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Soft Drinks: Worse Than You Thought PDF Print E-mail
Written by Barbara Ferguson Kennedy   
Thursday, 21 June 2001 16:00

Barbara Ferguson KennedySoda has been linked to...

  • Broken bones
  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity

Soda may...

  • Increase diabetes rates
  • Worsen the severity of kidney stones
  • Soda can lead to...
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Attention-deficit disorder
  • Addiction

Everyone knows soft drinks aren't good for you, but new research strongly suggests they're even worse than anyone realized. Nonetheless, American teenagers are consuming record quantities of it.

"Many teens are drowning in worthless sugar water," says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The average can of soda contains approximately 8 tablespoons of sugar.

New research adds weight to Jacobson's words. Harvard School of Public Health professor Grace Wyshak recently found that: Ninth and 10th-grade girls who sipped soda were found to be three times more likely to break bones than those who quenched their thirsts with other drinks.

Worse, her study found that physically active girls who drank colas were five times more likely to break bones as physically active girls who abstained from carbonated beverages. Wyshak believes the phosphoric acid in colas may interfere with the body's ability to use calcium.

Carbonated soft drinks contain high amounts of phosphates. These cause the body to eliminate calcium as the phosphates themselves are excreted, even if calcium must be taken from the bones to do this.

Wyshak's study is just the most re-cent giving soda a sour taste. Her latest report confirms her earlier research associating carbonated beverage consumption with bone fractures in girls and postmenopausal women. A 1999 South African study warns that cola may exacerbate kidney-stone problems. And a growing body of psychiatrists’ work over the last decade says the caffeine in soda is the most likely culprit in children’s inability to sleep, concentrate, and stay focused on a task.

Nutritionists, meanwhile, warn that sugar in soda seems certain to be swelling America's problem with obesity and the concurrent rise in diabetes. Recent research has found that half of American adults and two in five American children are overweight.

But the soda companies aren't looking for immediate profits, says Andrew Hagelshaw, executive director of the Center for Commercial Free Education. "It's all about promoting ... an addiction to caffeine and sugar and to a particular brand name."

Soda manufacturers claim they just add caffeine to soda to enhance flavor.

A new Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine taste study, however, supports the notion that caffeine is added to soda to addict drinkers.

Only 8 percent of regular cola consumers detected a flavor difference at the caffeine concentration found in popular colas, the study found.

Researchers concluded: "The high consumption rates of caffeine-containing soft drinks are more likely to reflect the mood-altering and physical dependence-producing effects of caffeine as a central nervous system-active drug than its subtle effects as a flavoring agent."

"The picture that's painted is that kids are walking around shaking because of soft drinks at school, and I think it's blown out of proportion," says Phillips.

In 1999, San Francisco's school district banned exclusive contracts for soda and junk food, but few areas have followed their example.

Teenagers in the US now drink twice as much soda as milk, a reverse of figures noted 20 years ago, according to a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Washington, DC.

According to the new report — called "Liquid Candy"— the average soda consumption among teenage males between ages 13 and 18 who drink soda is three or more cans a day, and 10% drink seven or more cans a day. Of 13- to 18-year-old girls who drink the beverages, the average intake is more than two cans a day, and 10% of those teenagers drink more than five cans a day. CSPI officials are calling for reforms to lower soda consumption, "including more water fountains, soda-free schools, and health-education campaigns funded by state taxes on soda,” according to a statement.

©Copyright 2001. All Rights Reserved. Health Science is the publication of the National Health Association. This article reprinted from the Summer 2001 issue.


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