Pop quiz! What's the single biggest source of calories for Americans? White bread? Big Macs? Actually, try soda. The average American drinks about two cans of the stuff every day. "But I drink diet soda," you say. "With no calories or sugar, it's the perfect alternative for weight watchers...Right?"
Not so fast. Before you pop the top off the caramel-colored bubbly, know this: guzzling diet soda comes with its own set of side effects that may harm your health--from kickstarting kidney problems to adding inches to your waistline.
Unfortunately, diet soda is more in vogue than ever. Kids consume the stuff at more than double the rate of last decade, according to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Among adults, consumption has grown almost 25 percent.
But knowing these 7 side effects of drinking diet soda may help you kick the can for good.
Here's something you didn't know about your diet soda: It might be bad for your kidneys. In an 11-year-long Harvard Medical School study of more than 3,000 women, researchers found that diet cola is associated with a two-fold increased risk for kidney decline. Kidney function started declining when women drank more than two sodas a day. Even more interesting: Since kidney decline was not associated with sugar-sweetened sodas, researchers suspect that the diet sweeteners are responsible.
According to a 2008 University of Minnesota study of almost 10,000 adults, even just one diet soda a day is linked to a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome, the group of symptoms including belly fat and high cholesterol that puts you at risk for heart disease. Whether that link is attributed to an ingredient in diet soda or the drinkers' eating habits is unclear. But is that one can really worth it?
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You read that right: Diet soda doesn't help you lose weight after all. A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that the more diet sodas a person drank, the greater their risk of becoming overweight. Downing just two or more cans a day increased waistlines by 500%. Why? Artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body's natural ability to regulate calorie intake based on the sweetness of foods, suggested an animal study from Purdue University. That means people who consume diet foods might be more likely to overeat, because your body is being tricked into thinking it's eating sugar, and you crave more.
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Your first bad decision was ordering that whiskey-and-diet-cola -- and you may make the next one sooner than you thought. Cocktails made with diet soda get you drunker, faster, according to a study out of the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia. That's because sugar-free mixers allow liquor to enter your bloodstream much quicker than those with sugar, leaving you with a bigger buzz.
Diet sodas contain something many regular sodas don't: mold inhibitors. They go by the names sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate, and they're in nearly all diet sodas. But many regular sodas, such as Coke and Pepsi, don't contain this preservative.
That's bad news for diet drinkers. "These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it - they knock it out altogether," Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of Sheffield in the U.K., told a British newspaper in 1999. The preservative has also been linked to hives, asthma, and other allergic conditions, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Since then, some companies have phased out sodium benzoate. Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi have replaced it with another preservative, potassium benzoate. Both sodium and potassium benzoate were classified by the Food Commission in the UK as mild irritants to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
With a pH of 3.2, diet soda is very acidic. (As a point of reference, the pH of battery acid is 1. Water is 7.) The acid is what readily dissolves enamel, and just because a soda is diet doesn't make it acid-light. Adults who drink three or more sodas a day have worse dental health, says a University of Michigan analysis of dental checkup data. Soda drinkers had far greater decay, more missing teeth, and more fillings.
Sometimes, the vessel for your beverage is just as harmful. Diet or not, soft drink cans are coated with the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to everything from heart disease to obesity to reproductive problems. That's a lot of risktaking for one can of pop.
(NEWSER) – Horse meat-tainted beef? We should be so lucky. US meat is rife with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or "superbugs," according to a government study released in February that's just now getting attention. The data hails from 2011, and is the result of testing on ground turkey, pork chops, ground beef, and chicken available at supermarkets; more than half of the samples taken were contaminated with superbugs like salmonella and E. coli. The New York Times reports that this represents a "sizable increase."
For example, of all salmonella found on raw chicken, 74% was resistant to antibiotics, while in 2002, less than 50% was. The findings are sure to increase the backlash against the use of antibiotics in animals raised for meat, but vets who work with the International Food Information Council (which gets money from major food companies) and the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (which gets money from veterinary pharmaceutical companies) say the report used small sample sizes and is misleading. Another disturbing finding: All in all, 87% of the meat tested contained some sort of fecal contamination, either normal or antibiotic-resistant.
This Jan. 18, 2010 file photo shows steaks and other beef products displayed for sale at a grocery store in McLean, Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)
Students view Avis Collins Robinson's work at Washington-Lee High… (Arlington Public Schools/ )
The gymnasium at Washington-Lee High School was transformed into an art gallery last week to offer Arlington County students a new way to experience African American history.
Through the paintings and quilts of local artist Avis Collins Robinson, students saw familiar faces of abolitionists and civil rights leaders such as Sojourner Truth and Malcolm X. They also studied portraits of working people who fought in America’s wars, planted the fields and built universities.
The one-day exhibition, “Please Remember Me: Honoring Extraordinary Ordinary People,” was a personal tribute to the artists’ late parents. By extension, Collins Robinson sought to honor their generation — the black Americans who formed a bridge from the indignities of the Jim Crow era to the heady possibilities of the Obama years.
