Is Soda One of The Causes of Arthritis?

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Health Current Events, Healthy Lifestyle

is soda one of the causes of arthritis

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

Recently, I came across an article which claimed an association between soda and arthritis.  So, is soda one of the causes of arthritis?  In previous health tips from the professor I have shared that soda consumption can cause weight gain  and heart disease . As if that weren’t reason enough to avoid sodas, recent headlines suggest that sodas can also cause rheumatoid arthritis. That is a pretty strong claim, so let’s look at the study behind those headlines.

Do Sodas Cause Arthritis?

This study (Hu et al., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100: 959-967, 2014) followed 79, 570 women enrolled in the first Nurse’s Health Study (NHS) and 107,330 women enrolled in the second Nurse’s Health Study (NHS II) – that’s a total of 186,900 women – for at least 20 years. The women were aged 25-55 at the beginning of the studies and 857 of them developed rheumatoid arthritis over the next 20+ years.

All of the participants in the study filled out a questionnaire covering medical history, lifestyle and chronic disease at entry into the study and every two years afterwards. Compliance to this protocol was >90%, which is excellent for this type of study. The results were pretty impressive:

· Women who consumed ≥ 1 serving of sugar sweetened soda/day had a 63% higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to women who consumed no sugar sweetened soda or consumed < 1 serving/month.

· The association between sugar-sweetened soda consumption and rheumatoid arthritis was much stronger for late-onset rheumatoid arthritis than it was for early-onset rheumatoid arthritis. When the authors restricted their analysis to women who developed rheumatoid arthritis after age 50, consumption of sugar sweetened sodas was associated with a 2.64-fold higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (That’s a 264% increase).

· The type of sugar did not appear to matter. Sodas sweetened with sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup were equally likely to increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

· There was no association between diet soda consumption and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

What Are The Strengths and Weaknesses Of The Study?

Strengths of The Study: The strengths of the study are fairly obvious.

This was a very large study and the effects (64%) and (264%) were also large. Those aren’t trivial differences. The size of the study and the magnitude of the effects bolster confidence in the outcome of the study.

Weaknesses of The Study:

This type of study measures associations. It doesn’t prove cause and effect. Therefore, the headlines saying “Soda Consumption is Associated With Arthritis” are more accurate than those saying “Sodas May Cause Arthritis”.

In studies of this kind we can never be sure whether the variable that was measured (soda consumption in this case) was responsible for the outcome or whether it was some other variable that wasn’t measured that was responsible for the outcome. In particular, the women who developed rheumatoid arthritis were also more likely to:

arthritis· Have lower incomes.
· Exercise less.
· Have higher energy (calorie) intake.
· Have poorer diets.
· Take fewer multivitamins and other supplements.

The authors tried their best to compensate for these differences statistically, and the fact that the very large effects of soda consumption on rheumatoid arthritis occurrence were not significantly affected when these differences were taken into account adds confidence to their conclusions. However, it is never possible to exclude the possibility that some other variable they did not measure was responsible for the increase in rheumatoid arthritis.

Are Diet Sodas Off the Hook?  Or,could They Be One of The Causes of Arthritis?

Could diet sodas be one of the causes of arthritis?  This study showed no association between diet soda consumption and rheumatoid arthritis. Previous studies have suggested that diet sodas don’t increase the risk of heart disease to the same extent as sugar-sweetened sodas. Does that mean that you should just start drinking diet sodas rather than sugar sweetened sodas?

diet sodas and arthritisThe answer is probably not. As I have pointed out in an earlier issue of “Health Tips From the Professor” , and has been confirmed by a recent meta-analysis of 24 clinical studies (Miller and Perez, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100: 765-777, 2014), double blind studies in which all other caloric intake is carefully controlled generally show that people tend to gain slightly less weight when consuming diet sodas than when consuming sugar sweetened sodas.

But in the real world, people consuming diet sodas are just as likely to be overweight as people consuming sugar sweetened sodas. People seem to compensate for the calories saved with diet sodas by consuming more Big Macs, Mrs. Fields cookies and extra large Stabucks Lattes. In the real world, water is the only non-caloric beverage that is actually associated with lower weight.

Is It Enough To Just Stop Drinking Sodas?

I have often paraphrased that famous line from Western movies: “Just put down that soda and back away, and nobody gets hurt”. But is it that simple? Can you prevent rheumatoid arthritis just by drinking less soda?

