Why Giving Up Diet Soda Should be Your New Year’s Resolution



With 2018 right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. While it can be tempting to commit to as many positive changes to your lifestyle as you can imagine, it can be overwhelming to try and address too many areas of concern all at once. Instead, set manageable goals, stay focused and take one resolution at a time. Doing so will be of benefit whether you’re someone who gets excited by the idea of making resolutions — or someone who lowered your New Year’s expectations a long time ago.

A Great Resolution to Get Started

If getting healthy is one of your main goals for 2018, we suggest starting with a New Year’s resolution to give up soda — specifically, diet soda. While diet soda may appear to be a healthy choice on the surface, it’s actually quite the opposite. Below are some of the main reasons you should remove diet sodas from your diet.

Artificial Sweeteners Have Negative Effects on the Body

Artificial sweeteners possess a greater intensity of flavor than real sugar. Consuming products that contain artificial sweeteners, such as diet soda, can gradually dull our senses. The result? Naturally sweet foods, such as fruits and vegetables, stop tasting as appetizing.

Additionally, artificial sweeteners have been shown to have the same effect on the body as sugar. Like sugar, these artificial sweeteners trigger the release of insulin, sending your body into fat storage mode and leading to weight gain.

Drinking Diet Soda Can Lead to Weight Gain

Just because diet soda is calorie-free doesn’t mean it will help you in your weight loss efforts. In fact, researchers from the University of Texas found that, over a 10-year period, diet soda drinkers experienced a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink diet soda. Even worse, study participants who drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced a whopping waist circumference increase of over 500 percent.

Drinking Diet Soda is Associated with an Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that drinking just one diet soda a day can increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 36 percent. Metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe a group of conditions — including high blood pressure and elevated glucose levels — that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Diet Soda Has Zero Nutritional Value

In addition to not consuming any calories when you drink diet soda, you’re also not putting any nutrients into your body. And your body needs nutrient-rich foods to stay healthy and function optimally. Replace diet soda with beverages that offer actual health benefits, such as antioxidant-rich green tea and mineral water.

Conventional wisdom to the contrary, there’s nothing healthy about diet sodas. Stop relying on their empty promise to help you slim down and stay fit. Make avoiding diet sodas your number one New Year’s resolution. You’ll begin feeling better before you know it. And, with those improvements, you’ll be that much more prepared to take on your other resolutions — one by one.

Artificial sweeteners are not as sweet as they seem

artificial sweeteners

For years, people have used artificial sweeteners to lose weight. Once they begin a diet, they switch from consuming sugar to using products such as aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and steviocide (Stevia) in hopes of satisfying their sugar cravings without interfering with their weight loss efforts.

But do artificial sweeteners really help with weight loss? According to a recent ABC News article, they don’t. In fact, studies show the opposite: Over time, artificial sweeteners are actually linked to weight gain.

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain

Thirty studies from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that followed groups of people using artificial sweeteners over several years have recently been newly reviewed. The new analysis of these studies looked at the long-term heart health, stroke incidence and blood pressure levels of more than 406,000 people who said they use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar.

Instead of finding that consuming artificial sweeteners had positive effects, the analysis found that regular consumption of these sweeteners was associated with:

  • Modest long-term increases in weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Higher risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Higher risk of stroke

Even people in studies that took place over a shorter period of time did not show any consistent weight loss after six months.

Why Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Help Weight Loss Efforts

In the ABC News article, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief women’s health correspondent, states that any sweetener can trigger the same response from the brain, whether it’s regular table sugar, honey or an artificial sweetener. Ashton says that all sweeteners trigger the reward centers in our brains, ultimately leading us to want more — so we end up eating more.

When people use “diet” products like sodas, food or sweeteners, they tend to eat more calorie-heavy foods as a “balance.” The medical world has known for quite some time that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain, and some experts believe that the chemicals in artificial sweeteners may create a reaction in the human body that causes weight gain.

What does this mean for people looking to lose weight? It’s pretty simple. Forget the “diet” foods and drinks and focus on learning proper portion control and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

5 Essential questions to ask during your weight loss surgery consultation

essential questions


The decision to have weight loss surgery is a big one, and it can’t be taken lightly. You’ll need to change your habits and commit to a new, healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life. Otherwise, you won’t see results after the surgery or be able to keep the weight off for good.

