Soft, fizzy or carbonated drinks, whatever their name, as a community we know they aren’t the healthiest choices for our children - but do you know why?
One of the most common health issues surrounding soft drinks is the damage they can do to children’s teeth over time, leading to cavities. We also know that too much sugary soft drink can lead to weight gain and contribute to unhealthy patterns of eating later in life. In most cases this is due to the large amounts of sugars contained in these drinks, but what about sugar-free or diet soft drinks? Are these better for our health or should we be avoiding these too?
When we eat sugar, whether it be from natural sugars found in carbohydrates or added sugars, our bodies break it down into glucose and fructose. Glucose is responsible for raising blood sugar levels. Fructose, on the other hand, behaves differently in the body and excess amounts have been linked to fatty liver, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fructose can also negatively affect the hormone leptin which signals your body to stop eating, causing you to overeat.
Most soft drinks contain a type of sugar called high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as it is more stable than traditional white sugar. HFCS is higher in fructose than table sugar and is also much easier for your body to break down. This means that the fructose is digested much faster than traditional sugar, placing a heavier burden on your liver and increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems.
If HFCS is so bad, sugar-free soft drinks would be much healthier for you right? Well, not exactly. In an effort to make these drinks appear healthier and reduce the impact that high consumption of sugar has on our health, soft drink manufacturers have developed a range of ‘sugar-free’ or ‘diet’ options that contain synthetic sugars such as sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. While these artificial sweeteners do not cause spikes in blood sugar like traditional sugar and contain little to no calories, there is controversy surrounding the safety of these sweeteners, especially when consumed in high quantities.
It's not just sugar that you need to be concerned about, soft drinks also contain high amounts of artificial flavours, colours and preservatives that are unhealthy for our bodies. In fact, the phosphoric acid contained in many soft drinks has been shown to reduce calcium levels. This is certainly a cause for concern for children drinking excessive amounts of soft drink, especially if these are replacing high calcium drinks such as milk.
If you are concerned about your child’s soft drink intake, you can try and slowly reduce the amounts they consume by diluting their beverages with water over time, until they get used to a more subtle taste. Consider investing in a device like a SodaStream so they can still enjoy the fizzy texture and you can add fruits or berries to their water for a little sweetness. It is also important to ensure your child is getting enough calcium from both food and liquid sources as the body requires large amounts of calcium in childhood to maintain the rapid growth of their body.
Request a Life Education visit and help share the information they need to make healthy decisions in the future.