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Soft drinks are hard on health

Published:Tuesday | August 12, 2014 | 8:00 AM

Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it.

- Thomas Jefferson

THE CONSUMPTION of soft drinks is now a regular feature of most modern societies. Drinking of soft drinks may seem an innocent and pleasant habit, and swallowing of the artificially flavoured, cold sweet liquid with its acidic tang combined with the tickle of gas bubbles can be quite seductive.

According to the US National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), soft drink consumption has increased to over 600 12-ounce servings per person per year. Young men aged 12-29 are the biggest soda consumers, drinking more than 160 gallons per year - almost two quarts per day. This means that 10 per cent of a growing boy or young man's total daily calorie intake comes from drinking soft drinks.

Hundreds of published studies on soft drinks have suggested that they are not healthy. If you drink a lot of sodas, it may be time to put the bottle or can down and take a serious look at what you are drinking.

Obesity/diabetes/heart disease

Researchers found that people who increased their sugary drink consumption by just one 12-ounce serving per day gained more weight than people who did not. There is a significant link between sugary drink consumption and weight gain in children. One study found that for each additional 12-ounce soda children consumed each day, their risk of becoming obese increased by 60 per cent.

People who consume sugary drinks regularly (one to two cans a day or more) have a 26 per cent greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who rarely have such drinks. Another study found a similar higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack.

Cancer

According to research done in Sweden and published in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, men who drank lots of soft drinks or other sugary drinks had a 40 per cent greater risk of developing prostate cancer.

The study further found that men who drank just one normal-sized 12 fluid ounce soft drink per day increased their risk of getting deadlier forms of prostate cancer.

Anatomy of a soft drink

The ingredients in soft drinks look like a witch's brew of chemicals:

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) This is now the preferred sweetener (instead of cane sugar) in soft drinks as it is cheaper and sweeter. The liver is the organ that must metabolise the fructose in HFCS and researchers have found that animals on high-fructose diets develop liver disease and metabolic disorders.

Despite loud disclaimers from corn syrup manufacturers, many experts strongly believe HFCS consumption to be a major promoter of diabetes. HFCS is associated with poor development of collagen, a very important structural protein, found in all body tissues especially in the circulatory system, the muscles and skeleton.

Aspartame

This main artificial sweetener used in diet sodas is a potent neurotoxin (nerve poison) and hormonal disrupter. I agree with experts who state that it should not be allowed in the human food supply.

Caffeine

This has the useful ability to stimulate mental alertness and stave off fatigue, but in soft drinks, it stimulates the adrenal gland without providing any of the vitamins and minerals that organ needs to function. In large amounts, the combination of caffeine and sugar without nutrients can lead to adrenal exhaustion, especially in children. HFCS and caffeine in soft drinks may well be the major cause of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in our children.

Phosphoric acid

This is added to give soft drinks a tang and bite. This acid may disturb the delicate calcium/phosphorus balance in the body, and is associated with excess loss of calcium from the urine and weakening of the bones. For more than three decades, much research has been published linking soft drink consumption to a rise in osteoporosis and bone fractures. With increased soft drink consumption, dentists are noticing a problem in teenagers that used to occur only in the elderly - a total loss of tooth enamel, resulting in yellow teeth. Phosphoric acid in soft drinks is the likely culprit.

Artificial flavours

Citric acid is a flavour enhancer added to further acidify soft drinks and worsen the effect of phosphoric acid. Traces of the flavour enhancer MSG, another well-known neurotoxin is also commonly found in soft drinks.

Caramel

This common artificial colouring agent used in soft drinks, especially kola drinks has been linked to genetic defects and cancer.

Carbon dioxide

This gas is added to soft drinks to make them bubbly. It is a waste product of our metabolism that the body naturally expels with each breath we exhale. Why should we be taking in something that the body is always trying to eliminate.

Water

This is potentially the healthiest part of the soft drink but may contain large amounts of fluoride (dissolved from the aluminium lining of the soda can) and other harmful contaminants. Soft drinks can indeed deliver a hard knock!

You may email Dr Vendryes at tonyvendryes@gmail.com or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 8:15 pm. His new book An Ounce of Prevention - Particularly for Men, is now available at local bookstores and on the Internet.