Once again, the answer is probably no. There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Experts will tell you that the causes of rheumatoid arthritis are largely unknown, but that genetic predisposition, smoking and excessive alcohol use can increase your risk.

However, because rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease I would add overweight; diets high in animal protein, saturated fats, trans fats and sugar; food allergies; gut health issues; stress & exhaustion and chronic infections – and lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids and regular exercise.

The clinical study I described above found that soda consumption was much more strongly associated with late onset rheumatoid arthritis than early onset rheumatoid arthritis. Based on those data I would speculate that early onset rheumatoid arthritis may be more strongly influenced by genetics and other lifestyle factors, whereas late onset rheumatoid arthritis may be more strongly influenced by sugar sweetened sodas and other sugary foods. Only time will tell if my hypothesis is true.

Is soda one of the causes of arthritis?

The Bottom Line:

1) A recent study reported that women who consume ≥ 1 serving of sugar sweetened soda/day have a 63% higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to women who consume no sugar sweetened soda or consume < 1 serving/month.

2) The association between sugar-sweetened soda consumption and rheumatoid arthritis is much stronger for late-onset rheumatoid arthritis than for early-onset rheumatoid arthritis. For women who first develop rheumatoid arthritis after the age of 50, consumption of sugar sweetened sodas is associated with a 2.64-fold higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (That’s a 264% increase).

3) The type of sugar does not appear to matter. Sodas sweetened with sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are equally likely to increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

4) There was no association between diet soda consumption and rheumatoid arthritis. However, this does not mean that diet sodas are a good thing. Consumption of diet sodas is just as likely to be associated with obesity as is consumption of sugar sweetened sodas, and some recent studies suggest that consumption of diet sodas is associated with high blood pressure.

5) This was a very large and well done study, but it only measures associations, not cause and effect. Further studies will be needed to confirm this observation. However, we already know that sodas are bad for us. This may be just one more reason to minimize our consumption of sodas.

6) We shouldn’t assume that we can prevent rheumatoid arthritis by simply cutting sodas out of our diet. Arthritis has multiple causes (see article above). We should aim for a healthier overall lifestyle if we wish to reduce our risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases.

7) Osteoarthritis is much more common than rheumatoid arthritis. This study did not include women with osteoarthritis, so it is uncertain whether these results will apply to osteoarthritis as well.

8) Men are much less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than women, so it will be difficult to do a comparable study in men. However, it is likely that the same association between soda consumption and rheumatoid arthritis would be seen in men as well.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Comments (1)

  • Jame Thornburgh

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    Hi.
    Thought. this was an interesting. article science based. If one reads the doctor’s
    Credentials he appears to basse his articles in sceince nkot fads
    lovw you mom

    Reply

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Latest Article

Should We Use Supplements For Cardiovascular Health?

Posted July 10, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Are You Just Wasting Your Money On Supplements?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

supplements for cardiovascular health wast moneyYou’ve seen the headlines. “Recent Study Finds Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.”  You are being told that supplements are of no benefit to you. They are a waste of money. You should follow a healthy diet instead. Is all of this true?

If I were like most bloggers, I would give you a simple yes or no answer that would be only partially correct. Instead, I am going to put the study behind these headlines into perspective. I am going to give you a deeper understanding of supplementation, so you can make better choices for your health.

 Should we use supplements for cardiovascular health?

In today’s article I will give you a brief overview of the subject. Here are the topics I will cover today:

  • Is this fake news?
  • Did the study ask the right questions?
  • Is this a question of “Garbage In – Garbage Out?
  • Reducing Heart Disease Risk. What you need to know.

All these topics are covered in much more detail (with references) in my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths”, which will be published this fall.

 

How Was This Study Done?

supplements for cardiovascular healthThis study (D.J.A. Jenkins et al, Journal of the American College Of Cardiology, 71: 2540-2584, 2018 ) was a meta-analysis. Simply put, that means the authors combined the results of many previous studies into a single database to increase the statistical power of their conclusions. This study included 127 randomized control trials published between 2012 and December 2017. These were all studies that included supplementation and looked at cardiovascular end points, cancer end points or overall mortality.

Before looking at the results, it is instructive to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the study. Rather than giving you my interpretation, let me summarize what the authors said about strengths and weaknesses of their own study.

