DANGERS OF FIZZY DRINKS Story Image THE LAST STRAW: Some fizzy drinks are linked to kidney damage

/ posed by model Sunday November 1,2009 By Lucy Johnston Comment Speech Bubble Have your say(2) SOFT drinks with artificial sweeteners could cause kidney damage, according to new research. Just two colas or sodas a day were found to double the risk of a faster-than-average decline in kidney function, scientists said. However, this problem was not linked to drinks that had been sweetened with sugar. The researchers in the United States looked at the effect of fizzy drinks on more than 3,000 women, comparing those who consumed artificially sweetened drinks with those whose drinks were sweetened with sugar. They took into account factors such as age, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and heart disease. But the survey looked only at older white women. The scientists admitted that it was not clear whether their findings also applied to men or people of different ethnic backgrounds. Dr Julie Lin, who co-led the survey, with a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, said: “While more study is needed, our research suggests that higher sodium and artificially sweetened soda intake is associated with greater rate of decline in kidney function.” The research, presented last week at the American Society of Nephrology’s annual conference in San Diego, California, was carried out as part of a major health and lifestyle investigation in the US. A spokesman for the Beverage Association, which represents soft drink manufacturers, said it was too soon to comment on the research as it had not yet been properly evaluated by other scientists. However, he did point out that the two main causes of chronic kidney disease were diabetes and high blood pressure “not consumption of diet soda”. Here in Britain, the artificial sweetener aspartame is coming under more scrutiny. The government watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, is calling for volunteers to help test claims that aspartame, used in more than 4,000 products, causes illnesses. SEARCH UK NEWS for: Previous reviews by the FSA and the European Food Safety Authority have concluded that the substance is safe but some people have complained of headaches, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhoea and fatigue after eating food containing the sweetener. Researchers under Professor Stephen Atkin, head of the endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism section at Hull University’s Postgraduate Medical Institute, will look for signs of illness in volunteers after they eat cereal bars made with or without aspartame.

They are recruiting 50 people who believe they are sensitive to the sweetener who will be matched by age and sex to 50 volunteers who are happy to eat foods containing it. A spokesman for the agency said: “We know that aspartame can be consumed safely but some people consider that they react badly to it. The study will address consumer concerns, including these anecdotal reports.”

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