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More Health and Nutrition Bites

Take a little walk 08/10/22
Sugar-sweetened sodas may contribute to your risk of colon cancer 08/03/22
Quality counts 07/27/22
Ultra-processed foods increase your risk of breast cancer 07/13/22
The power of 10 more minutes of exercise 07/06/22
Black Women, Meat, and Colorectal Cancer 06/29/22
How much junk are Americans eating? 06/22/22
Breast Cancer and Vitamin C 06/15/22
What about sweetening your coffee? 06/08/22
Mediterranean Diet vs. low fat diet: which is better for prevention? 06/01/22
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If you've been reading the Dr. Gourmet's Health & Nutrition Bites for even a little while, you are probably aware that I'd much rather you drank water, coffee, or tea rather than sugar-sweetened beverages. Aside from the fact that they are too often excess, empty calories, we have seen in multiple studies that apart from their caloric content they have been linked with a greater risk of stroke, poorer metabolic scores, and may contribute to higher blood pressures.

Beverage taxes work
I talked just last week about the dangers of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages and repeated my recommendation that people drink water, tea, or coffee. If only it were that easy to get people to stop drinking sodas. One of the ways people have tried to influence how much soda people are drinking is by taking a note from the fight against smoking: tax it.

Three ways drinking soda is bad for your heart
For years I've been reporting on the effects of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages - including sugary sodas, sweetened fruit juice drinks, and sweetened teas or other drinks - on your health. We've seen evidence that drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages leads to greater risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.


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Take a little walk

cans of sugar-sweetened sodas, seen from above

Not too long ago (pre-pandemic), standing desks were all the rage. This was in response to studies and editorials noting that a great many people are extremely sedentary: not only do they have a job at which they sit down much of the time, but they also don't participate in much physical activity in their leisure time.

Standing desks were supposed to be better for you than simply sitting all day. And of course there were and are desks that allow you to work while also pedaling a bicycle or walking on a treadmill.

On the face of it, this makes sense: standing must be better than sitting, and moving must be better than just standing in place. Sure, more exercise is almost certainly good for you, but how much time do you need to spend standing or walking instead of sitting to see real metabolic improvements?

Today's researchis from a team of researchers from the Republic of Ireland and the UK. It is a meta-analysis of several small studies comparing the metabolic effects of breaking up a sedentary period with either standing or walking for brief periods (Sports Med 2022;52:1765-1787).

Readers should bear in mind that today's meta-analysis includes only 7 randomized crossover trials, and the intervention periods for all of these trials were only 1 day. The total number of participants for all seven studies was only 461 persons.

Not all of the seven included studies looked at the same metabolic outcomes: while some included triglycerides, heart rate, total and HDL cholesterol, or diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a reading), the only variables that all seven measured were postprandial glucose levels, postprandial insulin levels, and systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading).

As well, all seven studies compared the effects of prolonged sitting versus sitting interrupted by standing versus sitting interrupted by light-intensity walking. That said, the amount of time the participants spent sitting varied, as did the amount of time the participants spent standing (between bouts of sitting) and the amount of the time the participants spent walking (between bouts of sitting).

Thus it is hard to draw strong conclusions.

That said, blood tests in these participants showed that those whose sitting was interrupted by bouts of standing (from 5 minutes standing in every 30 minutes sitting to 2 minutes standing out of 20 minutes sitting) saw improved postprandial insulin scores as well as systolic blood pressures.

Those whose sitting was interrupted by bouts of low-intensity walking (ranging from 2 minutes every 60 minutes to 2 minutes every 20 minutes to as much as 30 minutes in an hour) saw even more improvement in their postprandial insulin scores, improvements in postprandial glucose scores, and more improved systolic blood pressures.

What this means for you

It's difficult to draw large-scale conclusions from such a small study - even when it's a meta-analysis. That said, this does suggest that breaking up your days at the computer keyboard or desk every 20 minutes or so for a stroll around the house or office (and the walking in these studies was definitely more of a stroll than an exercise walk) is likely to be metabolically helpful, especially if you are considered clinically overweight or obese.

August 10, 2022