The strengths are obvious. Randomized control trials are considered the gold standard of evidence-based medicine, but they have their weaknesses. Here is what the authors said about the limitations of their study:

  • “Randomized control trials are of shorter duration, whereas longer duration studies might be required to fully capture chronic disease risk.”
  • “Dose-response data were not usually available [from the randomized control studies included in their analysis]. However, larger studies would allow the effect of dose to be assessed.”

There are some other limitations of this study, which I will point out below.

Is This Fake News?

supplements for cardiovascular health fake newsWhen I talk about “fake news” I am referring to the headlines, not to the study behind the headlines. The headlines were definitive: “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.” However, when you read the study the reality is quite different:

  • In contrast to the negative headlines, the study reported:
    • Folic acid supplementation decreased stroke risk by 20% and overall heart disease risk by 17%.
    • B complex supplements containing folic acid, B6, and B12 decreased stroke risk by 10%.
    • That’s a big deal, but somehow the headlines forgot to mention it.
  • The supplements that had no significant effect on heart disease risk (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C) were ones that would not be expected to lower heart disease risk. There was little evidence from previous studies of decreased risk. Furthermore, there is no plausible mechanism for supposing they might decrease heart disease risk.
  • The study did not include vitamin E or omega-3 supplements, which are the ones most likely to prove effective in decreasing heart disease risk when the studies are done properly (see below).

Did The Study Ask The Right Question?

Most of the studies included in this meta-analysis were asking whether a supplement decreased heart disease risk or mortality for everyone. Simply put, the studies started with a group of generally healthy Americans and asked whether supplementation had a significant effect on disease risk for everyone in that population.

That is the wrong question. We should not expect supplementation to benefit everyone equally. Instead, we should be asking who is most likely to benefit from supplementation and design our clinical studies to test whether those people benefit from supplementation.

supplements for cardiovascular health diagramI have created the graphic on the right as a guide to help answer the question of “Who is most likely to benefit from supplementation?”. Let me summarize each of the points using folic acid as the example.

 

Poor Diet: It only makes sense that those people who are deficient in folate from foods are the most likely to benefit from folic acid supplementation. Think about it for a minute. Would you really expect people who are already getting plenty of folate from their diet to obtain additional benefits from folic acid supplementation?

The NIH estimates that around 20% of US women of childbearing age are deficient in folic acid. For other segments of our population, dietary folate insufficiency ranges from 5-10%. Yet, most studies of folic acid supplementation lump everyone together – even though 80-95% of the US population is already getting enough folate through foods, food fortification, and supplementation. It is no wonder most studies fail to find a beneficial effect of folic acid supplementation.

The authors of the meta-analysis I discussed above said that the beneficial effects of folic acid they saw might have been influenced by a very large Chinese study, because a much higher percentage of Chinese are deficient in folic acid. They went on to say that the Chinese study needed to be repeated in this country.

In fact, the US study has already been done. A large study called “The Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE)” study reported that folic acid supplementation did not reduce heart disease risk in the whole population. However, when the study focused on the subgroup of subjects who were folate-deficient at the beginning of the study, folic acid supplementation significantly decreased their risk of heart attack and cardiovascular death.  This would seem to suggest using supplements for cardiovascular health is a good idea.

Increased Need: There are many factors that increase the need for certain nutrients. However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s only focus on medications. Medications that interfere with folic acid metabolism include anticonvulsants, metformin (used to treat diabetes), methotrexate and sulfasalazine (used to treat severe inflammation), birth control pills, and some diuretics. Use of these medications is not a concern when the diet is adequate. However, when you combine medication use with a folate-deficient diet, health risks are increased and supplementation with folic acid is more likely to be beneficial.

Genetic Predisposition: The best known genetic defect affecting folic acid metabolism is MTHFR. MTHFR deficiency does not mean you have a specific need for methylfolate. However, it does increase your need for folic acid. Again, this is not a concern when the diet is adequate. However, when you combine MTHFR deficiency with a folate-deficient diet, health risks are increased and supplementation with folic acid is more likely to be beneficial. I cover this topic in great detail in my upcoming book, “Slaying The Supplement Myths”. In the meantime, you might wish to view my video, “The Truth About Methyl Folate.”

