Ever since the 1830s, the consumption of soft drinks has steadily increased, with technological advances of the past few decades only making things worse. Policy makers and health care providers realized that the high consumption of sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages belongs to that category of dietary behaviors that has been identified as an important issue to address in the prevention and management of obesity and other related diseases.
If drinking Coca Cola or other soft drinks is part of your daily routine, prepare to experience the following:
1. You’ll unconsciously influence your dietary choices
When your parents told you to drink milk because it was healthy, they told you so because milk is truly a rich source of protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin A. However, numerous studies have indicated that a high level of soft drink consumption (especially coke), is associated with the displacement of healthier food and beverage choices. What this means is that if people are drinking coke on a regular/daily basis, they are more likely to be deficient in a large number of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibres due to their dietary choices (Harnack et al. 1999; Ballew et al. 2000).
As a matter of fact, other longitudinal studies at the population level have found that milk consumption has decreased over time and that this has directly correlated with an increase in soft drink consumption (Lytle et al. 2000; Blum et al. 2005; Striegel-Moore et al. 2006).
Conclusion: The displacement of milk and reduced intake of calcium as a consequence can easily have short-and long-term implications for overall bone health, so make sure that you limit your intake of Coke to 1 small cup a day, or even less/none if possible.
- Harnack L, Stang J and Story M (1999). “Soft drink consumption among US children and adolescents: nutritional consequences.” J Am Diet Assoc 99(4): 436–441 [Online]
- Ballew C, Kuester S and Gillespie C (2000). “Beverage choices affect adequacy of children’s nutrient intakes.” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 265(22): 1148–1152. [Online]
- Lytle LA, Seifert S, Greenstein J and McGovern P (2000). “How do children’s eating patterns and food choices change over time? Results from a cohort study.” Am J Health Promot 14(4): 222–228. [Online]
- Blum JW, Jacobsen DJ and Donnelly JE (2005). “Beverage consumption patterns in elementary school-aged children across a two-year period.” J Am Coll Nutr 24(2): 93–98. [Online]
- Striegel-Moore RH, Thompson D, Affenito SG, et al. (2006). “Correlates of beverage intake in adolescent girls: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study.” J Pediatr 148(2): 183–187. [Online]
2. You’ll likely develop dental caries and dental erosion
The regular consumption of soft drinks has also been associated with enamel erosion and dental caries due to their large sugar content and high acidity. In a joint report conducted by the WHO and FAO in 2003, evidences indicated a close relationship between soft drink consumption and risk of dental erosion to be ‘probable’ while the evidence pertaining to free sugars causing dental caries were found to be ‘convincing.’
A recent review of soft drinks and dental health concluded that it is the low pH of these drinks that may lead to the erosion of enamel surface while the high sugar content is believed to be metabolized by plaque micro-organisms to generate organic acids that bring about demineralization leading to dental caries (Tahmassebi et al. 2006).
Therefore, the Australian Dental Association discourages the frequent consumption of both soft drinks and diet soft drinks, or any kind of sports drinks and fruit juices for that matter, due to their high sugar and/or acid content. (Australian Dental Association 2002).
- Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation (2003). Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Geneva, WHO. [Online]
- Tahmassebi JF, Duggal MS, Malik-Kotru G and Curzon ME (2006). “Soft drinks and dental health: a review of the current literature.” J Dent 34(1): 2–11. [Online]
- Australian Dental Association. (2002). “Policy Statement 1.2.2 — Diet and Nutrition.” Retrieved 28th August, 2007. [Online]
3. You’ll likely develop bone fractures
Consumption of cola and other soft drinks has also been associated with a decrease in bone mineral density and an increase in the frequency of bone fractures in both children and adults (Petridou et al. 1997;Wyshak 2000; McGartland et al. 2003). Wrist and forearm fractures were found to be more and more frequent in children between the age of 9 and 16 due to the overwhelming presence of soft drinks and their high caffeine content. (Ma and Jones 2004).
Cola and other carbonated soft drinks were also found to be detrimental to bone mineral density in women due to their high caffeine content (Tucker et al. 2006). The reason for that is because Caffeine has been identified as a catalyst for increasing the excretion of calcium in the urine, which is a leading and potential contributor to osteoporosis (Kynast-Gales and Massey 1994).
