Week of July 9, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is there a difference between seltzer, club soda and tonic?

A: All three drinks are clear and fizzy, but there are differences. Tonic water is the clear standout because it is the only one with calories. Despite the slight bitter taste from added quinine, it is a sugar-sweetened drink with almost as many calories as regular cola. Diet tonic is available with zero-calories because of artificial sweeteners. Seltzer is a zero-calorie drink because it is simply water fizzed up with carbon dioxide. Sodium content is essentially zero. Club soda is similar to seltzer, except for various “salts” added to enhance flavor. In this case, “salts” does not refer only to sodium chloride (table salt), but to a variety of different mineral mixtures, that may be sodium-, potassium or magnesium-based. Therefore, sodium content of club soda varies among brands. An eight-ounce glass may contain as little as 10 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is negligible, or as much as 80 mg. Even the latter isn’t a lot out of a daily maximum of 1500 or 2300 mg (depending on your age and health), but if you drink much it can add up.

Q: My health insurance company offered me the services of a “health coach” to help me lose weight and manage my diabetes. What is a “health coach”?

A: Health coaching is a growing trend in wellness and is provided by people who differ widely in training. Health insurance companies employ health coaches to reduce costs and improve health outcomes by helping people adopt healthy lifestyles. These health coaches typically are licensed health professionals such as registered nurses, registered dietitians and clinical social workers who have additional training in behavior change techniques. They can provide personalized education and resources to help you create realistic health goals, overcome obstacles and make permanent changes. If you are seeking help to manage a chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease or cancer, then your health coach should also be a health professional with clinical expertise in that area. For example, a nurse or a dietitian may be a certified diabetes educator (CDE). On the other hand, a health coach who is also a clinical psychologist may be qualified to help you manage depression or an eating disorder. A health or wellness coach may also help participants in wellness programs for weight management, physical activity, nutrition, stress management and tobacco cessation. Be careful: health coaching itself is not a licensed profession. Several highly regarded coaching certification programs have excellent teachers and train only licensed health professionals, but other programs have no prerequisites. As a result, many health and fitness enthusiasts who are unqualified to provide medical advice and untrained in behavior change have simply purchased “certificates” over the Internet and established private health coaching practices. Ask a prospective coach about his/her qualifications, including their coaching credential; then go to the credentialing group’s website to see what that certification actually proves.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

We have contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at


All active news articles