Warnings about the dangers of soft drink consumption came to us in 1942 when the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Council on Food and Nutrition made the following noble statement:
“From the health point of view it is desirable especially to have restriction of such use of sugar as is represented by consumption of sweetened carbonated beverages and forms of candy which are of low nutritional value. The Council believes it would be in the interest of the public health for all practical means to be taken to limit consumption of sugar in any form in which it fails to be combined with substantial proportions of other foods of high nutritive quality.”
Colossal increases in soft drink consumption have not happened by chance, they are due to intense marketing efforts by soft drink corporations. To soft drink marketing the adult market is stagnant so kids are the target. Soft drink companies spend billions on advertising. Much of these marketing efforts are aimed at children through playgrounds, toys, cartoons, movies, videos, charities and amusement parks; and through contests, sweepstakes, games and clubs via television, radio, magazines and the internet. Their efforts have paid off.
In 1998 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) warned the public that soft drink companies were beginning to infiltrate our schools and kid clubs. While our children are exposed to unrelieved publicity for soft drinks, evidence of their dangers accumulates. The consumption of soft drinks is riddled with hazards. We as practitioners and advocates of a healthy life-style recognize that consuming even as little as one or two sodas per day is undeniably connected to a myriad of pathologies.
The most commonly associated health risks are obesity, diabetes and other blood sugar disorders, tooth decay, osteoporosis and bone fractures, nutritional deficiencies, heart disease, food addictions and eating disorders, neurotransmitter dysfunction from chemical sweeteners, and neurological and adrenal disorders from excessive caffeine.
One common problem I have seen over the years, especially in teenagers, is general gastrointestinal (GI) distress. This includes increased stomach acid levels requiring acid inhibitors and moderate to severe gastric inflammation with possible stomach lining erosion. The common complaint I hear is chronic “stomach ache.” In almost every case, when the client successfully abstains from sodas and caffeine, the symptoms will go away. Another problem with sodas is that they act as dehydrating diuretics, much like tea, coffee and alcohol. All of these drinks can inhibit proper digestive function. It is much healthier to consume herbal teas, nutritional soups and broths, naturally beverages and water to supply our daily fluid needs. These fluids support, not inhibit, digestion.
• Aspartame, used in diet sodas, is a potent neurotoxin and endocrine disrupter.
• Caffeine stimulates the adrenal gland without providing nourishment. In large amounts, caffeine can lead to adrenal exhaustion, especially in children.
• Phosphoric acid, added to give soft drinks “bite,” is associated with calcium loss.
• Citric acid often contains traces of MSG, a neurotoxin.
• Artificial Flavors may also contain traces of MSG.
• Water may contain high amounts of fluoride and other contaminants.
Soft Drinks and Violence
According to an article published in The Lancet, December 2000, the Irish government ordered “urgent research” into the effects of so-called “functional energy” or stimulant soft drinks after the death of an 18-year-old who died while playing basketball. He had consumed three cans of “Red Bull,” a stimulant soft drink. The article noted there have been reports of a rise in aggressive late-night violence occurring when people switch to these drinks while drowsy from too much alcohol. The resulting violence was so pervasive that some establishments in Ireland have refused to sell stimulant drinks.
Students are now being given “electrolyte” drinks called “ergogenic aids” to replace electrolytes that are allegedly depleted during workouts. There are three problems with using these drinks as a rehydration solution. First, most soft drinks are diuretics, meaning they squeeze liquids out of the body, thus exacerbating dehydration instead of correcting it. Second, most people actually lose few electrolytes during exercise. After exercise the body is usually in an electrolyte load having lost more fluids than electrolytes.
Consumers often drink commercial fruit juices in the belief that they are healthier than soft drinks. However, the manufacture of fruit juices is a highly industrialized process. Fruit juices are very high in sugar and have actually been more detrimental to the teeth of test animals than sodas!
If you want to drink fruit juice, buy a juicer and make your own with organic fruit. It’s best to dilute a small amount of fruit juice with water. Makes a delicious and refreshing drink. In restaurants, order mineral water and some pieces of fresh lemon or lime.