"We are born to be fit, strong, and healthy." Robb Wolf

October 19, 2011

Soft Drinks

What's the word on soft drinks? You know what I'm talking about. Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, etc. The colourful cans, fancy logos, animated commercials. That's what these companies are using to encourage consumers, mainly teenagers, to purchase these calorie-dense, nutrient-lacking, body-altering products.

Have you ever thought to yourself... "I don't want to feel younger today; I wish I was 80 years old; I want to wear dentures"? If you have, grab a can of pop, sit down, and continue reading. I know I sure as hell haven't thought that way. I wish I could be 21 every day (I'm well over 30 by the way). But we all know that is not possible. By consuming soft drinks you can bet your K-Car that you will speed up the aging process in your body.

Here are a few facts about soft drinks from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

- soft drinks provide more added sugar in a 2-year old's diet than cookies, candies, and ice cream put together
- 56% of 8-year olds consume soft drinks daily
- 1/3 of teenage boys consume at least 3 cans of pop per day
- soft drinks account for more than a quarter of all drinks consumed
- more than 15 BILLION gallons were sold in 2000

The human body likes to maintain an acid-base balance of 7.35 - 7.45. Anything less than 7.35 is acidic and anything over 7.45 is alkalytic. Soft drinks have an acidity, or pH, of 2.5 - 3.4. Highly acidic. The stomach can handle acids as low as 2.0. However, in order for the soft drinks to make it to the stomach they must start in the mouth then pass down the esophagus. These two areas don't handle acidic products very well. Especially with constant exposure. When the pH fluctuates in either direction, the body has to use minerals to return things back to normal.

Some of the components of soft drinks include:

Phosphoric acid: It is what makes soft drinks acidic. Phosphorus and calcium are used in the body to build and repair bone. When a soft drink is ingested, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium are taken from the blood and used to neutralize the pH. When all of the calcium is depleted from the blood, it is released from stores in bone. The calcium continues to be released in preparation to combat the next acidic disruption. When the pH has been regulated, some of the excess calcium is excreted in the urine. The rest of it is stored in the body in kidneys, joints, and arteries. This leads to kidney stones, osteoporosis, and plaque in the arteries. Phosphoric acid also neutralizes the hydrochloric acid found in the stomach. This can interfere with digestion leading to poor assimilation of vitamins and nutrients.

Sugar: Soft drink manufacturers are the largest single user of refined sugar. The amount of sugar found in pop varies greatly. A 12-ounce can of pop averages 20 - 30g + of sugar. The Canadian Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is approximately 10g per day. Many soft drinks contain at least twice that amount. Sugar causes the pancreas to release insulin in order to maintain a balanced blood-glucose level. Insulin helps transport the sugar, in the form of glucose, to cells in the body to be used as energy. Any excess glucose is stored in the body as fat resulting in weight gain leading to hypertension, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, etc.

Aspartame: Is used in "diet" sodas as a sugar substitute. This decreases the caloric value of the soft drink. There have been many arguments for the use of aspartame and many more against its use. Aspartame has been linked to over 92 side effects (click to check out the list). However, according to several websites, these side effects have not been proven. Aspartame is known to stimulate the brain and trick it into thinking that a particular drink or food is sweet. It can be stored in the body the same way as sugar. This is where it can be worse than sugar. When aspartame reaches a temperature of 86 F (30 C) it breaks down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. The textbook human body temperature is 98 F (36.7 C). Aspartic acid is thought to increase metabolism and is periodically used in the treatment of fatigue and depression. Good. Phenylalanine is useful in the body because it is broken down to an essential amino acid, tyrosine. Good. Now the problem with aspartame. Methanol. Methanol, a type of alcohol (not the stuff you drink), gets broken down into formaldehyde and formic acid. These are known carcinogens. Bad bad bad.

Caffeine: How much caffeine is in that can of pop you're drinking? Most soft drink companies don't list the amount of caffeine per serving. They are not required to do so. However, they must indicate on the list of ingredients that caffeine is present. It is estimated that the average 12-ounce can of pop has 35 - 38mg of caffeine. "Diet" soft drinks have even more than that. I'm sure we have all felt some of the effects of caffeine (jitters, increased alertness, heart palpitations, insomnia, restlessness, headaches). It has been shown to deplete the calcium in the body. If you experience jitteriness, anxiousness, and restlessness, then your body could be in the process of being robbed of precious calcium.

Since soft drinks are acidic, they play a number on your teeth. The acid eats away at the enamel which leads to cavities. (Hmmm... Now I know why I have so many fillings in my mouth) But soft drinks are not the only things to blame for tooth decay. Sugary foods, fruit juices, candy, even raisins and dried fruit (most have sugar added) assist in the decay of teeth. Not to forget poor oral hygiene.

With all that said, how do you cut soft drinks out of your life? Answer... Stop drinking them right away. You may get the headache from caffeine withdrawal or you may become "moody" but you'll get over it. Just a small price to pay to repair your body. To help combat these effects, drink some tea and a lot of water. Your body will thank you in the long run.