweeteners can increase obesity, metabolic disorders, diabetes, and even cancer.

To get a better understanding of the risks and benefits of artificial sweeteners, a group of researchers assessed and analyzed 56 existing studies involving child and adult participants and compared those with low/no intake of sugar substitutes against those who consume more. The study authors looked at body mass index, weight, behavior, mood, blood sugar levels, oral health, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and cancer.

Study Results Surprising

After analyzing the studies, researchers report they found no real difference in the health outcomes of those who used artificial sweeteners and those who didn’t. Study authors said that no ‘statistically or clinically relevant’ outcome was determined between those who used artificial sweeteners and those that didn’t, no matter their level of intake.

Some previous smaller studies have found weak and non-compelling evidence that artificial sweeteners could help reduce blood sugar levels and body mass index. Researchers have also reported some small weight loss in people who consumed small amounts of artificial sweeteners, but the evidence was also non-compelling. And these same results were seen in child participants where sugar substitutes could slightly reduce weight gain but had no effect on body mass index.

The study reported that there was no good evidence of any benefits of artificial sweeteners, noted that potential harms from the use of artificial sweeteners could not be ruled out. Study authors noted that more substantial studies were needed to determine the effects of sugar substitutes on obesity, weight, diabetes risks, and kidney disease.

But sugar substitutes are increasing in popularity and have been for quite some time. So, understanding the risks and benefits of these products is extremely important for consumers, especially diabetes patients who routinely use these products daily.

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Trump Administration Wants to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes

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The Trump administration announced that it plans to propose a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. The goal is to reverse the alarming trend in underage kids who are vaping.

A New Ban on Flavored Vaping Products

According to the Health and Human Services secretary, the FDA plans to develop guidelines on removing flavored electronic cigarettes. The only product which would be allowed would be tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes. Before the restrictions can take effect, the agency will need to develop rules, and the public will have a chance to input their opinions.

This proposal would only impact vaping products containing nicotine since those are regulated by the FDA. Other products may still remain unregulated. The FDA has delayed banning flavored vaping products even though it has been able to since 2016 when the first regulations came into effect. It had stated that it wanted to study flavored products to determine if they assisted adults in switching from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

An Alarming Situation

With the recent health scare where over 450 people have developed lung illnesses tied to vaping, advocates for regulation and parents are calling for more restrictions and enforcement. Many experts believe that the flavors are much of the reason for the increase in vaping by teens.

This ban would have a strong impact on manufacturers and distributors in the vaping industry. Many of them have made their reputation and built a solid business on flavored products. Juul is one of the largest vaping manufacturers with a large share of the market. The company has developed mint, fruit and other flavorful products to entice users.

Even though Juul and others say their products are designed to appeal to adult smokers who want to stop using tobacco products, evidence suggests that one of the growing markets is with teens.

Taking Action

As the medical field searches for answers as to the exact cause of the illnesses, the CDC and other organizations are recommending that people stop vaping. So far, six people have died because of the illness. The link that ties everyone together is that they all were using e-cigarettes or vaping devices. Some had nicotine in them, but not in every case. The situation has caused alarm for parents, schools, and others who see the increase in underage vaping as dangerous.

The First Lady had recently tweeted about the situation and voiced her concern about children vaping. She stated that she was “deeply concerned” about this issue. The FDA recommends that people not buy vaping products off the street, not alter those they buy in stores and not to use any oils made with marijuana.

Along with the federal investigation, states are conducting their own investigation into the mysterious illnesses that have been diagnosed just since August. The hope is that a ban on flavored products will reduce the appeal to kids and teens. Some studies show evidence that vaping can lead to other drug use, including smoking tobacco and even using cocaine and heroin.

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Sixth Fatality from Lung Disease Linked to Vaping

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The sixth person has died from a lung illness which is being linked to e-cigarettes and vaping. This person was over 50 years old and lived in Kansas, and it is the first such death in the state.

Growing Concern Over the Dangers of Vaping

Concern is growing over the safety of e-cigarettes and vape pens after more than 450 people have become ill with a mysterious lung disease in the last few months. Five of them have died prior to the person in Kansas. The other deaths were from Oregon, Minnesota, California, Illinois and Indiana. The first death came from Illinois and was reported in August. Oregon was next, followed by Minnesota.

