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Soft drink and health

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Soft drink and health
Are you harming your family's health by dropping that big bottle of a soft drink into your shopping cart?
While most of us would agree that these drinks have little or no nutritional value, thinking they may actually lead to future illness has not been on the radar for most. In this column, we look at new research that examines just how much of a health hazard these sugar-sweetened beverages can be.
Tell Me About Type 2 Diabetes.
Type 2, or adult onset diabetes, is a chronic condition in which one's body cannot properly use insulin, which normally converts sugar into energy stores. Our heart and blood vessels don't like the high sugar levels and other metabolic abnormalities associated with diabetes, as it predisposes us to strokes and heart attacks -- leading to disability as well as premature death. Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest-growing diseases in Canada, with more than 60,000 new cases diagnosed annually.
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How Might Sugar Load Trigger Diabetes?
It is thought that the high sugar content of certain foods -- soft drinks, for instance -- might increase the risk of diabetes through the creation of a heavy glycemic load (GL). The GL. describes how certain foods raise blood sugar levels after eating or drinking. With a high GL., excess calories are converted to fat, which leads to weight gain and obesity.
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Similarly, soft drinks and fruit juice, which can contain as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce serving, do not satisfy hunger and do not limit the amount of food your brain tells you to consume -- the same brain that may be addicted to the caffeine and sugar rush one of these drinks provides.
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How Big A Problem Is Obesity?
Being overweight (a body mass index of 25 or more) or obese (a body mass index of 30 or more) is a significant and increasing public health challenge in most regions of the world. The past few decades have been witness to an unprecedented rise in the prevalence of obesity as a result of increased access to affordable and plentiful -- though not particularly nutritious -- food.
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Particularly disturbing is the fact that obesity is occurring at younger and younger ages, affecting our children and adolescents in epic proportions. Currently, 59 per cent of adult Canadians are either overweight or obese. What's more, obesity rates in children have almost tripled in the past 25 years. About 26 per cent of Canadian children age two to 17 are currently overweight or obese.
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How Costly Is Obesity?
The health and economic repercussions of obesity are far reaching. Excessive body weight is the sixth most important risk factor contributing to the overall global burden of disease. In Canada, the economic costs associated with obesity are staggering. In 2005, the total cost of obesity was estimated to be $4.3 billion.
From a health standpoint, affected adults may die up to three to seven years earlier than their healthy counterparts as a result of heart disease, cancer and strokes.
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Tell Me About The Research.
Malik vs. Popkin BM, Bray GA, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care 2010 Nov;33 (11):2477-83.
Scientists and non-scientists have observed that high consumption of soft drinks and other sweetened beverages is often noted in people who are either obese or who develop type 2 diabetes, or who suffer from both. Use the
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To determine if this was simply an anecdotal connection or something that could lead to a measurable increase in risk, these researchers decided to analyse all of the studies that examined the chances of contracting type 2 diabetes as a result of the regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
What Did The Research Show?
The authors found and combined eight studies that enrolled a total of more than 310,000 subjects, more than 15,000 of whom developed diabetes, thus allowing a comparison of soft-drink consumption in new diabetics and people who did not develop the disease.
The key finding was that drinking an average of a single sugar-sweetened beverage on a daily basis increased the risk of becoming diabetic by 25 per cent.
The studies that were combined by these researchers were not the kind that can prove cause and effect like an experiment in which some subjects drink high sugar sodas while others drink water and then are followed to see whether or not they develop diabetes. Instead, all that can be said with certainty is that an association exists between these dietary habits and illness.
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Despite this, the authors did observe a higher risk with greater levels of consumption, something that argues for a real connection. These studies looked at other factors known to increase the risk of developing diabetes, such as age and a lack of physical activity; and did their best to ensure that the influence from these was accounted for, thus strengthening their conclusions.
What Should We Do About Soft-Drink Consumption?
Although satisfying and even thirst-quenching, sugar-sweetened beverages don't provide much that contributes favourably to your health. Breaking the habit of soft-drink consumption will be difficult for many, but switching to water and other low-sugar drinks seems like a healthier choice.
This information is for general educational purposes only. It should not replace consultations with a medical professional.

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