ISLAMABAD  – Want to stay away from diabetes? Then, start drinking plain water instead of fizzy drinks and juices, as it could help stave off the metabolic disorder, scientists claim.

However, adding water to a sugary beverage will not make any difference, according to the researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. The researchers, who looked at the drinking habits of about 83,000 women for more than a decade, found that those who drank plain water instead of the sweetened beverages had seven to eight per cent reduced risk of developing diabetes.

Lead researcher Dr Frank Hu said it`s well established that sugary beverages are bad for diabetes risk. “People have recommended drinking plain water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, and the question is whether this kind of substitution has any impact on diabetes,” he was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

For the study, Dr Hu and his team collected data from the massive Nurses Health Study, which tracked the health and lifestyle of 82,902 women for over 12 years. Over time, about 2,700 of them developed diabetes.

The amount of water women drank did not seem to influence their diabetes risk — those who drank more than six cups a day had the same risk as women who drank less than one cup a day. However, sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juice were tied to a higher risk of diabetes — about 10 per cent higher for each cup consumed each day.

The researchers estimated that if women replaced one cup of fizzy drink or fruit juice with one cup of plain water, their diabetes risk would fall by seven to eight per cent.

“While it is not a huge reduction in the risk as diabetes is so prevalent in our society, even seven or eight per cent reduction in diabetes risk is quite substantial in terms of the population,” Dr Hu said.

Dr Hu’s study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also found that unsweetened coffee or tea might be a good alternative to sugary beverages. The researchers estimated that replacing one cup of a carbonated drink or fruit juice with one cup of coffee or tea could reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 12 to 17 per cent.

Dr Hu said the study is important in pointing out that fruit juice is not an optimal substitute for soda or other sugar-sweetened drinks. He said: “The reality is those juices contain the same amount of calories and sugar as soft drinks.

“The bottom line is that plain water is one of the best calorie-free choices for drinks, and if the water is too plain, you can add a squeeze of lemon or lime.”

Daily consumption of dark chocolate could help beat heart disease

Consumption of dark chocolate on a daily basis can reduce cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, in people with metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors that increases the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes), a new study has found. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Dark chocolate (containing at least 60 percent cocoa solids) is rich in flavonoids - known to have heart protecting effects - but this has only been examined in short term studies.

So a team of researchers from Melbourne, Australia used a mathematical model to predict the long-term health effects and cost effectiveness of daily dark chocolate consumption in 2,013 people already at high risk of heart disease.

All participants had high blood pressure and met the criteria for metabolic syndrome, but had no history of heart disease or diabetes and were not on blood pressure lowering therapy. With 100 percent compliance (best case scenario), the researchers show that daily dark chocolate consumption could potentially avert 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people treated over 10 years.

Even when compliance levels were reduced to 80 percent, the number of non-fatal and fatal events potentially averted was 55 and 10 per 10,000 people treated over 10 years, and could still be considered an effective intervention strategy.

The model also suggested that 42 dollars could be cost effectively spent per person per year on dark chocolate prevention strategies and could be used for advertising, educational campaigns, or subsidising dark chocolate in this high risk population, they added.

The authors stress that only non-fatal stroke and non-fatal heart attack were assessed in their analysis, and that the potential effects on other cardiovascular events, such as heart failure, are yet to be tested. Also important, they say, is that these protective effects have only been shown for dark chocolate (at least 60-70 percent cocoa), rather than for milk or white chocolate, probably due to the higher levels of flavonoids found in dark chocolate.

Nevertheless, they conclude that the blood pressure and cholesterol lowering effects of plain dark chocolate “could represent an effective and cost effective strategy for people with metabolic syndrome (and no diabetes).” The study was published on the website bmj.com

Excessive levels of Vitamin D can be as unhealthy as too little

While it is known that vitamin D deficiency is not good for health, a new study has now suggested that too high a level of the essential vitamin is not good either. The new research from the University of Copenhagen is based on blood samples from 247,574 Copenhageners.

Vitamin D is instrumental in helping calcium reach our bones, thus lessening the risk from falls and the risk of broken hips.

Research suggests that vitamin D is also beneficial in combating cardiac disease, depression and certain types of cancers. The results from a study conducted by the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences now support the benefits of vitamin D in terms of mortality risk.

However, the research results also show higher mortality in people with too high levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream:

“We have had access to blood tests from a quarter of a million Copenhageners. We found higher mortality in people with a low level of vitamin D in their blood, but to our surprise, we also found it in people with a high level of vitamin D. We can draw a graph showing that perhaps it is harmful with too little and too much vitamin D,” explained Darshana Durup, PhD student.

If the blood contains less than 10 nanomol (nmol) of vitamin per litre of serum, mortality is 2.31 times higher. However, if the blood contains more than 140 nmol of vitamin per litre of serum, mortality is higher by a factor of 1.42. Both values are compared to 50 nmol of vitamin per litre of serum, where the scientists see the lowest mortality rate.

Darshana Durup emphasised that while scientists do not know the cause of the higher mortality, she believes that the new results can be used to question the wisdom of those people who claim that you can never get too much vitamin D.

“It is important to conduct further studies in order to understand the relationship. A lot of research has been conducted on the risk of vitamin D deficiency. However, there is no scientific evidence for a ‘more is better’ argument for vitamin D, and our study does not support the argument either. We hope that our study will inspire others to study the cause of higher mortality with a high level of vitamin D,” said Durup.

“We have moved into a controversial area that stirs up strong feelings just like debates on global warming and research on nutrition. But our results are based on a quarter of a million blood tests and provide an interesting starting point for further research.”

The study is the largest of its kind - and it was only possible to conduct it because of Denmark’s civil registration system, which is unique in the Nordic countries. The 247,574 blood samples come from the Copenhagen General Practitioners Laboratory.

“Our data material covers a wide age range. The people who participated had approached their own general practitioners for a variety of reasons and had had the vitamin D level in their bloodstream measured in that context. This means that while the study can show a possible association between mortality and a high level of vitamin D, we cannot as yet explain the higher risk,” Durup added.

The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.