November 9, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 56 — Diet drinks, and COVID testing

With the holidays approaching, many people will look for ways to limit their calorie intake in order to enjoy a few extra holiday goodies. But reaching for that diet drink may not be a healthy substitute for sugary drinks, at least in terms of cardiovascular health. A new study A new study conducted by French researchers, found high consumers of both sugary drinks or artificially sweetened beverages demonstrated increased risk of stroke, mini-stroke, heart attack, or heart blockage that required surgery. Roopa Rao, an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a heart failure transplant cardiologist at IU Health says while the exact reasons for this impact on cardiovascular health are not clear, artificial sweeteners can cause changes to gut microbiota and increase glucose intolerance. Many experts believe that consuming large quantities of certain artificial sweeteners contributes to metabolic syndrome and might be driving the obesity epidemic. Some research also suggests that artificial sweeteners may change the host microbiome and lead to decreased satiety, and artificial sweeteners have been associated with increased caloric consumption and weight gain. While the occasional diet soft drink or consumption of artificial sweeteners likely won't pose a risk for most people, Rao says consumers should try to avoid relying solely on artificial sweeteners or excessive consumption of them. To support your overall health and wellness goals and potentially protect your heart, she says, water is the best beverage choice because it's calorie-free, sugar-free, and artificial sweetener-free.

Using county COVID-19 positivity rates to decide how often to test nursing home staff members may lead to missed asymptomatic infections, according to a new study by Indiana University. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires that the frequency for testing staff members be based on community infection positivity rates. Under the agency’s guidance, worker testing should increase from monthly to weekly when the surrounding county’s positivity rate is between 5% to 10%, and to twice weekly when positivity is above 10%. Yet, the IU study found when almost 60,000 nursing home staff members in Indiana were tested for active SARS-CoV-2 infection, there was no threshold of community rates that predicted positivity. This was true for both county positivity rate or cases per 10,000 population, they reported. Even in areas with low levels of COVID-19 community activity, facilities in those areas still had infected staff, says Kathleen Unroe, a practicing geriatrician and researcher with the IU Center for Aging Research at the Regenstrief Institute. If the goal is to identify all asymptomatic nursing home staff, Unroe says comprehensive repeat testing may be needed, regardless of community level activity. The findings are particularly important in light of new, widespread infection control strategies being implemented, such as point-of-care testing. Unroe says we are still learning how best to utilize COVID-19 tests. To identify any possible asymptomatic positive staff, researchers encourage frequent testing across the board and quick turnaround time for results.