Does Diet Soda Make You Fat?

The Internet has helped rumors about aspartame become more exaggerated—it's been said to cause seizures, lupus, autism, Gulf War syndrome (huh?) and more. But researchers from School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio report that diet soda with aspartame causes health problems unrelated to chain emails. Consuming aspartame is linked to increased waistlines, which contributes to a host of medical problems. Longtime aspartame consumption also contributes to insulin resistance.

Researchers from San Antonio Health Science Center looked at data from 474 participants in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA).

When subjects enrolled in SALSA, researchers recorded their height, weight, waist circumference, and diet soda intake. Over the next decade, researchers conducted follow-up exams and compared diet soda drinkers to non-diet soda drinkers. Diet soda drinkers saw a 70 percent increase in waist circumference (compared to non-diet soda drinkers). Users who consumed two or more diet sodas a day saw their waistlines increase 500 percent more than the non-diet soft drinking group. Excessive abdominal fat correlates with a higher risk of diabetes and also increases the chances of diseases such as colorectal cancer or high blood pressure.

"These results suggest that, amidst the national drive to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, policies that would promote the consumption of diet soft drinks may have unintended deleterious effects," the researchers wrote. They presented their findings at the American Diabetes Association's Scientific Sessions.

In a separate study, researchers looked at how aspartame influenced mice’s fasting glucose levels. Typically, a person’s glucose level is lowest after eight hours of fasting and doctors sometimes test the amount of glucose in the blood at this time to determine diabetes. The researchers, also from San Antonio, fed two groups of mice chow—both varieties included corn oil, but one had aspartame. After three months of guzzling sweetened, fatty chow, the mice in the aspartame group showed increased level of fasting blood glucose and diminished insulin levels, which indicates early decline in pancreatic beta cell function. Beta cells produce insulin, which naturally regulates blood glucose. Faulty beta cells negatively impacts insulin production, leading to Type II diabetes.

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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