Nutrition News: New Soda Health Claims, Benefits of Spicy Food and School Gardens

Diet Pepsi changes its formula, and Coke tries to change the conversation; spicy food may help you live longer; kids reap real benefits from school gardens.
Now in Soda News

There’s lots of news bubbling in Soda Land. PepsiCo has begun shipping its new version of Diet Pepsi, tweaked to eliminate the artificial sweetener aspartame and replace it with two other artificial sweeteners: sucralose and acesulfame potassium (aka Splenda and Ace-K). The company, which is doing a big marketing push behind the reformulation, says it is responding to consumer demand, but it remains to be seen whether the switch from one artificial sweetener to two others will go down easy, particularly with Diet Pepsi stalwarts. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has not changed Diet Coke, which contains aspartame, but it is engaged in its own efforts to fight sinking soda sales amidst health concerns: Through a new nonprofit organization, the Global Energy Balance Network, Coke is funding scientists who contend that America’s obesity problem is not about how much (or what) Americans eat and drink, but rather about how much we exercise, despite ample evidence to the contrary, The New York Times reports.

Some Like It Hot (and That’s Healthy!)

Bring on the hot sauce! A new study has determined that eating spicy food may help you live longer. The researchers, who published their results in BMJ, examined dietary data from 485,000 people over more than seven years, and found that those who ate spicy food (chili peppers, mostly) one or two times per week had a 10 percent lower risk for death than those who ate it less than once per week — and that those who ate spicy food six or seven times per week had a 14 percent lower risk of death. Spicy-food eaters had lower rates of cancer, respiratory diseases and ischemic heart disease. While the researchers stopped short of making cause-and-effect claims, previous studies have shown capsaicin, the thing that makes chili peppers spicy, to be both an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.

Bright (Green) Futures

How great are school gardens? Pretty darn great. Urban school gardening programs not only teach kids about growing and harvesting fruits, vegetables, herbs and fresh flowers, they bring them other lessons as well — with real, measurable effects, NPR reports. The programs teach students about making healthy food choices and help them bring healthy-food awareness home to their families. They can help boost math and science skills, and correlate to higher standardized test scores, not only for students in the gardening programs but for all the school’s students. They’ve been shown to increase student engagement and teacher retention. And school gardens can teach kids business and interpersonal skills, especially in schools that sell products from their gardens at local markets. In other words, as they sow their gardens, these kids are reaping big benefits.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish .

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