An evening event drew community members and some prominent figures, Collins Robinson said, including Michelle Obama’s mother and Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife, Sharon Malone, whose sister is memorialized in one of the paintings. The piece captures the moment that Vivian Malone Jones and another student faced off with Gov. George Wallace, who attempted to block them as they walked in to register for classes at the University of Alabama. It was 50 years ago in June that they finally desegregated the university.
She learned to draw in her youth and turned to paint six years ago, after her mother died.
“I fell to pieces,” she said.
The interplay of brightly colored acrylics on canvas and hand-dyed strips of corduroy fabric helped stitch her back together.
Her collection begins with her extended family and the memories of her childhood in Good Hope, a former slave settlement in Montgomery County. Her paintings show her mother, who was a biochemist at the National Institutes of Health, mixing a “1-2-3 cake” while a little boy waits to lick the spoon. Her father, a veteran of two wars who worked in housing and rural development for Montgomery County, is shown in his Navy uniform. Her husband’s Aunt Doc is all dressed up and dozing in a rocking chair waiting for her family to get ready for church.
In one painting, an old man with a scruffy beard and blue jeans leans against a wall. “He could be anyone. Maybe he was a migrant worker on a sod farm,” Collins Robinson said. The image was inspired by a man she knew growing up.
“My neighbors worked menial jobs by day,” she said. “But at night they were Mr. and Mrs. Somebody to us.”
Her paintings go back in time to show the early experiences of African Americans. There’s a pregnant slave woman filling a burlap bag with cotton, and an intricate portrait of freemen — brick masons building a university after the Civil War.
Collins Robinson blurs the lines of canvas and quilt, adding fabrics and textures to her paintings. She uses upholstery from the furniture in her childhood home, her father’s old suit pants and her mother’s lace to make a kind of collage. In a portrait of Harriet Tubman, an old quilt top becomes a head covering, and a kind of rough cotton or hemp that was used for slaves’ clothes is used for Tubman’s shirt.
Collins Robinson designed quilts for three decades while working and raising a family. She sent the pieced tops to partners in Gee’s Bend, a now famous artists’ community in an isolated river-bend community in Alabama, to be turned into finished quilts.
Many of her quilts were also on display at the school, with their free-form scraps of corduroy, crushed velvet and recycled fabrics.
The artist is a family historian and avid collector. She and her husband have amassed an extensive archive of objects from African American history, including the records of slave traders, a chest full of shackles from a slave ship, an original cotton gin and pre-Civil War black dolls.
The centerpiece of the Washington-Lee exhibit was the large painting of Vivian Malone and James A. Hood. Collins Robinson applied her mother’s old lace to Malone’s skirt and included a still-visible historic postcard from a lynching under a layer of paint.
“She was fearless,” Collins Robinson said of Malone.
Eric Hill, a college and career counselor at Washington-Lee, stood in front of the painting last Friday. “I remember seeing the same scene vividly on television, the dogs and the tear gas,” he said. He saw the exhibit in the morning with students who were “buzzing about the show all day,” he said. And he planned to go back that evening. In between he wanted to spend more time looking at the collection by himself.
Residents in Harlem celebrate Barack Obama`s first election as president November 4, 2008, in New York City.
Census report confirms African-American turnout rate exceed white turnout in 2012
Cornell Belcher says the fact is a huge milestone in the story of enfranchising African Americans
Will high turnout persist after Barack Obama leaves office?
Belcher: If African-Americans see power of the ballot to effect change, turnout will stay high
Editor's note: Cornell Belcher, a CNN contributor, was the Democratic National Committee's pollster under Chairman Howard Dean in 2005 and worked on the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns. Follow him on Twitter: @cornellbelcher
(CNN) -- "But if we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote. If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support the government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag, fight for the government, he knows enough to vote ... "
-- Frederick Douglass ("What the Black Man Wants," 1865)
Yet another milestone of great American historical importance has come to pass with embarrassingly little tribute. And much like the election of President Barack Obama, many of us also thought we would never live to see this racial ceiling broken.
But unlike the election and re-election of the first black president, the media has paid remarkably little notice to news that might well have more impact on the political trajectory of this country over the next decade than the election of a single president.
According to a new Census Bureau report, "In 2012, blacks voted at a higher rate (66.2%) than non-Hispanic whites (64.1%) for the first time since the Census Bureau started publishing voting rates by the eligible citizenship population in 1996."
Now, given the innumerable battles to secure this most important right of democracy -- from the blood-soaked battlefields of the Civil War to the halls of Congress and courts, to the strife-torn streets of the Civil Rights era -- few things in our collective political history has borne so heavy a toll on our democracy as the enfranchisement of the African-American.
That the group for which so many hurdles have been thrown upon to block the vote has for the first time become the group most likely to vote is something like a big deal.
Over a century ago, in the final days of the Civil War and of President Abraham Lincoln's administration, Congress passed the 13th Amendment. And on this past November 6, our first African American president, hailing from the state of Illinois and a Lincoln devotee, rode to victory on the power of an expanding black electorate.
