Are soft drinks safe to drink?

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For years, I have been hearing that soft drinks are harmful for us. At the same time, soft drinks such as coca cola have been the international drink for decades. During all these years, neither FDA nor any other government body (to the best of my knowledge and research) pulled these products off the shelf. Soft drink companies have been aggressively targeting children since several years and no government seems to object to this either.

At the same time, the nutritionists and doctors have been increasingly voicing concerns over excessive consumption of soft drinks, especially by children. Nutritionists warn of increased risks of digestive disorders, obesity, diabetes and even heart disease. If this is true, then why aren’t the governments around the world doing anything about it? If it isn’t true, then why are nutritionists and doctors increasingly concerned?

Health Risks
Following are the most common health risks associated with soft drinks:

blood sugar disorders and diabetes
heart disease
obesity
tooth decay
osteoporosis and bone fractures
nutritional deficiencies
eating disorders
neurotransmitter dysfunction (from chemical sweeteners)
neurological and adrenal disorders (from excessive caffeine)
Culpable Ingredients

Soft drinks and many other junk foods have several ingredients in common. Nutritionists blame high concentrations or presence of these ingredients for many of the above-mentioned health risks.
Artificial sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup and aspartame
Caffeine stimulates the adrenal gland without providing nourishment. In large amounts, caffeine can lead to adrenal exhaustion, especially in children.

Phosphoric acid, added to give soft drinks "bite," is associated with calcium loss.
Citric acid often contains traces of MSG, a neurotoxin.
Artificial Flavors may also contain traces of MSG.

Water may contain high amounts of fluoride and other contaminants.
An array of chemical acids and additives, such as acetic, fumaric, gluconic and phosphoric acids, cause gastrointestinal distress.
Sodas act as dehydrating diuretics, much like tea, coffee and alcohol. All of these drinks can inhibit proper digestive function.
Soft drinks have also been linked to osteoporosis and bone fractures

Different types of soft drinks

Soft drinks come in many different flavors. Each promises exciting new benefits but no advertisement would talk about the negative effects of these substances.
Traditional soft drinks such as coke, pepsi, sprite, etc.
Sports drinks
Processed fruit juices
The newcomers

Sports drink promise instant refreshment and rehydration. The best drink for rehydration and quenching thirst is water. Sports drinks such as red bull give a sense of refreshment since they contain high quantities of sweeteners and stimulants such as caffeine. If you are doing sports and need instant refreshment, drink water or freshly squeezed fruit juice.

Processed fruit juices are made from highly industrialized processes. Some suggest that these juices contain pesticides. I am, however, concerned about excessive artificial sweeteners and additives to make the drink last for months. If you read carefully, you would see that the bottle says from “from concentrate”. In other words, you aren’t drinking fruit juice but a product which retains flavor of the juices.

The beverage industry keeps on introducing newer and better tasting beverages. Over the years people have become more health conscious, not necessarily more health aware. Therefore the newer beverages have names that sound catchy and healthy. These beverages are often labeled with labels such as low fat, low sugar, and high in vitamins and nutrients. Many of these drinks do contain essential and useful nutrients but one must watch out for sugar content, type of sweetener, and other additives.

All the artificial ingredients and their products which we find on the market are approved by the FDA or some other government agency. They have all been in mass production and mass consumption for years. Excessive consumption of these products seems to increase risks of many diseases. However, most of these problems can be explained logically or could not be specifically linked to soft drinks. Drinking a liter of coke everyday increases risk of acquiring diabetes. That is about 100g of sugar. If you don’t drink coke and eat this much sugar everyday, you will still be at a risk of acquiring diabetes. It has not yet been scientifically proven that soft drinks cause obesity. Statistical data suggests that it causes obesity but the victims of obesity consume a lot more than just soft drinks.

It is evident that soft drinks cannot be classified as healthy food. Most people consider it to be junk food, meaning food that is neither healthy nor harmful. There is no smoking gun against soft drinks and a smoking gun would be needed to bring down an industry that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars and employs millions of people worldwide. However, statistical data and various researches have shown that continuous and excessive consumption of these beverages is very unhealthy.

All this time, the beverage industry is listening to the consumers and reinventing itself. While, the nutritionists have a long hard battle ahead of them, you can make a difference by simply being a wise consumer.

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