Diet Soda Alert: They actually make you fat!

Diet sodas, which Americans guzzle in hopes of reigning in our expanding waistlines, might do more harm than good, a new study has found.

The study adds to the growing suspicions of artificial sweeteners linked earlier this year to increased risk for stroke and dementia.

The Washington Post today reports that studies linked artificial sweeteners to increased belly fat despite their zero calories.

Meghan Azad, a researcher at the University of Manitoba, and others reviewed dozens of studies discovered little proof that diet sodas helped in weight management and that people who drank them routinely had increased body mass index and risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“I think originally it was calories were the problem, and we’ve made something that was zero calories, so we’re good,” Azad told The Washington Post. “But we’re learning that it’s not just about the calories.”

“We need more evidence from better quality studies to know for sure the cause and effect, but there does seem to be at least a question about the daily consumption of these drinks,” she said.

To read the whole Washington Post story click here.

Study: diet drinks can lead to stroke, dementia

A new study shows people who drink diet sodas may be more at risk for stroke and dementia.

Have a Diet Coke and stroke.

Diet sodas — one of Americans favorite caffeine delivery systems — appears to be just as unhealthy as its sugary cousins

The Washington Post reports that a new study refutes that diet drinks are a better option than those made with sugar or corn syrup.

The new study in the journal Stroke says people who drink diet soda are three times as likely to have a stroke or develop dementia.

“This included a higher risk of ischemic stroke, where blood vessels in the brain become obstructed and Alzheimer’s disease dementia, the most common form of dementia,” Matthew Pase, a Boston University School of Medicine neurologist told The Washington Post.

Paseo is the lead author of the study.

He stressed the study showed just a correlation and not a causation but that diet pop simply “might not be a healthy alternative.”

The study of 2,888 individuals age 45 and overlooked for the development of a stroke and 1,484 participants age 60 and older for dementia over a 10 year period.

There was no association with stroke or dementia found in a parallel study of sugary drinks.

The diet sodas used by those in the study contained the artificial sweeteners saccharin, acesulfame-K, and aspartame.

“So, the bottom line is, ‘Have more water and have less diet soda,” Christopher Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in an American  Heart Association news release. “And don’t switch to real soda.”

He added: “Nobody ever said diet sodas were a health food.”

The American Beverage Association said low-calorie sweeteners have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities as well as hundreds of scientific studies and there is nothing in this research that counters this well-established fact.

“While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not — and cannot — prove cause and effect,” the beverage association noted.

To read the whole Washington Post story click here.

Study: Pot increases risk of heart failure, stroke

Well, if smoking increases the risk of heart failure, then it goes to reason that marijuana use would as well.

Now new research analyzing millions of U.S. medical records bear this out, according to CBS News.

“Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients,” lead researcher Dr. Aditi Kalla, a cardiologist at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, told CBS.

Kalla’s study looked at 20 million health records of patients aged 18 to 55 who were discharged from one of more than a thousand hospitals across the United States in 2009 and 2010. Of those patients, 1.5 percent said they’d used marijuana.

Researchers also associated pot with a 26 percent increased risk of stroke and a 10 percent increased risk of heart failure.

“More research will be needed to understand the [reasons] behind this effect,” Kalla said.

The study was not without its detractors

Paul Armentaro, deputy director of the marijuana advocacy group NORML, said the study “is inconsistent with other studies finding no adverse effects to those who consume marijuana.”

Kalla said now that medical or recreational marijuana use is now legal in more than half of U.S. states and a better understanding of pot’s health effects is needed.

You can read the whole CBS story by clicking here.

Study: Medical mistakes third leading cause of death

When you think of leading causes of death, cancer, heart disease, maybe car accidents come to mind.

But a new study shows the cure may be more deadly than whatever ails you.

A new study finds – and not for the first time – that medical mistakes could be the third leasing cause of death, according to this CNN report on the findings in the latest edition of BMJ.

The study suggests that medical errors may kill more people than lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and bronchitis do. That would place medical errors right behind heart disease and cancer.

