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Coca-Cola: Is soda part of the health problem?

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Is it true that those who drink soda have a negative effect on their health? Is it true that reducing the intake of the aforementioned food enhances the population's health outcomes? Carbonated drinks have a well-documented negative impact on wellbeing. Coca-Cola and Pepsi cola products are believed to have negative health effects on customers. (CS Berkey, 2004) However, because of good marketing and a strong public relations department, such results are often ignored. Soft drinks have been related to inadequate nutrition and, as a result, poor adult and child health outcomes. Nevertheless, there’s an argument to be made to the contrary. The negative publicity the soft drinks get is unfair considering that most foods will impact an individual’s health outcomes negatively if consumed in large amounts. The visibility of the soda beverage industry makes it an easier target than other beverages and foods. After all, even if we reduce the consumption of soda and our intake of junk food is still high, we are still likely to have poor health.

There is a direct relationship between the consumption of soft drinks, higher blood sugar and increased body weight. In addition, intake of soft drink is known to influence lower intake of nutritional foods such as milk and calcium rich foods. Several medical problems such as diabetes can be linked to a high consumption of soft drinks or carbonated beverages

The consumption of carbonated drinks has recently become more controversial and under scrutiny from the public. Soft drinks have since become a target for public outcry owing to their association with obesity and other medical problems. For instance, the United States, Britain and France have effectively banned the sale of soft drinks in learning institution especially those of children. Other countries should follow suit and implement policies towards decreasing the consumption of soft drinks especially among kids. Research proves that it is in the interest of public health to reduce or entirely ban the consumption of these beverages. The fact is that these beverages lead to an unhealthy intake of sugar or energy. Furthermore, research also proves that soft drinks also reduce the consumption of other more nutritious foods leading to malnutrition and other medical complications including diabetes.

In their defense, soft drinks companies under the American Beverage association blames inadequate science for the links between its products and negative health outcomes. According to them, insufficient and flawed research is to blame for associating soft drinks with obesity and diabetes. After all lack of physical activity can also be blamed for the prevalence in obesity among consumers especially children. Moreover, there are many factors that can lead to obesity and therefore the link to their products is unfair and biased. Furthermore, they are quick to point out some of the benefits that can be attributed to carbonated beverages. These include the fact that soft drinks provide consumers with adequate hydration and the revenues from sales in schools are used to fund education in the said schools.

Very little attention is paid to science when it comes to discussions pertaining legalities and legislation. (Striegel 2006) Politics and philosophy take the center stage while science takes the backseat. This research paper aims to review the science behind the soft drinks and determine truly if the intake of soft drinks leads to higher calorie intake, obesity, nutritional displacement and hence increased risk of chronic complications. According to readers digest, even though Soda consumption can be very refreshing it may result in unforeseen health complications. Not only does it increase the risk of chronic diseases considerably but it also damages the teeth of consumers causing tooth carries. Soft drinks are a big hit among teenagers and kids who are more likely to engage in unchecked consumption. These minors are unaware of the health risks unchecked consumption of soda poses. To fully grasp the danger that soft drinks pose to the wellbeing of those who engage in its intake, proper health sensitization or education is necessary.

Research has shown that the average consumption of an individual is over 100g of sugar per day. The effects of consuming this amount of sugar on a regular basis is felt far beyond the waistline and the teeth. COPD, Diabetes, asthma, and heart disease are all complications that arise out of unchecked sugar intake. Based on an eleven year research by the Harvard Medical School, consuming diet cola increases the risk of kidney failure two-fold. Diabetes arises out of the body’s failure to produce adequate insulin. Consumptions of high amounts of sugar overworks the pancreas potentially resulting in type two diabetes. In addition, despite the fact that the American Beverage Association recommended soda as a source of hydration. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Majority of soda contains caffeine which is a diuretic that increases the excretion of urine. A 12 ounce helping of soda contains about forty grams of sugar, thirty milligrams of sodium and 38 milligrams of caffeine. The last two components of soda are the most damaging to the physiological state of the body. Caffeine impact blood pressure and the heart rate of the consumer. Sodium on the other hand, increases food retention. Working together, these two have a dehydrating effect. Urinating dehydrates the body. The logic behind drinking soda is usually to rehydrate, however, the caffeine increases the rate of urinating. This has the effect of reducing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients as well as the body’s ability to excrete waste. Also caffeine also inhibits magnesium absorption by the body. Magnesium is one of the most vital elements that a human body needs. (Brownell KD 2004) It is used in over three hundred enzyme reactions. Not only that, it reduces the damage wrought by pollutants such as toxins, heavy metals such as lead and environmental chemicals.

Furthermore, the caramel coloring that is used to give cola its characteristic brown color is not a result of natural process. Rather, it is as a result of a chemical reaction of sugar, sulfites and ammonia. Government conducted tests proved that the result of this chemical reaction is a compound that is carcinogenic. Unfortunately the results of the said government study have not been visible enough to the public. I would think that such knowledge would generate a lot of public interest as far as health is concerned. Soda is also high in calorie content that adds no nutritional value to the consumer. Unfortunately soda is used as a substitute refreshment for far more nutritious drinks such a milk and fruit juices. Soda is very acidic with pH levels of up to 2.5. This is a sharp contrast with water which has a pH of 7, to put this in perspective it is vital to remember that sulphuric acid has a pH of 1. The acid present in soda eats away at the dental enamel causing dental problems.