Because weight loss surgery is not a quick fix, you need to take control and learn as much as you can about the surgery as early as possible. It’s important to go into the first consultation with your weight loss surgeon with a prepared list of questions.

Here are five questions you’ll want to ask during your initial weight loss surgery appointment. It’s a good idea to write these questions down in a notebook and bring it with you so can refer to your questions and write down answers.

1. What is your experience?

Experience plays a big role in how skilled a person is at their job, and it’s no different for surgeons. This is a good question to start with, since it will help you better understand the surgeon’s background and skill set.

Of course, experience isn’t the only factor you need to consider. A surgeon who has performed a lot of surgeries isn’t always the most skilled. But a surgeon with more cases under their belt will often be a doctor you can be confident in.

2. Which weight loss procedures do you perform?

Many surgeons don’t perform every bariatric procedure that’s available, and there’s usually a reason why they don’t offer certain ones. Once you’ve found out which surgeries your surgeon offers, ask if there are any procedures they don’t perform and why. A lot of times you’ll find that, after offering a certain type of procedure, the surgeon found that too many patients weren’t seeing results, so they stopped offering it.

Usually, you’ll want to go with a surgeon who has enough options. If only one type of procedure is offered, do your research to see if that procedure is the best choice for you before moving forward. If not, it’s best to find someone who offers one that’s a better fit for your needs.

3. Which procedure would you recommend for me?

Any good, honest bariatric surgeon will tell you that there isn’t one procedure that will work for everyone. To answer this question, the surgeon will need ask you about your lifestyle, risk tolerances, exercise and dietary habits and medical history.

Your surgeon won’t choose a procedure for you — they will give their professional opinion about which procedure(s) will be most suitable for you and explain the benefits and risks of each procedure.

4. What kind of resources do you offer before and after surgery?

Weight loss surgery is a long process that you’ll need to be mentally and physically prepared for both before and after the surgery. The most successful weight loss surgery patients change their habits, take time to learn how to keep their weight off and have a good support system in place.

Your weight loss surgeon should be able to provide you with resources that will help you be successful over the long term. For example, does the surgeon provide a follow-up program after surgery to keep you accountable with sticking to the diet and other lifestyle changes that are critical to your success? Do they run support groups or recommend a good support group? Can the surgeon provide resources to help educate close friends and family members about how they can support you throughout this process?

5. What are your complication rates?

There’s no beating around the bush here. While complications vary depending on the specific procedure, they can and do happen. However, according to a study published in the July 2010 issue of JAMA, serious complication rates during bariatric surgery are relatively low. Serious complication rates were listed at 3.6 percent for gastric bypass and 2.2 percent for gastric sleeve surgery (sleeve gastrectomy).

If your weight loss surgeon’s rates are around or lower these national averages, you’re in good hands.

Stay informed

The questions above will give you the information you need to make the best decision for you. Remember to continue to write down all your questions and the surgeon’s answers before and after surgery. You’ll find this helpful for keeping track of questions and concerns you have throughout the entire process.

Spices with health benefits

spices with health benefits

Do you use spices regularly in your cooking? If not, you should start. Here’s why.

The Benefits of Using Spices

Not only do spices add a ton of flavor to your food, but they offer great health benefits. Here are a few ways spices are good for your health:

1. Aid Weight Loss

Spices can help to increase your metabolism, helping you to lose weight. For example, studies have shown that capsaicin (found in chili peppers), may cause the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after eating.

2. Improve Heart Health

Research has shown cultures that eat spicy foods have a lower rate of heart attack and stroke. This may be because chili peppers can reduce the damaging effects of bad cholesterol (LDL). Additionally, the capsaicin in chili peppers may fight inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease.

3. Protect Against Cancer

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, capsaicin has the ability to kill some cancer and leukemic cells. Also, turmeric (a spice found in curry powder and some mustards) may slow the spread of cancer and the growth of tumors.

4. Protect Against Diabetes

Inflammation and high blood sugar levels both largely contribute to diabetes. Spices can improve blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, helping to prevent or improve diabetes.

5. Improve Your Mood

Spicy foods increase your body’s production of “happy” hormones, like serotonin, which can help lessen stress and mild depression.

