Soft drinks in some form or other have been around since the 17th century and in the United States since about the 1870’s. Today, soft drinks are still a popular drink, especially in the Western culture where the United States ranks first among countries with a high consumption of carbonated beverages.. Although readily available and inexpensive to purchase, the health problems that can occur from drinking soda are significant. The excessive use of sodas is now known as “America’s other drinking problem”. In a September, 2004 article by Science Daily, it is reported that consumption of soft drinks has grown 135% since 1977.
This is easy to understand. Selling sodas are vigorously advertised by the companies who manufacture them. Soft drinks can be purchased everywhere and you can pretty much find them anywhere. Vending machines at your job carry them, the grocery store and the gas stations are never shy of them and fast-food restaurants tempt you with sodas in small, medium and large. Soda lovers stock their refrigerator with cans or cases of soft drinksas well soit’s always available.
One would think that a drink so popular would be beneficial to your health, but this is not the case. Soft drinks have no nutritional value. Essentially they are a can (or bottle) of carbonated water with sugar or some artificial sweetener, caffeine, and phosphoric acid (added to give the soda its tangy flavor). Here are just a few of the hazards of drinking sodas.
Soft drinks contain caffeine, an addictive stimulant. This is one reason why breaking the soda drinking habit is so difficult. Many people do not consider it a problem since it’s not a “hard drink” such as an alcoholic beverage, but since the body does not need caffeine to function, it is unwise to put this drug in your system. According to the Mayo Clinic, popular sodas such as Coca-cola and Mountain Dew contain 35 and 54 milligrams of caffeine respectfully. Caffeine increases the heart rate and can make a person “hyper” or jittery and headachy. Several years ago I knew a lady who was quite addicted to soft drinks and consumed nearly a case of cola daily. I remember her talking to me about how much she needed the “boost” it gave her to get through the day and she admitted her increasing need for more and more soda. She agreed it was a concern for her but yet she continued to drink it.
Sugar is another addictive substance in sodas. The normal average sugar intake for an adult on a 2000 calorie per day diet is 30 grams, or approx 8-10 teaspoons of sugar per day. The American Heart Association actually recommends even less, six teaspoons per day for women and nine for men. A certain amount of sugar occurs naturally in foods but drinking sodas throughout the day adds to this excessively. Amazingly, in a recent article by the Bay Citizen News in California, states the average American drinks almost 100 pounds of sugar yearly (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture). “Sugary drinks”, the article states, “are the largest source of all that sweetness.” A can of soda can contain 35 to 40 grams of sugar or more, which would equal about 10 teaspoons of sugar each time you drink a can of pop. This is way too much sugar, especially when you consider that some persons drink three or more cans of soda daily. Sugar adds no nutrients to the soda at all; it simply adds to your caloric intake. It has also been found to contribute to the development of diabetes. According to Mayo Clinic, people who consume more than one soft drink per day will increase their risk for Type 2 diabetes. Sugar addiction is just as hard to overcome as any other form of addiction and sadly, those who need their daily “sugar fix” usually deny they are addicted to it.
Soft drinks can lead to a bone condition known as osteoporosis in which the bones develop a weaker bone density and become weak and brittle. Drinking excessive sodas causes an abnormally high amount of phosphorus in the body and could lead to bone loss. Additionally, the aforementioned caffeine can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, a needed chemical for adequate bone health. In addition, according to Nutrition Vista, soft drinks contain an excess amount of phosphorus which has an adverse affect on the body’s levels of calcium and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium are “vital for normal heart rate, nerve and muscle functioning, blood clotting, good bones and teeth”.
The excessive yet empty calories found in soft drinks can also lead to your being overweight. In a July, 2007 article by MSNBC, “Those who drank one or more soft drinks a day had a 31 percent greater risk of becoming obese.” A regular 12-ounce soda contains the equivalent of nine teaspoons of sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup. In a 2006 article by Consumer Affairs, they report a study done by the Harvard School of Public Health. In this documentation, the study showed that one third of all carbohydrates we take in are from added sweeteners used in sodas in the form of high fructose corn syrup. This form of sugar contains more calories that regular sugar. The study also states this type of sweetener may actually reduce the body’s ability to process calories. Many people try to get away from the sugar issue by drinking diet sodas but beware that these contain dangerous artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, or saccharin which cause a plethora of health problems all their own. Although drinks containing these sweeteners may present with fewer or no calories they offer no health benefits and can still cause you to gain weight, not lose it.
Soda cannot substitute for water simply because it not water. According to Applied Health, sodas act as dehydrating diuretics, much like tea, coffee and alcohol. All of these drinks “can inhibit proper digestive function.” This occurs because the caffeine in the soda actually pulls water from the body, leaving it more dehydrated than before. The body, regardless of how much soda you have drank, still needs 6 to 8 glasses of water daily in order to function properly. The body is composed of 60-70% water and it needs fresh, clear water to sustain it. Just because a soda is a liquid does not mean it can be an effective substitute for water, and the irony of it is that you are drinking a soda in an effort to quench thirst, when it actually will draw fluid from your body and cause more thirst.
Soft drink advertisers are skilled at targeting children and adolescents. This is a very vulnerable age group, known to consume a lot of soft drinks. Many are found to be drinking more soda than they drink milk. As a result, children are vulnerable to tooth decay. The high sugar content in soda, however, has caused many to develop dental caries and the phosphoric acid found in soda can actually cause tooth enamel erosion. According to Dr. Dan Peterson at Family Gentle Dental Care, “The average American drinks more than 53 gallons of carbonated soft drinks each year, more than any other beverage”. He states that regular soda contributes to cavities because of the high sugar content, and both regular soda and diet soda can contribute to enamel breakdown.
Alternatives to soft drinks
If you have the desire to stop drinking sodas there certainly are healthier alternatives you can switch to. Everyday Health offers ten different alternatives to choose from which you may wish to try. Fresh, clean water is still the best natural refreshment for your body. Natural fruit juices and green tea are also healthier choices. It will take time to wean yourself from drinking excessive sodas, but you will be much healthier for it.
Everyday Health: “10 Soda alternatives”
Mayo Clinic: “Caffeine count for drinking coffee, tea, soda and more”
Organic Consumer’s Association: “Health hazards of drinking coca-cola and other soft drinks”
Applied Heath: “Soft drinks: America’s other drinking problem”
Family Gentle Dental Care: “Pop and cavities: cavities in a can”
Bay Citizen News:”Quenching without sugar” summer thirst”
Nutrition Vista: “What’s the deal with soda calories- Unhealthy”