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A Closer Look at Sugar-Sweetened Drinks – The Bitter Truth
It’s no secret that soda and other sweetened beverages contain large amounts of sugar that can lead to tooth decay and weight gain. What some may not know is that multiple studies have found that sugary drinks do more harm than good to cause tooth decay or make your clothes feel tight. High consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages can have a significant, negative impact on overall health. Sugar-sweetened beverages include regular sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sugar-sweetened water. Sugary drinks are linked to obesity, bone fractures and osteoporosis, kidney problems, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The following information describes the health complications associated with the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and provides tips for a healthier lifestyle.
Children are big consumers of sugary drinks, according to the US Department of Agriculture, and drink them at alarmingly high rates. A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed the following facts about the consumption of sugary drinks by children and teenagers, and the results are anything but sweet:
Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in the United States has increased over the past 30 years among both children and adults.
Teenagers and young adults consume more sugary drinks than other age groups.
Males consume more sugary drinks than females. Among boys aged 2 to 19, 70% consume sugary drinks on any given day.
A full third of teenagers 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. Sugar-sweetened beverages are an increasingly large part of the diet of children and teenagers. 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! The following are some of the serious health consequences associated with prolonged consumption of sugar-laden beverages:
Reduced bone mass density and bone fractures in children
Osteoporosis, or loss of bone density, is usually considered a geriatric condition. But the disease may have its roots in adolescence when bone mass reaches its peak. Because your bones reach their peak mass and strength during your twenties, the more bone mineral density (BMD) you build when you’re young, the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis later in life. Reduced milk intake and excessive consumption of sugary sodas can reduce bone marrow density and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Animal studies also reveal that phosphorus, a common ingredient in soda, can deplete bones of calcium.
In addition, studies have found that soft drink consumption is associated with an increased risk of bone 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 broken bones than those who drank the least.
Sugary drinks are the main source of added sugar in the daily diet of children. Consuming these beverages increases calorie intake – a potential contributing factor to obesity among youth across the country. Between 1977 and 2001, Americans’ daily calorie consumption increased by 250-300 calories, of which almost half (43%) came from sugary drinks alone. Being overweight is the most common childhood medical condition today. Almost 1 in every 3 children is at risk of being 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 sodas increases the risk of dental problems, especially in children. Phosphoric acid in soda can interfere with calcium absorption and weaken teeth. The acid removes the enamel from the teeth, leaving them brittle. When the enamel breaks down, bacteria can attack and cause decay. The acids in soda are known to worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease and ulcers. The phosphoric acid in these drinks neutralizes the hydrochloric acid in your stomach and destroys your body’s ability to absorb essential elements like iron, calcium and magnesium. Impaired stomach function can lead to indigestion, bloating and worsening symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and several other stomach problems.
High levels of phosphoric acid in sodas are known to alter urine in a way that promotes kidney stones and other kidney problems.
The latest research from the Harvard School of Public Health finds evidence of a link between sugary drink consumption and heart disease. The study found that those who drank more than two servings of sugary drinks each day had a nearly 40% higher risk of heart disease than those who rarely drank sugary drinks. Drinking more than one soft drink per 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 sugar-sweetened beverages from your diet. Water is, of course, the best option to drink. But for some, plain water is too plain and kicking the habit overnight may be unrealistic. Start by reducing the number of sugary drinks you drink per day until you eliminate them completely.
Try some of the following drinks for a tasty alternative:
Add slices of your favorite fruit and vegetable – lemon, orange, cucumber, mint or lime to a pitcher of ice-cold water for a refreshing and aromatic drink.
Add some 100% fruit juice to sodium-free 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 teas or green tea – green tea is naturally rich in antioxidants. If you like sweetened teas, add a little honey.
Skimmed milk: a low-fat, calcium-rich alternative.
Create the health you deserve by nourishing your body with healthy foods and eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages from your diet. However, creating a healthy life is not just about 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 enabling our patients to find healing in any of our integrative wellness therapies, which are designed to heal and soothe the body, spirit and mind.
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