The Threat of Sugary Drinks
“A Spoonful of Sugar” is a song in Walt Disney’s movie Mary Poppins, sung by Julie Andrews in 1964 but still a popular film for children of all ages. Half a century ago, it was believed sugarcoating a pill was okay. How about today? How about seven spoons full of sugar?
That’s what the child consumes if the pill is taken with one of the world’s most popular cola drinks. Same for adults, too, of course—pill or no pill. One 350ml can contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar. Similarly there were close to six spoons of sugar in the world’s most popular energy drink. (Brand names withheld to protect the guilty.)
BIMC is not breaking ground with this information, but as sugary drink consumption continues to climb worldwide, we feel compelled to remind our patients and friends of the high risks involved when you include sugary drinks in your diet.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, men who average one can of a sugary beverage a day have a 20% higher risk of heart attack…women who drink the same single can experience a 75% higher risk of gout…and one or two a day for anyone increases risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26%. Researchers also calculate each additional soda consumed increases the risk of obesity 1.6 times.
There’s more. Other laboratories and medical journals say two carbonated drinks every week appears to be enough to double the risk of pancreatic cancer. Even those with high levels of fruit juice may cause severe long-term liver damage. Finally, add to the list of risks increased tooth decay.
Around the world, more than one hundred medical and consumer organizations are asking governments to, please, investigate the health effects of soda and other sugary drinks. Just as they eventually did for tobacco.
Good Sugar vs. Bad Sugar
All sugar, whether natural or processed, is a type of simple carbohydrate that your body uses for energy. Fruits, vegetables, dairy foods and whole grains all naturally contain sugar. They also contain vitamins, minerals, protein, starch and fibre, slowing digestion. This allows sugar to enter the bloodstream in a healthy way. Natural food in whole food is “good sugar.”
“Added sugar” refers to sugars and syrups added to foods during processing. These are called “simple sugars”—often identified as sucrose, fructose and lactose—and they enter the bloodstream like a thunderbolt.
“Within 45 minutes of gulping down a single 650 ml glass of soda, caffeine from the drink is fully absorbed, and as a result your pupils dilate and blood pressure rises. The body produces more dopamine, which stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain — just like a low-grade line of cocaine.
“When the hour chimes, the body begins to experience a blood sugar crash, which is around the same time a person reaches for their second soda, or for another sweet and sugar snack to suffice.”
Desserts, sodas, and energy and sports drinks are the top sources of added sugar for most of us. Foods with a lot of added sugar contribute extra calories to your diet but provide little nutritional value. These are the “bad sugars.”
In the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that no more than about 5 to 15 percent of your total daily calories come from added sugar and solid fats.
The American Heart Association has even more-specific guidelines for added sugar — no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar for most women and no more than 150 calories a day for most men. That’s about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 for men.