Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Why Should I Avoid Sugary Beverages?
The link between sugary beverage consumption and obesity in children is so strong, that researchers at Pennsylvania State University say just knowing a child drinks one or more of these beverages is enough to predict future weight gain. Those same beverages - whether they are soft drinks or bottled energy, coffee, sports, or tea drinks - raise blood pressure, while the fructose in these beverages plays a role in the development of obesity and diabetes, according to a study from the University of Colorado. These are just two additions to an ocean of studies prompting some nutrition and obesity experts to call for a tax on sugary beverages. (New England Journal of Medicine 2009;September 16th) Consumption of beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, or sucrose is linked to escalating risks of obesity in a variety of studies, especially when the studies are not funded by the beverage industry. Those links are found in all age groups, genders, and ethnicities. One study that looked at middle-school students over the course of two years found the risk of becoming obese increased by 60% for every additional serving of sugary beverage consumed in a day. Women gain weight in direct proportion to how many soft drinks they consume and lose weight as they cut back. Even replacing sugary beverages with more nutritious beverages, such as milk, results in significant weight loss. Repeatedly, studies show that diabetes and heart disease risk increases with increasing intake of sugary beverages. In the Nurses’ Health Study, an ongoing study at Harvard, the risk for diabetes in women who consumed one or more servings of sugary beverages each day was nearly double the risk among women who consumed less than one serving a month (about half the excess was due to greater body weight). In the same study, heart disease risk increased by 23% for women consuming one and 35% for those consuming two soft drinks a day. While weight gain is the most obvious result of consuming these junk drinks, other mechanisms elevating disease risk also play a role. For example, sugar raises blood triglyceride levels and blood pressure, while lowering the good cholesterol - HDLs, thus raising heart disease risk. Some studies also show that sugar-sweetened beverages increase markers for insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes. Liquid calories do not register on the body’s satiation gauge, so they become calories added to rather than calories replacing other energy-containing foods, which leads to overconsumption and weight gain. Sugary beverages may alter taste preferences and food acceptance, are used to quench thirst or for social reasons other than nourishment, and replace more nutritious foods in the diet, such as vegetables, legumes, and fruits, which contributes to malnutrition in the face of overnutrition. Taxation is being proposed by a growing body of nutrition experts as a means of reducing the intake of these beverages and thus, lowering health care costs, much in the same way that legislation taxes tobacco. Revenues generated from this income could be allocated for use in health or obesity-prevention programs. Currently, 33 states have sales taxes on soft drinks (averaging about 5.2%), but the taxes are too small to affect consumption and the revenues are not earmarked for programs related to health. Experts are calling for a change, one that could have a profound influence on this nation’s outof-
control obesity epidemic.
-Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D.