How to Get Spices into Your Diet

Small amounts of both dried and fresh spices can provide health benefits, so don’t worry if you’re not a spicy food person!

Below are some easy and delicious ideas for using spices in your cooking:

  • Put some slices of ginger or a pinch of cumin in a cup of hot tea
  • Add chopped chili peppers to soups, stews and chili
  • Coat shrimp in cumin and coriander and then sauté
  • Grate fresh ginger into vinaigrette
  • Add red pepper flakes or chopped ginger to stir-fry dishes
  • Make chicken curry
  • Sprinkle ground ginger on cooked carrots
  • Add cumin to brown rice or red lentils
  • Sprinkle ground cloves on applesauce or add to quick bread batters
  • Sprinkle turmeric* on egg salad, add to a chicken or seafood casserole or add to water when cooking rice

*To absorb 2,000 percent more turmeric, pair it with black pepper

Start with the suggestions above and then let them inspire you to experiment with your own ideas. In no time, you’ll be a pro at using spices in cooking and will enjoy the great taste of your food, as well as the added health benefits.

The alarming health effects of drinking soda

health effects of drinking soda

Let’s be honest: Few things are as refreshing as a nice, cold soda. But while drinking the occasional soda is OK, it’s not healthy to make fizzy, sweetened beverages a regular part of your diet — and not just because it can add inches to your waistline. Drinking soda can also cause a wide range of health problems in addition to obesity.

Soda can contribute to type-2 diabetes

There is strong evidence that shows a connection between regular soda consumption and type 2 diabetes.

People who consume soda regularly (one or two cans per day or more) have a 26 percent increased risk of developing the disease than people who rarely drink soda.

A study of 90,000 women that took place over eight years found that women who reported consuming at least one serving of a sugar-sweetened drink per day were twice as likely to have developed type-2 diabetes.

Soda can increase your risk of heart disease

Regularly drinking sugary drinks also has a negative impact on your heart health.

A study conducted over 20 years found that men who consumed a can of soda per day had a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease than men who rarely consumed soda. Studies show the same link between soda and heart disease in women.

In fact, in the same study of 90,000 women mentioned above, women who drank more than two servings of a sugary drink per day had a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease.

Researchers found that even when the women ate an otherwise healthy diet or maintained a healthy weight, the risk of heart disease lowered only slightly. In other words, soda is harmful to your health even if you’re not overweight and you eat a healthy diet.

Experts believe that soda’s high sugar content affects blood glucose, cholesterol, inflammation and metabolism, all of which can have an effect on your heart health.

Soda is bad for your bones

You wouldn’t think that drinking soda has an impact on your bones, but it does affect bone health, especially in young people. Soda contains high levels of phosphate. If you take in more phosphate than calcium, your bones deteriorate.

In fact, consuming soda tends to decrease your calcium, because you’re then less likely to drink milk, a vital source of calcium.

Soda is linked to obesity

Finally (and most obviously), regularly drinking soda is linked to weight gain. People who consume soda don’t feel as full as if they had consumed the same calories from solid food. As a result, they eat, which brings its own calorie load.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, weight gain is a simple matter of calories in, calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn in a day, you’re bound to pile on the pounds.

“Soda has no nutritional value whatsoever and definitely has no place in a nutrition plan for healthy living or weight loss,” Dr. Dirk says. “Even diet sodas have no advantage.”

To avoid the many negative health consequences of drinking soda, it’s best to cut soda and other sugary drinks out of your diet. Studies show that reducing or eliminating sugary drinks from your diet can lead to better weight control among those who are initially overweight.

So next time you get a hankering for a fizzy drink, reach for a glass of sparkling water instead.

Obesity Putting a Strain on Emergency and Medical Equipment

obesity and medical equipment

When it comes to the health problems obesity creates, diabetes and heart disease top the list. But what happens when the patient is so obese, they have trouble even getting into a doctor’s office to be diagnosed? Obesity is taking a toll on not only doctors and paramedics, but their medical equipment, as well.

A recent study in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley area by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that patients calling 911 are more likely to be obese now than ever before. The counties in the study each saw a 5 to 10 percent increase in obese callers.

