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Personal Health: News and Notes

Sugared colas increase risk of gestational diabetes

Physicians tell pregnant women to take it easy with sweets because of the risk of gestational diabetes.

A new study points a finger at a more specific culprit: sugar-sweetened cola.

Women who drank at least five servings a week of sugar-sweetened cola had a 22 percent higher risk of developing that disease - a form of diabetes during pregnancy - than those who drank less than one serving a month.

The study, published in this month's issue of Diabetes Care, included 13,475 women who reported at least one pregnancy between 1992 and 2001. The authors found no significant risk for other kinds of sugar-sweetened beverages. They speculated that may be because the caramel color in colas may also play a role.

- Tom Avril

Linemen far more likely to be obese, at risk than other players

Size matters for linemen, of course, but on an individual level, bigger may not always be better.

A new Ohio State study of 90 football players finds that offensive and defensive linemen are far more likely to be obese and also to be at risk for insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome - two conditions that are often precursors of heart disease and type 2 diabetes - than teammates in other positions.

Two-thirds of the linemen were obese (none of the other players were), based on percentage of body fat, which the researchers say is better than the more widely used body mass index when measuring strength-trained athletes. And the high prevalence of metabolic syndrome among obese linemen, they write, suggests that even intense exercise is not lowering their risk.

The Division I population findings may not apply elsewhere. But as players at all levels get bigger and bigger, the authors conclude in this month's issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, "Counseling and education on lifestyle modification, exercise, and diet are paramount for linemen to decrease their risk of the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance both during and after their collegiate careers."

- Don Sapatkin

A simple screening test for diabetes and prediabetes

Diabetes often goes undiagnosed for years, silently damaging blood vessels and nerves.

Now, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have developed a simple screening test to identify people at high risk of diabetes or prediabetes.

The test, published in the December issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, assigns points based on six variables: age, gender, family history of diabetes, blood pressure, weight, and physical activity level. The test score indicates whether the person should see a doctor and have a blood glucose (sugar) test.

To come up with the screening tool and then validate it, the researchers analyzed data from periodic federal surveys plus two community population studies. Compared with nondiabetics, diabetics tended to be more sedentary, older, and fatter, and were more likely to have high blood pressure and a parent or sibling with diabetes.

- Marie McCullough

Study: Adequate Vitamin D may improve cancer-survival odds

Getting adequate Vitamin D may improve your odds of surviving certain cancers, according to a study out of the Mayo Clinic and the University of Iowa. Researchers measured blood levels of Vitamin D among 374 patients newly diagnosed with a type of cancer called diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

They found half of those patients were deficient in Vitamin D, and the deficient patients were twice as likely to die from the disease.

"These are some of the strongest findings yet between Vitamin D and cancer outcome," said the study's lead investigator, Mayo endocrinologist Matthew Drake. The findings were presented last weekend at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in New Orleans.

The researchers say their study adds to a growing body of evidence that Vitamin D packs some kind of cancer-fighting power. And yet many Americans don't get enough, especially in northern regions of the country. Vitamin D can be manufactured in the skin when it's exposed to sunlight.

The doctors chose to study this particular form of lymphoma because its incidence and mortality increase with latitude, suggesting a Vitamin D link.

That doesn't mean we should all move to Florida - those who can't soak up enough sunlight can still get Vitamin D from certain foods, such as fortified milk, and inexpensive supplements.

- Faye Flam