A new study finds that medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

The doctors estimate there are at least 251,454 deaths due to medical errors annually in the United States. And that’s not counting home and nursing home deaths.

The number is also greater than the one cited in a 1999 study from the Institute of Medicine that put the number in the 44,000 to 98,000 range.

“We have to make an improvement in patient safety a real priority,” said Dr. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery and health policy and management at Johns Hopkins.

To read the whole CNN story click here.


Lawsuit: HCA doctor performed unnecessary heart surgery

Nearly a decade ago, a nurse at Lawnwood Medical Center and Heart Institute in Fort Pierce came forward with a startling claim: doctors at the hospital were performing unnecessary heart surgeries to pad hospital profits.

John Austgen
John Austgen of Fort Pierce explains how an HCA doctor put in an unnecessary pacemaker, almost killing him at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.

The nurse was told his services were no longer required, but he continued up the chain of the nation’s largest hospital chain, HCA Inc., with his complaint.

And indeed, HCA determined in 2010 that about 1,200 surgeries were performed on patients who did not have serious heart disease at Lawnwood and other Florida HCA hospitals, according to internal documents from the company obtained by The New York Times.

But the doctor that sparked nurse C.T. Tomlison’s alert to HCA never lost privileges at Lawnwood, and now a new lawsuit claims he continued to do unnecessary surgeries.

The medical negligence complaint filed this week in St. Lucie County says Dr. Abdul Shadani placed an unnecessary pacemaker in retiree John Austgen in 2013.

The severe complications that followed transformed the 73-year-old  from a senior who played tennis three times a week to a man who can barely muster enough energy to watch television.

“I went in as a well man. I came out as an old man,” he said at a news conference in West Palm Beach. “I was a runner. I’m having trouble walking.”

Austgen ended up suffering through several surgeries and a lengthy hospital stay. At one point, his heart was punctured and at another time it stopped all together and he had to be resuscitated. You can read his lawsuit by clicking here.

The hospital billed more than $400,000, Austgen’s West Palm Beach attorneys – Jason Weisser and Michael Baxter – said at a news conference on Wednesday. They said HCA doctors are still performing unnecessary surgeries for financial gain, calling it a systematic problem with the hospital chain. The lawyers say they are working on other cases similar to Austgen’s.

“Lawnwood generates 35 percent of their gross revenue just from its cardiac unit. It’s a huge revenue generator for the hospital,” Weisser said.  “I think the financial gain of the doctor and the hospital came before the patient’s care.”

Lawnwood spokeswoman Ronda Wilburn emailed a statement to The Palm Beach Post saying the hospital was aware of the lawsuit: “We dispute these allegations, and we intend to vigorously defend the suit. At Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute, we remain focused on providing the best possible medical care to our patients.”

Shadani’s attorney did not return an email and phone call for comment.

The nurse said he witnessed Dr. Shadani perform unnecessary surgeries back in 2008, according to the internal documents.

Austgen ended up in Shadani’s care after complaining of dizzy spells. The doctor diagnosed him with a complete “heart block” and in need of an emergency pacemaker, according to the lawsuit.

Weisser and Baxter say their research shows that there was only a minor blockage that could have been treated with medication. Austgen said he has since learned his dizziness was due to low blood pressure.

Austgen said his mother, sister and daughter are nurses and that he has respect for hospitals and doctors, but he hopes his lawsuit will keep Shadani from practicing.

The New York Times reported in 2012 that the Justice Department was investigating whether cardiologists at HCA hospitals in Florida performed unnecessary – and sometimes dangerous – procedures.

It is unknown whatever happened to that investigation but Weisser said HCA has failed to live up to its promises to address the systematic problem that was identified not only at Lawnwood, but at HCA hospitals in Tampa and Miami Beach.

HCA owns about 160 hospitals – including JFK Medical Center in Atlantis and Palms West Medical Center near Wellington.

Weisser said that the fact that Shadani was still on staff at Lawnwood one year after the New York Times article that shows that HCA never intended to stop such erroneous procedures. “Obviously, they don’t care,” the attorney said.