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A Closer Look at Sugar-Sweetened Drinks – The Bitter Truth
It’s no secret that soda and other sugary drinks contain large amounts of sugar that can cause tooth decay and cause weight gain. What some people may not know is that some studies reveal that sugary drinks are more dangerous than causing cavities or making your clothes tighter. Heavy consumption of sugary drinks can have significant negative effects on overall health. Sugary drinks include regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and sugar-sweetened water. Sugary drinks have been linked to obesity, bone fractures and osteoporosis, kidney problems, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The following information outlines health complications that have been linked to sugary drink consumption and provides tips for a healthier lifestyle.
Children are heavy consumers of sugary drinks, according to the US Department of Agriculture, and they drink them at very high rates. A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed the following facts about the consumption of sugary drinks by children and adolescents and the results are sweet:
The consumption of sugary drinks in the United States has increased over the past 30 years among children and adults.
Teenagers and young adults consume more sugary drinks than any other age group.
Men consume more sugary drinks than women. Among boys aged 2-19, 70% consume a sugary drink on any given day.
A full third of teenage boys drink at least three cans of soda a day.
The consumption of sugary drinks, especially among young children and teenagers, is a serious problem in our country. Sugary drinks are a large part of the diet of children and adolescents. Just one 12-ounce can of soda contains anywhere from 31 to 46 grams of sugar depending on the type of soda. 46 grams of sugar is equivalent to eleven teaspoons of sugar! Here are some serious health consequences associated with prolonged consumption of sugary drinks:
Decreased Bone Mass Density and Bone Fractures in Children
Osteoporosis, or loss of bone density, is usually considered a geriatric condition. But the disease may take root in adolescence when bone mass reaches its peak. Since your bones reach their peak mass and strength in your 20s, the more bone mineral density (BMD) you build when you’re young, the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis later in life. Reducing milk intake and excessive consumption of sugary carbonated drinks can decrease bone marrow density and increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Animal studies also reveal that phosphorus, a common ingredient in soda, can reduce bone calcium.
In addition, the study found that soft drink consumption was associated with an increased risk of fractures in school-age girls. In one of the studies, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that 14-year-old girls who drank the most cola were 3.6 times more likely to have a fracture than those who drank the least.
Sugary drinks are the main source of added sugar in a child’s daily diet. Consuming these drinks increases calorie intake – a factor that potentially contributes to obesity among youth across the country. Between 1977 and 2001 Americans’ daily calorie consumption increased by 250-300 calories, almost half of which (43%) came from sugary drinks alone. Being overweight is now the most common medical condition in childhood. Almost 1 in every 3 children is at risk of becoming overweight. Complications of obesity include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and many other health and social problems.
Erosion of Tooth Enamel and Stomach Lining
Excessive consumption of sugary carbonated drinks increases the risk of dental problems, especially in children. Phosphoric acid in carbonated soda can interfere with calcium absorption and weaken teeth. The acid wears away tooth enamel, making it brittle. Once the enamel is damaged, bacteria can invade and cause decay. The acid in soda is also known to worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease and ulcers. The phosphoric acid from this drink neutralizes the hydrochloric acid in your stomach and destroys the body’s capacity to absorb essential elements such as iron, calcium and magnesium. Damaged stomach function can result in indigestion, bloating and worsen the symptoms of colon syndrome and some other stomach problems.
High levels of phosphoric acid in soda have been known to alter urine in a way that promotes the formation of kidney stones and other kidney problems.
Recent research from the Harvard School of Public Health found evidence of a link between sugary drink consumption and heart disease. Studies have found that those who drink more than two servings of sugary drinks per day have an almost 40% higher risk of heart disease than those who rarely drink sugary drinks. Drinking more than one soft drink a day is associated with an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol.
How to break your habit and what to drink instead of sugary drinks
The best way to counteract the negative effects of sugary drinks is to eliminate sugary drinks from your diet. Water, of course, is the best beverage choice. But for some people, plain water is too plain and kicking the habit overnight may not be realistic. Start by reducing the number of sugary drinks you have each day until you eliminate them completely.
Try some of the following drinks for a tasty alternative:
Add slices of your favorite fruits and vegetables – lemons, oranges, cucumbers, mints or limes to a pot of cold water for a refreshing and flavorful drink.
Add a splash of 100% fruit juice to sodium-free seltzer water – mix one part 100% cranberry or pomegranate juice with three parts seltzer.
Add a few slices of lime or lemon to the tonic water.
Drink iced herbal tea or green tea – green tea is naturally high in antioxidants. If you like your tea sweetened, add a little honey.
Skim milk: a low-fat, high-calcium alternative.
Create the health you deserve by nourishing your body with healthy foods and eliminating sugary drinks from your diet. However, creating a healthy life is more than just eating and drinking right. It is about treating the whole person – mind, body, spirit and energy. Create a healthy and balanced mind and body using one of the many wellness treatments offered at Fairfield County Integrative Family Medicine and Healing Therapies: yoga, massage, reiki/healing touch therapy, acupuncture, guided imagery, reflexology and manual lymphatic drainage. We believe in giving our patients the opportunity to find healing in any of our integrative health therapies, designed to heal and soothe the body, spirit and mind.
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