Professor's House

A Pop-Addicted Nation

America’s Love Affair with Soda

America loves its soft drinks. Studies show that, while Boomers and older adults tend to drink coffee in the morning, many of today’s 18 to 25-year-olds drink soda for breakfast. While some drink diet, most prefer the fully-sugared variety. In the past 15 years, the trend of drinking soda with breakfast nearly doubled, while coffee consumption is down by a quarter. It looks like Mom’s no-pop-for-breakfast rule has backfired. And it only gets worse as the day progresses’surveys show that Americans today drink twice as much pop throughout the day as they did in the 70’s. In 1997, American consumers spent a whopping $54 billion on soda. On average, Americans drink about 54 gallons of the stuff every year.

This isn’t good news for America’s health. Soft drinks contain about 150 calories in an average can and that’s much less than you’ll find in a bottle or in a ‘big-gulp’ cup at the movie theatre. It also contains other ingredients that can wreck a person’s health, especially when consumed regularly. If you drink even one soda a day, you could be a candidate for the following diseases and health problems:

Weight gain. Many soda drinkers doubt that their Mountain Dew habit is the cause of their weight troubles but it’s backed up by fact. Twelve ounces of soda that’s the amount in a single can serving, gives you 150 calories. If you drink a can a day, you could be taking in 4,500 extra calories in a month. For many people living an average lifestyle, this could translate into a weight gain of approximately one pound per month. It’s easy to see how your soda consumption can undermine a good workout and healthy-eating routine.

There’s always been anecdotal evidence that frequent soda consumption was linked to expanding waistlines, but in 2001 the Harvard School of Public Health presented a study that contained hard evidence that regular soda-drinking was one of the nation’s top causes of obesity. The study followed 548 teenagers for 19 months, and found that those who regularly drank soda were much more likely to be obese than those who weren’t. In fact, according to the study, your chances of becoming obese increase 60% with each can of soda you drink per day.

Diabetes. Type-2 diabetes goes along with weight gain and the more soda you drink, the harder it is for your body to produce insulin. Soda contains high-fructose corn syrup and lots of sugar that gets delivered to your blood quickly when you drink a soda. When it enters the bloodstream, the pancreas has to secrete large amounts of insulin to break it down. Evidence suggests that if you drink soda regularly, the high demands on the pancreas over time will lessen its ability to keep up with the body’s normal insulin requirements. You essentially wear your pancreas out.

Cavities. Your mother probably always told you that soda would rot your teeth. She was right. Many health professionals compare drinking soda to bathing your teeth in corrosive acid, it dissolves enamels, and has an acidity level of around 7, that’s seven times more acidic than battery acid. The worst part is that as you take a drink of soda, the acidity of the liquid actually acidifies your saliva. After gulping one can, your saliva’s acidity goes back to normal after about 20 minutes. But if you drink soda often throughout the day, your saliva never gets the chance to go back to normal, leaving your teeth sitting in corrosive saliva all day, even when you’re not drinking soda. Studies show that regular soda drinkers have around 62% more tooth problems, including decay, fillings and cavities, than occasional drinkers.

Osteoporosis. This is a recent finding, scientists have linked lower bone densities to regular soda-drinking habits. Scientists aren’t sure whether the cause is that more kids are drinking soda instead of milk lately, or whether the acidic properties of soda leach calcium from bones. However, two things are pretty clear: darker sodas like Coke and Dr. Pepper are worse than fruit-flavored soft drinks like Sprite, and that teenage girls who drink soda regularly are five times as likely to experience bone breaks or fractures than girls who don’t.

Many people who are concerned about the health effects of soda turn to diet. Although diet soda has significantly less sugar, it still corrodes your teeth and can cause bone-density problems. If you are concerned about a soda-drinking habit and want to know what drinks are safe, the data is clear, stay away from diet soft drinks and any fruit-juice drink that’s less than 10% fruit. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade aren’t much better for you than soft drinks are, despite the advertising. The best way to quench your thirst is by drinking low-fat milk or water.

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