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A Strand of Hair Could Reveal How Much Soda Was Consumed

Update Date: May 21, 2013 10:26 AM EDT

Despite the abundant amount of research that confirms the unhealthy aspects of sugary drinks, particularly soda, researchers continue to focus on this topic, hoping to find a more exact measurement of the link between sugar-sweetened drinks and obesity. These previous studies have relied heavily on the participant's self-assessment. Some might lie, underestimate, or even forget how many sugary-drinks were consumed. Since self-reporting comes with a larger room for mistakes, researchers have been trying to find other ways of measuring consumption. According to a new study, researchers suggest that analyzing a strand of hair or a blood sample could reveal just how many sugary beverages one had.

"We're isolating the [carbon] isotope ratio in a specific molecule," the head researcher, Diane O'Brien explained. O'Brien worked with a research team from the University of Alaska using a technique known as carbon isotope analysis. The molecule that the research team focused on was alanine, which is known for capturing carbon from sugars.

The research team believes that by analyzing protein, the presence of C-13, which is a type of carbon that comes from sweetened drinks and is absorbed by alanine, can indicate which individuals consumed more products with corn syrup and cane sugar. The more C-13 in one's body, the more sugary drinks he/she consumed. Since protein lasts longer in the body, the researchers also believe that this type of analysis could inform them of a person's sugar intake over the span of days as opposed to just one particular day.

"The use of sable isotope signatures has even provided information about the diet of Otzi [the Iceman], the 5,000-year-old natural mummy found in the Alps in 1991," Dale Schoeller, who was not a part of the study, said. Schoeller is from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "This should be a major set toward resolving the controversy over the role of caloric sweetener intake in the development of obesity." Although this technique could be useful, it can also be very expensive.

The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition

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