Sugary Beverages and Your Health

***UPDATED: October 13, 2015*** A new literature review recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology confirms a significant link between the consumption of sugary beverages and a number of health conditions. Scientists were able to conclude that by drinking one or two servings a day of such drinks can raise the risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 26%, coronary heart disease by 35%, and stroke by 16%, according to a recent Medscape article. Weight gain, gout and kidney disease were also linked to sugary beverages. Sugar-sweetened drinks account for the largest source of added sugar in the diet, at about 50%. 100% fruit juices can be substituted for artificially sweetened beverages, although water is optimal, and unsweetened coffee or tea is also acceptable. If consuming fruit juices, doctors recommend limiting them to 4 to 6 oz a day.

Consuming too much sugar can be very dangerous for your oral and overall health, yet millions of Americans drink soda and other super sweet beverages often. Regular consumption of the fizzy stuff has been linked with several health problems, including weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and poor dental health, all of which can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and even premature death. In an effort to further understand the negative side effects of drinking too much soda, doctors from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City teamed up with University Hospitals Case Medical Centers in Cleveland, Ohio to study how the body responds to sweetened beverages. According to a recent article from Fox News, the following risks are associated with drinking soda on a regular basis.

Weight Gain

A 2011 study out of Yale University found that the average American consumes 45 gallons of sugary beverages a year, contributing to the obesity epidemic that is sweeping the nation. Dr. Christopher Ochner at Mount Sinai claims that “If everything else in their diet is equal, a person who has a can of Coke a day adds an extra 14.5 pounds per year, just from the calories alone.” While it is commonly believed that a calorie is a calorie and that drinking a can or two a day doesn’t do much harm, studies have found that calories from sugar are more easily turned into fat in your body than calories from fat. Additionally, people who consume lots of sugar in one sitting often experience what is referred to as a “sugar rush.” The body responds to the spike in sugar with a spike in insulin, which is then followed by a glucose crash. Unfortunately, most people compensate for the crash with more sugar, perpetuating the vicious cycle.

Heart Health

Weight gain is certainly linked to adverse heart conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, but some experts agree that drinking soda independently increases a person’s risk for an unhealthy heart as well. The three main ingredients in soda are sugar, sodium, and caffeine, with the last two doing the most damage to the heart. Caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure while too much sodium can increase food retention. Additionally, the combination of caffeine and sodium has a dehydrating effect. Studies have also shown that drinking too much soda can lead to metabolic syndrome, with symptoms like abdominal girth, elevated blood pressure, raised glucose, elevated triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. These symptoms can accelerate the risk factors for atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries, obviously associated with heart disease.

Diet Soda Solution?

Many soda lovers believe that they are negating the ill effects of soda by drinking zero calorie beverages. However, more and more research is suggesting that diet soda is linked to equally damaging health conditions. A recent study from Purdue University claims that the artificial sweetener used in diet soda tricks the body into reacting differently when it tastes something sweet, ultimately disrupting metabolism.

Soda consumption is also closely tied to poor oral health, with the sugars contributing to the development of tooth decay. With all of the negative health effects, experts recommend replacing soft drinks with water, but people don’t need to cut soda out completely. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 450 calories per week from sugar sweetened beverages, based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories. Like so many other vices in life, everything in moderation is the key to splurging. An occasional soda isn’t going to affect you.

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