Soda is rich in high sugar amounts as well as artificial sweeteners. The amount of sugar in twenty ounces of the beverage is equivalent to consuming over fifteen teaspoons of sugar. This definitely has adverse effects on the health of those who partake regularly. The artificial sweeteners found in soda are associated with many ailments including but limited to cancer. Even though artificial sugars are known to reduce the calorie intake, the negative effects as a result of such tradeoff are numerous. (Berkey CS 2004) In addition, soda also contains phosphoric acid which is responsible for the removal of calcium from the body. Calcium is necessary for teeth and bone formation in the human body. A high bone mineral density is vital for physical fitness and general wellbeing of an individual. Furthermore, soda consumption causes a change in metabolic activity.

Daily consumption of soda can change an individual’s metabolic reaction making it harder to lose weight and burn fat. This is despite the misconception that diet soda is an effective way o checking your body weight. Rather, the opposite is true. The more the number of diet sodas an individual consumes in a day, the more they risk becoming overweight. Not only that, research shows that consuming more than a can of soda everyday contributes to your risk of succumbing to metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Also contained in soda are either of two mold inhibitors; potassium and sodium benzoate. These two compounds are used as preservatives in all diet sodas and have the capacity to severely damage mitochondrial DNA. Sodium benzoate has been phased out in favor of potassium benzoate by the two largest soft drink companies. Pepsi and Coca cola. (Striegel 2006) The Food Commission in the United Kingdom has classified both of these preservatives as mild irritants. Not only do they irritate the skin but also the eyes and the mucosa membranes in the body. Furthermore reaction of benzoates and vitamin C to heat and light conditions results in the formation of benzene, a known carcinogen. So soft drinks that contain both potassium benzoate and ascorbic acid become a health hazard when exposed to sunlight and heat.

In defense of soft drinks, even too much of a good thing is a bad thing. There is an argument to be made that excessive sugar, artificial sweeteners and excessive calories are also found in a variety of other foods and drinks. It therefore it seems a bit bias to ‘pick on’ soda as the source of the complications that arise out of consuming too much sugar or too many calories. Obesity is a product of a lot of factors, nutritional, social, economic, as well as physical. Despite the fact that there is a distinct association between the consumption of soda and negative health outcomes, it can be reasoned that the presence of other mitigating factors makes it problematic to determine the root cause. The science behind the ‘demonization’ of soda consumption is largely inconclusive and hold many factors constant. (Vartanian 2007) These factors such as demographics (age, gender), social as well as economic tend to have a huge effect on the health outcomes of individuals.

Furthermore, it’s a thin line between good and bad food; in fact it can be argued that there is no such thing as bad ‘food.’ Health complications arise as a result of over indulgence in food. In the same way consuming too many cakes is considered unhealthy, consuming too much soda has health consequences. The amount of soda or food an individual consumes is a personal choice. So rather than focusing energy labeling soda as bad, the same amount of energy should be redirected towards educating the general public on healthy consumption habits. For over hundred years, soda has been a staple in a majority of American households. In fact in an advertisement dated 1960 Coca cola even touted diet coke as a diet beverage with the line ‘There is no waistline worry with coke, you know.’ In addition, as recently as 2013 the company claimed that its diet and low sugar offerings were part of the obesity solution as opposed to problem. This can be seen as the company’s attempt to defend its dominance in the face of increased taxation, school bans and other regulations. Soda companies are known to offer a wide array of differentiated products and as such the ultimate choice on what to consume lies with an individual. It is unfair to attribute the rising obesity problem only to the consumption of soda while overlooking the role played by declining physical activity.

Soda is just as bad or good as any of the other foods we like to indulge in. Its over-commercialization and heavy marketing however make it an easier target. After all, wine packs just as many calories or more in a smaller container. As a result, it beats common sense how wine gets all the glory while soda is gets a time out yet it is the more family friendly option. Soda forms part of the American consumerism culture, it is a drink that is inseparable from American history and popular culture. In the same way France is famous for its wine or Britain for its tea or Germany for its beer; America is famous for its soda brands such as Coca cola and Pepsi cola. Soda is however targeted more for bans and taxes because of its visibility as a mass market beverage.

In conclusion, the health outcomes of an individual comes down to choice. Choice is however influenced psychologically through the marketing efforts of Soda Company. Regardless, consumption of any kind of food in unhealthy amounts is bound to result in poor or negative health outcomes for the consumers. Therefore, banning and taxing soda serves no purpose owing to the fact that there are readily available substitutes in the market. There is no doubt that the over consumption of soda is a mitigating factor for poor health outcomes. (Vartanian 2007) However, too much of everything is bad. The best solution for reducing the health outcomes of those who consume soda would be education of how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Consumers need to be aware that drinking too much soda will negatively affect their health outcomes. Prudent consumption of soda, healthy eating habits and regular exercise is the way to beat obesity, heart disease and other diseases that are associated with negative health outcomes among consumers of soda.

References

Jacobson MF. Liquid candy: how soft drinks are harming Americans’ health. Available at: http://www.cspinet.net/new/pdf/liquid_candy_final_w_new_supplement. Pdf. Accessed October 7, 2017.

Striegel-Moore RH, Thompson D, Affenito SG, et al. Correlates of beverage intake in adolescent girls: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study. J Pediatr. 2006; 148:183–187.

Brownell KD, Horgen KB. Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America’s Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do about It. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Contemporary Books; 2004.

Berkey CS, Rockett HR, Field AE, Gillman MW, Colditz GA. Sugar-added beverages and adolescent weight change. Obes Res. 2004; 12:778–788.

Vartanian, Lenny R. Schwartz, Marlene B. Brownell, Kelly D. Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 2007

November 11, 2021
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