Regular Soft Drinks – a particularly dangerous source of sugar
Sugar is not just a quick source of energy, it is truly hazardous to health. Soft drinks are one of the most common sources of it, and because fluids don’t fill one up and provide a source of fullness, it is easy to take in too many calories. But perhaps the most concerning aspect of soft drinks lies in the other ingredients, including the artificial sweeteners in diet beverages. This latter topic is proving worthy of a separate blog article so that will follow in the near future.
This is an important topic not just because sugar is linked to the start of so many chronic illnesses, but also because soft drink consumption is still so high. In Angela Epstein’s article on fizzy drinks, found in the February 10, 2015 issue of Daily Mail, the average American drinks 25 gallons of soft drinks a year. An older article by Karina Hamalainen in the 2012 issue of Scholastic Choices, close to 25% of high school students drink at least one soft drink a day. Sugar activates the reward system in the brain, contributing to cravings for it. Because of this property, foods high in sugar become hard to resist (from Kelly Brownell’s “In your face – how the food industry drives us to eat,” in the May, 2010 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter).
The high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in regular soft drinks has been linked to weight gain that is greater than what would be produced by table sugar (from Killer Colas by N. Appleton and G.N. Jacobs, Square One Publishers, 2011). This sweetener has also been linked to abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and a decrease in the appetite suppressing hormone leptin. Other possible soft drink ingredients that are harmful:
- phosphoric acid – added to create a tangy flavor and maintain carbonation pulls calcium out of bone contributing to osteoporosis, kidney stones, weakens tooth enamel and can worsen GERD (esophageal reflux, AKA heartburn).
- carbon dioxide – used for carbonation – contributes to GERD and tooth enamel damage.
- ascorbic acid – added to preserve flavor and coloring – sounds beneficial but in a beverage that also contains sodium benzoate can lead to the formation of the carcinogen benzene if exposed to heat and light.
- caffeine – found in colas as well as other beverages – can be too stimulating to the nervous system and contribute to anxiety and insomnia. Consuming it can also contribute to soft drink addiction. In high amounts, it can also further osteoporosis.
The information on these ingredients and their effects are from Killer Colas. The authors also note that it is hard to tell what soda components cause what negative effects. In addition to the above health threats, regular soft drink consumption is linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome (including type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease as well as hypertension). Specific cancers associated with regular soft drink intake include primarily gastrointestinal cancers: esophageal, colon, gastric and pancreatic.
A link between soft drinks and asthma has been suggested by research including what was reported in S. Park, et al, in “Association of sugar-sweetened beverage intake frequency and asthma among U.S. adults, 2013 (Preventive Medicine, October, 2016, Vol. 91). Of note, this correlation was found for higher intake, that is, those consuming more than one sugar-sweetened beverage a day.