Author: Christin Sander, Health Writer
Sugary drinks like soda, energy drinks and sports drinks are a multi-billion dollar a year industry in the U.S. and around the world. Sugar-laden soft drinks are engrained in the culture and, unfortunately, they are leading to increased health problems and even premature death. One 12 ounce can of a sugary drink per day can lead to 15 pounds of weight gain in a single year. Couple the love of sugary drinks with an overall lack of exercise and it's a recipe for disaster. There are numerous health concerns with the excess consumption of sugar.
Weight Gain & Obesity
The excess calories in sugary drinks can obviously lead to weight gain; however, studies have shown it's not just an increase in fat overall, but the fat distribution linked to soft drink consumption that is alarming. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed those who consumed 33 ounces per day of regular soda for six months had significant increases of fat in the liver and surrounding vital organs than those who drank skim milk, diet soda or water. Both groups consumed the same amount of total calories, showing a direct correlation between soda consumption and dangerous fat distribution.
Type 2 Diabetes
A 12 ounce can of soda has an average of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Liquid sugar leads to high levels of fasting glucose, a precursor to diabetes. Large amounts of sugar consumed in a short time overwork the pancreas and eventually lead to insulin resistance, another precursor for type 2 diabetes. A study in the journal Diabetes Care found people who had a daily habit of drinking just one or two sugar-sweetened drinks were 25% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drank no more than one sugary drink per month.
It's not just the sugar that leads to dental problems with soda, but also the acid content which damages tooth enamel. This erosion leads to cavities and may lead to gum and periodontal disease over time. It only takes 20 minutes for the acid in soda to start damaging tooth enamel.
Bone Loss and Osteoporosis
The phosphoric acid in soft drinks may lead to bone loss. Phosphorous is an essential bone mineral; however, when the level of phosphorus in the body is disproportionate to the level of calcium, bone loss results. Research has shown that women who regularly drink cola-based sodas have 4% lower bone mineral density at the hip. Caffeine also interferes with calcium absorption leading to lower bone density.
According to the National Institutes of Health, daily soda consumption increases the odds of increased uric acid in the blood as well as chronic kidney disease. The minerals and chemicals in soda strain the kidneys, leading to damage.
Studies have linked sugary drinks to a 20% increase of heart attack in men according to a study published in the journal Circulation. Harvard researchers analyzed 22 years worth of data and found that men who consumed as little as one sugary drink per day were more likely to suffer heart attacks. The increased risk was still there even after other risk factors were accounted for. The large amount of sugar in the drinks causes high levels of inflammation and harmful lipids in the blood that lead to heart disease.