Taking a Hard Look at Soft Drinks
While we may never come to a consensus on whether to call it soda or pop, physicians can agree that heavy consumption of sugary carbonated beverages can lead to severe health complications.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, practice a whole-person approach to care that takes lifestyle and environmental factors into consideration when assessing a patient’s health.
“Excessive soft drink consumption, especially among children, is a serious problem in our nation,” says Rob Danoff, DO, an osteopathic family physician in Philadelphia, adding that prolonged consumption can lead to increased risk for conditions like osteoporosis and diabetes.
“Eliminating sugary beverages from your diet is almost always the first step toward improved health.”
3 Health Consequences of Prolonged Soft Drink Consumption
- Lowered bone mass density and bone fractures in children
“There is a correlation between children’s bone fracture risk and soft drink consumption,” says Dr. Danoff. “Decreased intake of milk and excessive consumption of sugary carbonated beverages can lower bone marrow density and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life, especially in women.”
- Weight gain and correlating diseases
Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda and fruit drinks, was found to interact with genes that could accelerate the risk of weight gain, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. “Sugar increases insulin levels, which can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, premature aging and many more negative side effects,” Dr. Danoff says.
- Erosion of teeth enamel and stomach lining
“The phosphoric acid in carbonated soda can interfere with calcium absorption and weaken teeth,” says Dr. Danoff. The acid strips teeth of enamel, leaving them brittle and sensitive to pain. Once enamel breaks down, bacteria can invade and cause decay. Acids in soda are also known to exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disease and ulcers.”Phosphoric acid from these drinks is in fact an anti-nutrient, as it neutralizes the hydrochloric acid in your stomach and destroys the capacity of the body to absorb essential elements like iron, calcium and magnesium. Damaged stomach function can result in indigestion, bloating and worsening of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and several other stomach problems,” says Dr. Danoff.
Beating Your Soft Drink Addiction
“Eliminating sugary carbonated beverages from your diet is almost always the first step towards improved health,” advises Dr. Danoff.
Dr. Danoff suggests the following tips to reduce your soft drink intake:
- Fill a large bottle or container with water and carry it with you so you have a healthy beverage at hand.
- Flavor your water with lemon, cucumber slices, or pieces of ginger or mint.
- Track your water and soda consumption every day until you have successfully removed soda from your diet. Set a goal for how many glasses of water you want to drink a day and choose a reward for meeting that goal.