It is the sum of all hopes and all fears given birth by black enfranchisement. Those who feared the black vote from the very beginning -- those architects of Jim Crow -- understood that it could give birth to transcending possibilities that were once unimaginable, such as the electing of a black guy with a name like Obama as president.
Unfortunately, the battle to minimize the impact of African-Americans increased participation is already underway -- and it's both typical and predictable.
Demographer William Frey from the Brookings Institution, who did a study on the subject for the Associated Press, asserts Mitt Romney would be president had the 2012 turnout looked more like it did in 2004. Well duh. It was our job to make sure it didn't look like 2004.
And Nate Cohn writes in the New Republic that Frey's calculations are flawed, but yet still manages to draw the erroneous conclusion that regardless of whether or not there's been an increase in the black electorate, higher turnout by African-Americans was not responsible for Obama's victory.
Soooo, regardless of garnering the lowest share of the white vote in a competitive presidential race in modern history, Obama could have won without expanding the black share of the electorate ? This debate is hard to understand.
Despite losing whites in Virginia by an even larger margin in 2012 than 2008, by a staggering 24 points, the black vote really doesn't make any difference?
In 2008, Obama won Ohio by 4 points (51.2% to 47.2%), and the drop in Democratic support among whites from 2008 to 2012 was 5 points.
Nevertheless, the president remained victorious because of an increase in support among black voters, who increased their share of the electorate from 11% to 15%, resulting in a 2-point victory (50.1% to 48.2%). Similar patterns can be seen in other battleground states. But even in many of the so-called reliable blue states such as New Jersey, for example, Obama's white share of support dropped from 2008 -- losing white voters there by 13 points in 2012.
So yeah, I can see the logic in arguments against the importance of the black vote share. GOP pollsters, keep using the same turnout models that you used in 2012; it will be fine. You didn't get it wrong -- the electorate did.
At a time when the black electorate is lighting the way and giving new energy to the quintessential Democratic value of participation and empowering the memory and sacrifices of our forefathers (who fought wars in the name of democracy while not being granted it here, who marched and where beaten and attacked with fire hoses and police dogs for the right to vote), the last thing we need is a media brawl over arcane statistics casting doubt on the achievements of ordinary voters as they blaze a trail that that has been in the making since 1865.
Now, of course, the question is will this higher voter turnout last beyond Obama being on the ticket?
To say I'm hopeful would be a lie. The obstacles are many: a Republican Party that instead of believing in competing in a free market of ideas thinks the best way to compete is by manipulating what the marketplace looks like through voter ID laws and other restrictions, and then there is the self-serving apathy of a Democratic Party consulting cabal whose ol' boy establishment class is almost as dangerously entrenched and insular as that of the Republicans.
However, we are at a watershed period of political history where African-Americans have participated at higher rates than others in the presidential election and by doing so changed political reality in a country historically torn by racial strife, making the impossible possible.
If the African-American community also sees the power of the ballot to overcome other historical obstacles such as entrenched poverty, widening wealth, education gaps and safer streets where it's not as easy for a criminal to get a gun as it is to buy a cigarette, then this expansion of its voting power will be a more permanent fixture on the political scene. And it will be a fixture that politicians of both parties will need to better pursue.
Candidate Obama often said it wasn't about him on the campaign trail going back to 2008; let's see how well the African-American voter was listening.
1 in 8 Black Men Are Currently in Prison in Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee last week released a deeply concerning study about incarceration in the state. Among the most jarring of findings was that nearly one of every eight black men of working age is currently in prison in Wisconsin. The state also leads all other states in the number of incarcerated indigenous men at 7.6%, with South Dakota following with 7.3%.
The number of Wisconsinites in prison has nearly tripled since 1990 primarily due to “increased government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment) and prison construction, three-strike rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth-in-sentencing replacing judicial discretion in setting punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities, and state incarceration for minor probation and supervision violations,” according to the study. The demographic most significantly affected by these changes is African-American men, whose incarceration rates have skyrocketed to nearly twice the national average. Conversely, the national average for incarcerated white men is nearly identical to the state average in Wisconsin. Indeed, according to the study, in Milwaukee County alone, over half of black men in their 30s have spent some time in prison.
Wisconsin holds a steady lead in the percentage of incarcerated black men in the state, beating Oklahoma, the next state, by approximately three percentage points.This gap, NPR notes, is “bigger than the total distance between the second- and 10th-place states.”
The study notes that there is no “quick fix” to solving this alarming trend, but there are several things that can be done to help recently released inmates assimilate to life outside of prison and help gain employment, such as expanded workplace training and reintroduction programs.
The Obama administration recently announced plans to pivot the “War on Drugs” in a way that would take focus away from criminalization and towards treatment. This move can almost guarantee that the prison population will dramatically decline nationwide, particularly among people of color. In outlining this new chapter in drug policy, Director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske wrote, “While law enforcement will always play a vital role in protecting our communities from drug-related crime and violence, we simply cannot incarcerate our way out of the drug problem. Put simply, an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” approach to drug policy is counterproductive, inefficient, and costly.”