Diseases: An underlying disease or predisposition to disease often increases the need for one or more nutrients that help reduce disease risk. The best examples of this are two major studies on the effect of vitamin E on heart disease risk in women. Both studies found no effect of vitamin E on heart disease risk in the whole population. However, one study reported that vitamin E reduced heart disease risk in the subgroup of women who were post-menopausal (when the risk of heart disease skyrockets). The other study found that vitamin E reduced heart attack risk in the subgroup of women who had pre-existing heart disease at the beginning of the study.

Finally, if you look at the diagram closely, you will notice a red circle in the middle. When two or three of these factors overlap, that is the “sweet spot” where supplementation is almost certain to make a difference and it may be a good idea to use supplements for cardiovascular health.

Is This A Question Of “Garbage In, Garbage Out”?

supplements for cardiovascular health garbage in outUnfortunately, most clinical studies focus on the “Does everyone benefit from supplementation question?” rather than the “Who benefits from supplementation?” question.

In addition, most clinical studies of supplementation are based on the drug model. They are studying supplementation with a single vitamin or mineral, as if it were a drug. That’s unfortunate, because vitamins and minerals work together synergistically. What we need are more studies of holistic supplementation approaches.

Until these two things change, most supplement studies are doomed to failure. They are doomed to give negative results. In addition, meta-analyses based on these faulty supplement studies will fall victim to what computer programmers refer to as “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If the data going into the analysis is faulty, the data coming out of the study will be equally faulty. It won’t be worth the paper it is written on. If you are looking for personal guidance on supplementation, this study falls into that category.

 

Should We Use Supplements For Cardiovascular Health?

 

If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for everyone, this meta-analysis is clear. Folic acid may decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease. A B complex supplement may decrease the risk of stroke. All the other supplements they included in their analysis did not decrease heart disease risk, but the analysis did not include vitamin E and/or omega-3s.

However, if you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for you, this study provides no guidance. It did not ask the right questions.

I would be remiss, however, if I failed to point out that we know healthy diets can decrease heart disease risk. In the words of the authors: “The recent science-based report of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, also concerned with [heart disease] risk reduction, recommended 3 dietary patterns: 1) a healthy American diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and meat, but high in fruits and vegetables; 2) a Mediterranean diet; and 3) a vegetarian diet. These diets, with their accompanying recommendations, continue the move towards more plant-based diets…” I cover the effect of diet on heart disease risk in detail in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths”.

 

The Bottom Line

 

You have probably seen the recent headlines proclaiming: “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.” The study behind the headlines was a meta-analysis of 127 randomized control trials looking at the effect of supplementation on heart disease risk and mortality.

  • The headlines qualify as “fake news” because:
    • The study found that folic acid decreased stroke and heart disease risk, and B vitamins decreased stroke risk. Somehow the headlines forgot to mention that.
    • The study found that multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C had no effect on heart disease risk. These are nutrients that were unlikely to decrease heart disease risk to begin with.
    • The study did not include vitamin E and omega-3s. These are nutrients that are likely to decrease heart disease risk when the studies are done properly.
  • The authors of the study stated that a major weakness of their study was that that randomized control studies included in their analysis were short term, whereas longer duration studies might be required to fully capture chronic disease risk.
  • The study behind the headlines is of little use for you as an individual because it asked the wrong question.
  • Most clinical studies focus on the “Does everyone benefit from supplementation question?” That is the wrong question. Instead we need more clinical studies focused on the “Who benefits from supplementation?” question. I discuss that question in more detail in the article above.
  • In addition, most clinical studies of supplementation are based on the drug model. They are studying supplementation with a single vitamin or mineral, as if it were a drug. That’s unfortunate, because vitamins and minerals work together synergistically. What we need are more studies of holistic supplementation approaches.
  • Until these two things change, most supplement studies are doomed to failure. They are doomed to give negative results. In addition, meta-analyses based on these faulty supplement studies will fall victim to what computer programmers refer to as “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If the data going into the analysis is faulty, the data coming out of the study will be equally faulty. It won’t be worth the paper it is written on. If you are looking for personal guidance on supplementation, this study falls into that category.
  • If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for everyone, this study is clear. Folic acid may decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease. A B-complex supplement may decrease the risk of stroke. All the other supplements they included in their analysis did not decrease heart disease risk, but they did not include vitamin E and/or omega-3s in their analysis.
  • If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for you, this study provides no guidance. It did not ask the right questions.
  • However, we do know that healthy, plant-based diets can decrease heart disease risk. I cover heart healthy diets in detail in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths.”

 

For more details, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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