Today’s Headlines: Drinking Soda, Depression and Light Activity

Drinking soda may increase your cancer risk. While it might taste good, there are plenty of things not to like about soda when it comes to your health. A new study has added cancer risk to that list. “About half of Americans over age 6 may be exposing themselves to a cancer-causing carcinogen daily. Previous data show that many sodas with caramel coloring contain the human carcinogen 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a compound that is sometimes produced during manufacturing and is known to cause cancer. Researchers wanted to pinpoint cancer’s potential burden on the American population by estimating how many Americans drink these sodas regularly and how much of the human carcinogen is actually present in soft drinks.” The researchers found the concentrations varied but that many sodas contained the compound. There is no federal limit for the amount of 4-MEI in drinks and its presence in drinks is not labeled on the bottle. “Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes. This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda.” (Fox)

Getting more exercise may prevent depression. Getting out for a jog or bike ride can go a long way to boost your mood and past studies had found that it helps with symptoms of depression as well. But new research is indicating that getting your workouts in may help prevent depression all together. “The researchers looked at 10 years’ worth of data from 2,891 women between ages 42 and 52, who filled out questionnaires about their depressive symptoms and levels of physical activity. They found that the women who were meeting public health recommendations for physical activity—150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise—reported fewer depressive symptoms. The more physical activity the women said they did, the less likely they were to have signs of depression.” Given that older women are at higher risk for developing depression, the study provides a potential way of lowering the likelihood of developing the illness in this population. “Given the high prevalence of depression in the United States, particularly for women, exercise is still not considered a first-line treatment option, even though exercise can be of low cost and low risk, can be sustained indefinitely, and has additional benefits for multiple aspects of physical health and physical function.” The researchers hope their findings encourage more physicians to prescribe exercise as part of addressing depression risk. (TIME)

Some activity is better than none for older adults. When doing a little housework is all the exercise you’re getting, it might feel like you shouldn’t even bother. But new findings are showing that even light physical activity can have heart benefits. “Researchers profiled seniors’ risk of heart disease complications—including heart attack—over a 10-year period and found their risk rose along with the amount of time they were inactive each day. Conversely, the more active time they had—regardless of intensity—the lower their risk. On average, the 1,170 participants spent about 77 percent of their time being inactive. The majority of their remaining time was spent doing light activities like household chores.” The research shows that every little bit helps when it comes to exercise and heart disease risk. “Overall, the seniors’ 10-year risk of complications from heart disease increased by about 1 percent for every 25 to 30 minutes they spent being inactive per day. The risk of those same complications also decreased by about the same amount with every minute spent being active, even if that meant just moving around the house and doing chores.” (Reuters)