This situation is widespread with the illnesses being reported in 33 states as well as the US Virgin Islands. There is an ongoing investigation but no definitive cause has been found yet. The one link between the deaths is they all used e-cigarettes, but even the ingredients used are different. Each state is conducting its own research. In New York, officials have discovered that vitamin E acetate was found in the products of those that got sick in the state. However, this may not be the case for other states.

Companies that manufacture e-cigarettes and other vaping devices are being investigated in New York. Samples obtained show that the thickeners in the vape liquids are almost pure vitamin E acetate.

Taking Action

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people stop using these products while the investigation is going. Anyone who notices symptoms of illness should report it to their doctor right away if they are continuing to use the electronic cigarettes. Symptoms to be concerned about include coughing that won’t go away, chest pain and shortness of breath. The American Medical Association and American Lung Association are also advocating for people to avoid e-cigarettes.

To counteract the alarming trend, organizations and government are taking action. The FDA has sent warning letters to Juul, one of the leading manufacturers of vaping products, warning them to stop marketing to teens. They have a short time to comply or the company faces penalties, including fines and seizure of the products.

New York has proposed legislation that would make the sale of flavored e-cigarettes illegal. Michigan has already passed a similar law. San Francisco has a new ordinance in place that banned all e-cigarette sales within the city limits.

The FDA has initiated an educational campaign about the dangers of vaping. The agency has also developed a policy to restrict retail stores from selling flavored products which are accessible to those who are underage. The policy also requires websites that sell e-cigarettes to provide verification of the age of buyers and to limit the number of products they can purchase. While the FDA is taking action, some critics think the agency should do more. They want to see e-cigarettes regulated like tobacco products and all those that are unregulated should be shut down. Retail stores that sold to underage kids would pay heavy penalties similar to what happens with alcohol and tobacco cigarettes.

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Schools Get Serious about Vaping

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Some schools are starting to get serious about how they handle students who are caught vaping. The changes come as a result of an increase in the number of teens and elementary age kids who are experimenting with e-cigarettes and vaporizers.

The Serious Risks of Vaping

Schools are going beyond the traditional means of discipline, such as detention, when kids are caught with vaping devices. One school district in North Texas is enforcing the rules by putting those who violate them in a special disciplinary school for one month. Another school, this one in Alabama, is removing doors from the bathroom stalls. Numerous other schools have installed sensors in the bathrooms which can detect smoke.

These actions come as concern for the health risks of vaping grow. Over 450 people have been diagnosed with a mysterious lung illness from vaping. Six people have died. Many of these diagnosed are young adults and teens who appear to be healthy. The American Medical Association issued a statement to encourage all people to stop using vaping devices and e-cigarettes until a cause for the illnesses can be determined.

While e-cigarettes were initially developed as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes for smokers, they have developed a wide appeal for non-smokers. In fact, they have become quite popular with young adults and teens. Almost three million school-age kids used electronic cigarettes and vape pens in 2018, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Schools have banned these devices from being on school property, but it hasn’t kept kids from bringing them in. Part of the issue is they look innocent enough. Juul vaping devices resemble a flash drive. They are small and discreet, so that users don’t get caught. These vaporizers don’t have any smoke and often don’t have a scent. Kids can keep them in their pockets or purses and not be detected by school officials.

Schools Take Action

School districts are getting creative about finding the e-cigarettes and vape pens as well as how they respond to a student when they violate the rules. One district has kids roll up their sleeves when they arrive to search for e-cigarettes.

Demand for sensors placed in bathrooms has gone up significantly. In fact, one company has provided sensors to schools in 46 states.

The FDA has warned manufacturers of electronic cigarettes to work to reduce underage use. Some manufacturers appear to target a younger audience through bold ads and labeling vaping devices as cool and trendy.

As more schools recognize the seriousness of vaping among teens and those even younger, it is expected that they will take further action. Instead of warnings and detention, which don’t seem to deter action, schools are hopeful that more serious consequences will act as deterrents. Whether it’s sending the kids to an isolated school for a month or removing stall doors from bathrooms, school districts are proving that they are serious about protecting kids from the dangers of vaping. It’s too early to know if these changes are effective yet.

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