Soft Drinks are Hard on Your Health
If you need one more reason to cut down on your consumption of sugary soft drinks, the results of a new study may help. Researchers at the University of Minnesota recently reported their findings that individuals who drank two or more carbonated, sugar-sweetened sodas each week had nearly double the risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those who did not consume sodas at all.
The study was published in the February issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The scientists followed more than 60,000 men and women enrolled in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years. Analysis of the data revealed that subjects who consumed two or more soft drinks per week had an 87 percent increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those who didn’t drink sodas.
Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, but it is a particularly deadly disease. Only about 5 percent of people with the condition survive more than five years after being diagnosed.
Although the researchers aren’t entirely sure how soda consumption might contribute to pancreatic cancer, they speculate that the beverages’ high sugar content may increase insulin levels in the body. Higher insulin levels are believed to spur the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.
Over the past two decades, the nation’s growing soda consumption has been soundly linked to the rise diabetes, obesity and thinning bones in U.S. children and adults. Drinking too many soft drinks can also have a number of less well-known effects on health.
Two years ago, the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal confirmed that the high sugar content in sodas is associated with an increased risk of gout in men. Gout is a painful condition caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals around the joints.
In the 12-year study of more than 46,000 men, the researchers found that those who consumed two or more servings of sugar-sweetened sodas daily had an 85 percent greater risk of developing gout compared to men who consumed less than a single serving a month.
The prevalence of gout in the U.S. has doubled over the last few decades. The upward trend coincides with the substantial increase in consumption of soft drinks, particularly those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
In the past, doctors regularly advised gout sufferers to limit their consumption of meat and alcohol to prevent flare-ups. These days, physicians are just as likely to invite their gout patients to avoid drinking sugar-sweetened sodas.
If you’re watching your weight, you may have switched from sugar-sweetened soft drinks to diet sodas. Since diet drinks are sugar-free, this would seem like an excellent strategy to shed a few pounds.
As it turns out, you may temporarily avoid some unwanted calories, but not necessarily the weight gain. University of Texas researchers found that the more diet sodas a person drinks, the greater the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
The research team followed more than 600 normal-weight adults for seven years. They found that for every can or bottle of diet soda that a normal-weight person drank each day, there was a 65 percent increase in the risk of becoming overweight and a 41 percent increase in the risk of becoming obese.
The reasons for the weight gain weren’t entirely clear, but the scientists speculated that some people tend to feel they’ve earned the right to eat more when they drink diet sodas. Some experts believe that the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks may actually trigger hunger, leading to increased food consumption and weight gain.
There’s another reason to limit consumption of soft drinks, whether they’re flavored with artificial sweeteners or calorie-containing sugars. It’s not just the sweeteners in sodas that can cause problems, it’s the acid.
Excessive intake can lead to a type of irreversible tooth damage known as dental erosion, marked by the breakdown of the enamel and other hard tissues of the teeth. The corrosive effects of acids in soft drinks can leave teeth thinner, more sensitive to pain and more susceptible to damage by cavity-causing bacteria.
Drinking soft drinks every now and then can be a nice treat, but it’s probably not a good idea to overdo it. When it comes to satisfying thirst and supporting good health, plain old water is hard to beat.