Sugary beverages – sodas, lemonades, fruit punch, sports and energy drinks – are all a ubiquitous part of the American culture and yet, how many of us realize just how damaging to our health they really are? These empty calorie drinks are literally just that – very little to no nutritional value other than the calories offered in the form of sugar they are laden with.
Each sugar-sweetened beverage you guzzle down is gambling with your health. You may not see or feel the effects in the here and now, but keep doing it and eventually it’ll catch up with you. Researchers at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy tallied that 184,000 deaths worldwide every year was attributed to consumption of sugary drinks resulting in heart disease, diabetes, and obesity-related cancers. Anyone, no matter what their weight is, will be prone to the internal damage sugary beverages can do.
Some people may ask “why pick just on sugary beverages? There are other foods like candy with a lot of sugar in them”
Good question. The answer has to do with the sheer volume of sugary beverages we consume. In other words, we may occasionally eat a candy bar but when it comes to sipping on sodas, the amount is much higher. A 2010 study by the National Cancer Institute found that the single largest source of calories for children ages 14 to 18 was liquid calories from soda, sports and energy drinks. Having a sugary beverage multiple times a day is a standard routine for many people. I once knew a doctor who worked with a client who told him she drank no less than a 2 liter of soda (not diet) a day – she weighed over 350 pounds.
So, other than causing the potential increase in weight, what else can that sugar-charged can of soda do as it rushes into our bloodstream? Let’s take a look:
· Drinking a sugary beverage is easy for the body to digest. The main ingredients are water and sugar. Water is rapidly absorbed and sugar is simple to break down. The sudden surge of sugar into the bloodstream causes a spike in blood sugar levels that can lead to inflammation in the body. If you’re a diabetic this can spell disaster in being able to gain control of their blood glucose levels.
· Drinking calories is different from eating calories. Calories from liquids don’t seem to satisfy hunger the way solid foods do making it much easier to overindulge. Consuming those extra calories is more than what our bodies need resulting in added weight gain.
· A daily habit of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages may increase the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, particularly in overweight and obese individuals. A 2015 study found people who drank more than one sugary drink each day had a 56% greater likelihood of developing the disease compared to those who didn’t drink any.
· Regularly drinking sugary drinks may affect where your fat is distributed on your body. A 2016 study in the journal Circulation found people who drank at least one sweet drink a day had a 10% increase in packing visceral fat, the type that is found around organs deep within the abdominal area. Visceral fat is more metabolically active making it more harmful by increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease than our subcutaneous fat found just beneath the skin.
· Adults who consume one sugary drink each day are twice as likely to have higher biomarkers of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin resistance, blood pressure and other risks of developing heart disease.
· A child’s risk of becoming obese increases by 60% with each additional sugary beverage consumed daily.
· Drinking just one 20-ounce bottle of a sugary beverage per day can result in gaining 25 extra pounds per year.
Your choice – you decide
Ultimately, it’s everyone’s decision on what food and beverage choices they make. A very occasional sugary drink is not the end of good health. But when it becomes a routine part of your daily life, it becomes a potential problem for the slippery slope of engaging in lifestyle behaviors that are not promoting the best outcome for your health. Know the facts on sugary beverages, how they affect your health and may your decision lean towards health promoting and not health hurting.