Sugar sweetened beverages and Health

Sugary drinks also categorized as sugar-sweetened beverages or “soft” drinks refer to any beverage with added sugar or other sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fruit juice concentrates, and more). This includes soda, cola, tonic, fruit punch, lemonade, sweetened powdered drinks such as eve, as well as sports and energy drinks.

Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) or sugary drinks are leading sources of added sugars in our diet. Frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain/obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and cavities.

When it comes to ranking beverages best for our health, sugary drinks fall at the bottom of the list because they provide so many calories and virtually no other nutrients. People who drink sugary beverages do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food, and research indicates they also don’t compensate for the high caloric content of these beverages by eating less food. The average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch provides about 150 calories, almost all of them from added sugar. If you were to drink just one of these sugary drinks every day, and not cut back on calories elsewhere, you could gain up to 5 pounds in a year.

SSB in relation to Obesity

SSBs are a well known contributor to an unhealthy diet that can contribute to obesity due to high sugar consumption and low satiety.

The more ounces of sugary beverages a person has each day, the more calories he or she takes in later in the day. This is the opposite of what happens with solid food, as people tend to compensate for a large meal by taking in fewer calories at a later meal. This compensatory effect doesn’t seem to be present after consuming soft drinks, for several possible reasons:

  • Fluids don’t provide the same feeling of fullness or satisfaction as solid foods, as the body doesn’t “register” liquid calories as it does calories from solid food. This may prompt a person to keep eating even after intake of a high-calorie drink like sugar sweetened beverages.
  • It is possible that sweet-tasting soft drinks regardless of whether they are sweetened with sugar or a calorie-free sugar substitute might stimulate the appetite for other sweet, high-carbohydrate foods.

Dozens of studies have explored possible links between soft drinks and weight, and they consistently show that increased consumption of soft drinks is associated with increased energy (caloric) intake.

Alternatively, drinking water in place of sugary drinks is associated with lower long-term weight gain.

SSB in relation to Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is one of the fastest growing public health concerns around the world. Sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption has been proven to be associated with adverse health consequences in the diabetic population. Strong evidence indicates that sugar-sweetened soft drinks contribute to the development of diabetes.

Drinking sugar sweetened beverages can raise levels of sugar in the blood. This is because the body digests the sugars from soda quickly. This contributes to insulin resistance and causes rapid spikes in blood sugar.

SSB in relation to Bone health

Soda may pose a unique challenge to healthy bones because soda contains high levels of phosphate.

Consuming more phosphate than calcium can have a deleterious effect on bone health. Soft drinks are generally devoid of calcium and other healthful nutrients, yet they are actively marketed to young age groups. Getting enough calcium is extremely important during childhood and adolescence, when bones are being built.

Milk is a good source of calcium and protein, and also provides vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and other micronutrients.

There is an inverse pattern between soft drink consumption and milk consumption — when one goes up, the other goes down.

When it comes to our health, it’s clear that sugary drinks should be avoided. There is a range of healthier beverages that can be consumed in their place, with water being the top option.

Of course, if you’re a frequent soda drinker, this is easier said than done. If the taste is too bland, try a naturally flavored water by adding a splash of juice, sliced citrus, or even some fresh herbs. You can do this with home-brewed tea as well, like this sparkling iced tea with lemon, cucumber, and mint.

Other options to SSB are natural fruit juices. But some beverages should be limited or consumed in moderation, including fruit juice, milk, and those made with low-calorie sweeteners, like diet drinks.

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