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‘Diet’ cocktails could pack more punch

Times Staff Writer

The amount of sugar in an alcoholic drink affects how it’s absorbed. A popular dietary supplement may boost weight loss. And a common blood pressure medication may reduce the risk of some cancers. Those findings were among the highlights at last week’s Digestive Disease Week. The international meeting of doctors and other health professionals who treat digestive tract ailments and liver conditions was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

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Mixed drinks

The rate at which alcohol enters the bloodstream is influenced by such things as the amount of food consumed while drinking and individual characteristics, such as body weight. But what you mix with alcohol may matter too.

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A new study has found that drinks made with artificial sweeteners can raise blood alcohol concentration more than those containing sugar-based mixers, such as regular soda.

Researchers at Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia gave eight men alcoholic beverages mixed with either diet or regular sodas. Drinks containing sugar-free mixers were processed through the stomach and entered the bloodstream faster than those mixed with regular soda. That led to a peak blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 for the diet drink compared with 0.03 for the regular drink.

“In the eyes of the consumer, they may only think about the [amount] of alcohol consumed,” says Dr. Chris Rayner, lead author of the study. “But they might want to think about what they mix their drink with.”

Further study is needed to see if the same effect occurs in women because they metabolize alcohol differently than men.

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Trans-fat weight loss

Conjugated linoleic acid, a natural substance found in low levels in meat and dairy products, may promote fat loss in the abdomen if consumed in a high dose, according to research funded by a supplement manufacturer in the Netherlands.

The study randomized 118 overweight adults into a group that received 3.4 grams of the supplement for six months and a group that received a placebo.

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The group consuming conjugated linoleic acid lost an average of 5.6% of their fat mass without dieting or exercise. The actual weight loss -- an average of just more than 3 pounds -- was modest. But it was lost at the abdomen, which could help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The supplement is thought to work by inhibiting the storage of fat in fat cells, says Sandra Einerhand, lead author of the study from Lipid Nutrition in the Netherlands.

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ACE cancer fighter?

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ACE inhibitors, medications used to lower blood pressure, may also reduce the risk of three types of cancers: esophageal, pancreatic and colon, say researchers from the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, La.

Based on data from 500,000 U.S. veterans, the study found that those who took ACE inhibitors had a lower risk for all three types of cancer. Esophageal cancer rates were reduced by 55% compared with the veterans who were not taking ACE inhibitors; pancreatic cancer rates were cut by 48%; and colon cancer rates by 47%. The study controlled for other risk factors for those diseases, such as age, gender, body mass index, tobacco, alcohol consumption and the use of other medications.

Researchers think ACE inhibitors may block a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor, which may play a central role in tumor growth.


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