How soft are soft drinks
Carbonated drinks, more commonly known as soft drinks, are refreshing, especially when they are particularly chilled, feed our sweet-tooth craving, give a sugar-rush.
For most people, at some point in their lives, this beverage is a welcome treat especially during a hot afternoon or after a meal. Despite the seeming satisfaction it brings, experts have raised concerns about how it could negatively affect one’s health, starting from the teeth to the bones.
Though they are referred to as soft drinks, ironically, they hit the body hard, causing damage, especially when consumed recklessly. Experts have discovered that with regular consumption of soft drinks comes the increased risk of various diseases and conditions such as osteoporosis, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, pancreatic cancer, dental carries, erosion and decay.
Right from the first mouthful, the teeth are attacked. It is now known that soft drink consumption is one of the most common dietary factors in tooth decay. “When it comes to soft drinks and dental health, how often you drink them, how much of them you drink and how long it’s in your mouth all are important factors. Most soft drinks contain a high amount of sugar and acids that harm the teeth and gums. These acids, which are most times phosphoric and citric acids, can soften the enamel on the teeth, increasing the risk of cavities and tooth decay.
Although drinking the diet varieties, which are said to contain no sugar, may solve the problem of exposing your teeth to the damaging effects of sugar, diet drinks are still acidic. So, they are equally not safe to drink in excess,” Dr Martins Obiora, a dentist, said.
The damage heavy consumption of soft drinks could do to the teeth has been likened to damage methamphetamine or crack cocaine causes. In a study published in the May 2013 edition of the journal General Dentistry, the researchers said without good dental hygiene, constant exposure to carbonated drinks - whether regular or diet - can cause erosion and significant oral damage. Lead researcher, Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a professor of restorative dentistry at the Temple University School of Dentistry in Philadelphia, United States of America, said, “When you look at it (soda mouth) side-to-side with ‘meth mouth’ or ‘cocaine mouth,’ it is startling to see the intensity and extent of damage are more or less the same.
The real problem is that all three substances (soda, methamphetamine and crack cocaine) were highly acidic. The ingredients used to make methamphetamine are highly corrosive, and crack cocaine is highly acidic as well. Citric acid is found in both regular and diet soda. The striking similarities found in this study should be a wake-up call to consumers who think that soda - even diet soda - is not harmful to their oral health.”
The damage to teeth can be reduced by taking some preventive measures. Dr Obiora says, “we have always advised that soft drinks should be taken with straws. This would reduce contact with the teeth. Also, after taking soft drinks, it is advisable to rinse the mouth with water. Brushing should not be done till about 30 minutes to an hour after drinking to prevent further damage to the teeth. The general rule for dental health should also not be overlooked: brush twice daily, floss and visit your dentist periodically.
Besides concerns about damage to the teeth, the sugar-laden beverage is also linked to obesity and the health problems that come with it. “Soft drinks are generally high in sugar and we know that too much sugar in one’s diet can pose a problem. It increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, they have a high caloric content and if the drinker is not one that exercises enough to burn off the extra calories, what you have is weight gain. So, heavy consumption of soft drinks could actually defeat the purpose of a weight-loss programme. The key is to limit the intake. A bottle everyday is too much. It’s advisable to take fresh fruit juices if you want to drink something sweet,” Dr. Irene Bassey, a medical practitioner, says.
Heart problems, especially in men, are another risk involved in regular consumption of these beverages. A study entitled Sweetened beverage consumption, incident coronary heart disease, and biomarkers of risk in men published in the 2012 edition of the journal Circulation, showed that among 40,000 men who were followed for two decades, those who averaged one can of a sugary beverage per day had a 20 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consumed sugary drinks.
In another study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, it was discovered regularly drinking soft drinks was linked to pancreatic cancer among women who have an underlying degree of insulin resistance. In this study, women who drank more than three servings of soda a week were more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who didn’t drink at all.
Dr Bassey says, “soft drinks have been around for a long time but like every other beverage, including water, it can be harmful to the body if consumed in excess. The key is to take it in moderation because in reality, it doesn’t provide any nutritional benefit; it’s only high in calories and has little or no nutrients. It’s supposed to be an occasional drink not something you take every day.”