Once paramedics arrive to assess the situation, it can be a daunting task. Not only do they have to be able to physically carry the patient, but they often use devices that may not work on obese patients.

“Obesity interferes with an obese person’s ability to receive medical care, even emergency medical care,” Dr. Dirk says. “Even with attention to the specific needs of the increasing weight of Americans, a lot of medical equipment cannot support obese patients.”

The obesity epidemic has made medical professionals rethink their equipment. A traditional ambulance gurney can only support 330 pounds, and operating room tables often only hold 500 pounds.

Many paramedic organizations, doctors’ offices and even hospitals have had to invest in special stretchers, surgical tables or even CAT scan machines because the standard versions cannot support the weight of the many obese patients.

“When patients exceed the limits of hospital or emergency responder equipment, that means they may not be able to receive life-saving care,” Dr. Dirk says.

Whether you’re on the brink of calling 911 or not, it’s important to consider the many impacts your weight can have on your health. If it’s time for you to take the next step toward a healthy weight and you don’t know where to start, contact Dr. Dirk today.

Soda and childhood obesity: Who’s to blame?

soda and childhood obesityWhen child obesity rates are in the news, it’s easy to place blame. One common target is the soda industry. With drinks packed with sugar and marketing directly aimed at children, it’s easy to see them as the villain.

In fact, the World Public Health Nutrition Association, World Obesity Federation, Consumers International and many other health initiatives from around the world are currently lobbying soda giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to stop marketing to children in lower-income countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Because soda companies have recently increased advertising targeting children and adolescents in these areas, experts predict increased numbers of children (and adults) with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more.

Dr. Dirk, a Bariatric Surgeon in Dallas, TX,  sees things a little differently. Sure, it would be helpful if soda marketing wasn’t directly aimed at kids, but at the end of the day, it’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure their children are eating healthfully. Being vigilant about what your child eats not only helps them avoid childhood obesity, but also teaches them lifelong healthy habits.

“I understand the concern and the natural urge to demand social responsibility from large corporations,” Dr. Dirk says. “But it is much more important for parents to recognize that soda consumption for children should be limited.”

Once parents understand and enforce this, the advertising won’t matter. Parents can teach children about nutrition and help them understand how to make healthy choices for themselves as they get older.

Another huge factor in this conversation is the amount of outside or physical activity children get. As it becomes more acceptable for kids to stay inside playing video games and watching TV all day, it is harder for them to maintain a healthy weight, soda or no soda.

Sugary soda consumption in children combined with limited outdoor physical activity leads to obesity, with its present and future attendant health risks and problems,” Dr. Dirk says. “To all parents, I recommend carefully watching your child’s soda, candy and junk food intake and their outside play time.”

What’s causing the rising price of insulin?


We talk a lot about the harmful effects of obesity on this blog, but today, we’re going to do a deep dive into one in particular: diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that is generally treatable with insulin injections. In America alone, more than 29 million people suffer from some form of diabetes, and the majority of them take some type of insulin daily.

Insulin prices have risen over the years. In fact, they have almost tripled since 2002, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The spike could be attributed to many factors, like the variety of types of insulin, many of which claim to be newer or better formulas. While Dr. Dirk agrees this might be the case, he says there’s another factor affecting the supply and demand of the marketplace.

“Obesity, which is directly responsible for diabetes, has increased significantly, so it stands to reason more insulin is needed,” Dr. Dirk says.

Patients’ demand for those newer and better drugs doesn’t help matters.

“To reduce cost, diabetics can go back to the early days: small doses with frequent insulin injection, good nutrition, daily aerobic exercise… unfortunately, that advice is rarely given in today’s modern medicine,” Dr. Dirk says. “Blaming drug makers for providing what the public has asked for is just not smart.”

So what is the high cost of insulin? According to the study, the average diabetic spends $736 per year on insulin alone, not counting other diabetes-related medications or any other healthcare costs associated with the disease.

On top of the $736, the cost for diabetics also includes the time it takes to give these injections, constantly monitor blood sugar levels, make doctors’ appointments and all that comes with having a chronic disease.

But what if there were a way to cure — rather than just treat — diabetes?

“If diabetes has affected your health and you have tried everything else,” Dr. Dirk says, “the time has come to consider diabetic obesity surgery as a cure for diabetes.”

