By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Soft drink sales have fizzled a bit in recent years due to health concerns and economic downturns. But there isn’t really much softness in the sheer numbers of people popping pop. Soft drinks is mega-big business. Sales in 2015 are expected to reach more than $310 billion globally. Coca-Cola, the world’s largest manufacturer, alone sells 1.7 billion bottles globally daily! According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, nearly half of all Americans drink at least one glass of soda pop a day.
While America leads the world in consumption − an estimated 43 percent – it’s fast-becoming a soda guzzling world. As an example, a 2014 study in China concluded that consumption there is “on the rise in general.”
While all of this may be good for profits, it is not particularly good for the health of the world.
Frank Hu, an expert at Harvard who specializes in analyzing nutritional data, says the research clearly shows a significant dose-related association between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and long-term weight gain and risk of type 2 diabetes. In other words, the more of them you drink, the greater your health risks. Such drinks are the biggest single source of added sugar in the diet.
In a 2013 review of research data, he brings attention to the following findings:
- A World Health Organization study found that decreased intake of added sugars significantly reduces body weight and, conversely, increased sugar intake puts on weight.
- A higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages among youngsters comes with a 55 percent higher risk of being overweight or obese compared to lower intake.
- One to two servings a day – a common practice – is associated with a 26 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Sorry to dump statistics on you, but the point I’m making here is that the habit of drinking sodas has been documented scientifically as self-destructive. Sodacide, I call it.
When your daily habits run up the risk of obesity and diabetes, you are looking for a lot of trouble.
For instance, a 2012 study showed that even just a moderate amount of sodas sweetened with either sugar or its popular replacement, high-fructose corn syrup – the equivalent of about a single can a day – can significantly increase the risk of heart disease. The analysis, conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health, was based on questionnaires about diet and health habits submitted to more than 42,000 male health professionals every two years over two decades. The researchers determined there was a 20 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease for men who drank the most sodas compared to those who drank the least. A previous study they did on women turned up similar results. The researchers also found significant associations with increased triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and inflammatory compounds, as well as lowered HDL. No cardiologist wants to see those results!
Also, in 2012, Harvard researchers looked at the impact of soda consumption and the risk of stroke, using the same large gender-specific databases. They found that one or more servings a day “significantly” increased the risk when compared to no sodas.
Are diet sodas, with artificial sweeteners, a better way to go than sugar-sweetened beverages? The research has yet to give a conclusive answer to the question. Some long-term studies show that regular consumption of artificially sweetened beverages reduces the intake of calories and promotes weight loss or maintenance, but other studies show no effect, and some even show weight gain and a higher risk for cardiovascular problems.
The Sinatra Solution
I always told my patients to stay away from sodas (regular or diet) as much as possible. An occasional drink is fine, but don’t make it a daily habit as many people do. Sodas bring absolutely nothing to the table except empty calories, added sweeteners, assorted chemicals and acids, and a drain on your energy and immune system. If you drink them, it’s a beverage-maker’s profit and your loss.
Your body really wants water more than any other liquid. So give your body what it needs. Opt for filtered water.
If you’ve developed a taste for carbonated beverages, try switching to seltzer water, and add a twist of lime or lemon, or even a splash of juice, for flavor.
- De Koning L, et al. Sweetened beverage consumption, incident coronary heart disease and biomarkers of risk in men. Circulation, 2012; 125(14):1718-1720
- Bernstein AM, et al. Soda consumption and the risk of stroke in men and women. Am J Clin Nutr, 2012;95(5):1190-1199.
- Li D, et al. Trend of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and intake of added sugar in China nine provinces among adults. Wei Sheng Yan Jiu, 2014;43(1):70-2.
- Hu FB.Resolved: there is sufficient scientific evidence that decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases. Obes Rev, 2013;14(8):606-19.
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