In spite of the dangers sugary beverages pose to our health, they are consumed much more than in the past. A generation ago a soda was usually an infrequent treat saved for special occasions. Not only has it become our default beverage, but we’re frequently offered enormous serving sizes and free refills. As recently as 2010 we consumed an average of over 50 gallons of soda per person annually (that’s more than 260 POUNDS of soda with zero nutritional value)! This trend toward higher consumption of sugary beverages of all kinds correlates with a significant increase in obesity and other health concerns.
Health Dangers of Sugary Beverages
- Sweetened, carbonated beverages are made up solely of empty calories and are the primary source of added sugars in the diets of children. The L.A. Times writes here about soda’s role in the obesity ‘epidemic’.
- Liquid sugar consumption is associated with the development of hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
- New research suggests that regular consumption of liquid sugar could turn on genetic switches that make our bodies more inclined to becoming fat.
- Fructose, found in high fructose corn syrup which is the main sweetener in non-diet soda, is preferentially metabolized to lipids in the liver. This leads to increased triglyceride levels, which are a risk factor for insulin resistance, accelerated atherosclerosis and early death.
- Research links liquid sugar to weight gain and obesity – a cause of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer.
- Studies show that from 1970 to 2000, the prevalence of obesity tripled while intake of energy from fat significantly decreased. During this time, intake of sugar-sweetened beverages increased dramatically.
- Because liquid sugar is also associated with decreased satiety, children end up consuming more food overall and further increasing their caloric intake!
Sugary Beverages Are Abundant
- A generation ago a soda was considered an occasional treat, now these sugary drinks are so common they are difficult to avoid.
- The standard serving size of these drinks has increased dramatically over the years.
- Marketing strategies have led to frequent offers of ‘Free Refills’.
- Consumption of soda tripled between 1957 and 1998 (this does not even include the non-carbonated sugary beverages or ‘fruit’ drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks that have become prevalent as well).
- Yale University endocrinologist Sonia Caprio wrote an editorial that accompanied the study, “The time has come to take action.” She urged policymakers to focus first on measures that “limit consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, especially those served at low cost and in extensive portions, to attempt to reverse the increase in childhood obesity.” Click here for a summary of the research.
For even more information, here is a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest on how How Soft Drinks Are Harming Americans’ Health.
This IS NOT an endorsement for diet soda (more about this in another post). Aspartame is the main sweetener in diet soft drinks and accounts for 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. The best thing you can drink would be water, but there are also many fruit juice-sweetened, carbonated beverages on the market (as well as herbal tea for a hot alternative).