While the cost of obesity surgery can be a deterrent, for those with diabetes, it can be the most financially responsible option

New Research: Weight-Loss Surgery and Type 2 Diabetes

type 2 diabetesDiabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. Now there’s new research to support previous findings that weight loss surgery can be an effective way to treat type 2 diabetes.

The study, which was conducted by King’s College London and the Universita Cattolica in Rome, Italy, followed 53 diabetic patients between the ages of 30 to 60 with a body-mass index (BMI) of 35 or more for five years. The researchers found that patients who were treated with weight loss surgery had a lower average level of blood glucose than those who were treated conventionally.

“Surgery is better at treating and getting rid of diabetes than medicine or diets. This has been proven over and again for many years,” says Dr. Dirk. “Diabetics who are obese and undergo surgery do better at getting rid of their diabetes than those who are treated with medications alone. This is accompanied by improvement in high blood pressure control and lowering cholesterol levels.”

Of the patients studied, there were no deaths or long-term complications from surgery. Five years after surgery, 50 percent of patients were still in remission from diabetes. The other 50 percent experienced a relapse of mild hyperglycemia, but showed adequate control of the disease at the five-year mark.

“The ability of surgery to greatly reduce the need for insulin and other drugs suggests that surgical therapy is a cost-effective approach to treating type 2 diabetes,” said Professor Francesco Rubino, senior author of the study, Chair of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at King’s College London and a Consultant Surgeon at King’s College Hospital in London, in a press release.

Treating diabetes and its complications with medication is very costly for patients. Bariatric Diabetes Surgery may greatly reduce the need for medication and therefore may be a more cost-effective approach for obese patients.

However, surgery does have its limits.

“The only thing that surgery cannot change is permanent tissue damage caused by diabetes,” Dr. Dirk says. “Kidney scarring that leads to high blood pressure cannot be changed. Damage to nerves (neuropathy) does not go away. Damage to blood vessels in the eye (retina) also does not change. But getting obese diabetics to surgery sooner rather than later can avoid these damaging changes. If you are a diabetic and obese, surgery is your best treatment for getting rid of diabetes and the harmful changes it brings to your body.”

While the results of this study are optimistic, larger trials are necessary to confirm that surgery is more effective than medication for treating diabetes.


Type 2 Diabetes’ Negative Effect on the Brain

Type 2 Diabetes' Negative Effect on the BrainIt’s no secret that obesity is associated with a number of chronic diseases. Perhaps one of the most well-chronicled illnesses associated with obesity is type 2 diabetes. Excess weight and inactivity are often contributing risk factors for type 2 diabetes, a disease that is found increasingly among obese children as well as adults. If that’s not cause enough for concern, a recent study from the medical journal Neurology has outlined the adverse effects that diabetes can have on the brain.

But first: What exactly is type 2 diabetes? The disease occurs when the body becomes resistant to the hormone insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas and works to regulate the body’s glucose levels. The resulting glucose imbalances can often cause other complications, including, according to the Neurology study, some serious negative effects on the brain.

“This study demonstrates that diabetes is a medical condition that affects the entire body,” Dr. Dirk explains. “Diabetes affects the heart, blood vessels, nerves, skin and now the brain.”

In fact, in as little as two years, researchers found significant difference in mental acuity among healthy patients and those with type 2 diabetes was detected in measures of gray matter volume and test scores. Researchers also noted decreased blood flow to the brain among those with the disease.

Fortunately, people living with type 2 diabetes have options when it comes to controlling their disease. A healthy diet and exercise are important in the brain health of any person, but these demands become even more important for those with the disease.

“It is very important that diabetic patients engage in good nutrition, exercise and very tight control of their blood sugars with their medications,” advises Dr. Dirk.

However, these first lines of defense often fail to control the disease. If that’s the case, Dr. Dirk offers other options: “It is imperative that diabetic patients give serious thought to weight loss surgery, even if they are not obese. There is excellent science that shows that diabetic patients whose BMI (body mass index) is under 30 have excellent results from bariatric surgery procedures.”

As science and medicine advance, so do treatment plans. Don’t hesitate to talk to a Dallas bariatric surgeon about managing your type 2 diabetes and improving your quality of life.