Excessive consumption of Cola and other carbonated soft drinks may lead to low bone mineral density, bone fractures, osteoporosis (causes bones to become weak and brittle) and even hypocalcemia (low serum calcium).
- Ma D and Jones G (2004). “Soft drink and milk consumption, physical activity, bone mass, and upper limb fractures in children: A population-based case-control study.” Calcif Tissue Int 75(4): 286–-291. [Online]
- Petridou E, Karpathios T, Dessypris N, Simou E and Trichopoulos D (1997). “The role of dairy products and non-alcoholic beverages in bone fractures among school age children.” Scand J Soc Med 25(2): 119–125. [Online]
- Wyshak G (2000). “Teenaged girls, carbonated beverage consumption, and bone fractures.” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 154(6): 610–613. [Online]
- McGartland C, Robson PJ, Murray L, et al. (2003). “Carbonated soft drink consumption and bone mineral density in adolescence: the Northern Ireland Young Hearts project.” J Bone Miner Res 18(9): 1563–1569. [Online]
- Tucker KL, Morita K, Qiao N, et al. (2006). “Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study.“ Am J Clin Nutr 84: 936–942. [Online]
- Kynast-Gales SA and Massey LK (1994). “Effect of caffeine on circadian excretion of urinary calcium and magnesium.” J Am Coll Nutr 13(5): 467–472. [Online]
4. You’ll increase your chances of developing chronic diseases
Other alarming studies have also surfaced in the past few years. According to the US Framingham Heart Study, the consumption of greater than or equal to 350 ml soft drink per day (that would be 1 can) was already associated with an increased risk of obesity, an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, impaired fasting glucose, increased waist circumference, high blood pressure, higher low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (higher LDL levels put you at greater risk for a heart attack from a sudden blood clot in an artery), and even hypertriglyceridemia (high cholesterol levels) (Dhingra et al. 2007).
Similarly, the US Nurses Health Study II found that those women who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day had an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who consumed less than one of these beverages a month. (Schulze et al. 2004).
Both the US Framingham Heart Study and the US Nurses Health Study II agreed on the fact that the consumption of greater than or equal to 350 ml soft drink per day may lead to the development of a series of chronic cardiovascular diseases, such as metabolic syndrome or high blood pressure, just to mention a few.
- Dhingra R, Sullivan L, Jacques PF, et al. (2007). “Soft drink consumption and risk of developing cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adults in the community.” Circulation 116(5): 480–488. [Online]
- Schulze MB, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, et al. (2004). „Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middleaged women.“ JAMA 292(8): 927–934. [Online]
5. You’ll likely experience adverse side-effects due to increased caffeine intake
Cola-type soft drinks containing caffeine have the largest share of the beverages market all over the world. Caffeine, whether we admit or not, is a mildly addictive drug that occurs naturally in tea, coffee and chocolate, but it is soft drinks that serve as the very main source of caffeine in children’s diet. The levels of caffeine content in soft drinks are in the range of between 40-50 mg per 375 ml can, which is the equivalent to one cup of strong coffee.
A strong link has been identified between caffeine in coke and bone health, as indicated above. In addition, several studies have confirmed a firm link between cola drinks and kidney stones (Rodgers 1999; Massey and Sutton 2004).
Caffeine insensitivity (the extent to which someone is responding to the effect of caffeine) is also a side-effect of excessive caffeine intake. Ideally, the smaller one is, the less caffeine one would require to reap the stimulating benefits, such as increased energy and attention, enhanced mood and motivation as well as enhanced motor activity. However, we must note here that these effects can only be reaped if taken in small doses – 20-200 mg (Smith et al. 2000).
Negative effects have also been determined, especially in young children and adults, that may include more harm than potential benefits: disturbed sleep patterns, bedwetting, and anxiety along with a number of withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fatigue, decreased alertness, or even depressed mood and irritability can be experienced 6–24 hours after caffeine abstinence. (Juliano and Griffiths 2004).
Cola-type soft drinks contain caffeine in the range of between 40-50 mg per 375 ml can that, if over consumed, can easily lead to the development of kidney stones and caffeine insensitivity along with a large number of withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, decreased alertness, depressed mood and irritability.
- Rodgers A (1999). “Effect of cola consumption on urinary biochemical and physicochemical risk factors associated with calcium oxalate urolithiasis.” Urol Res 27(1): 77–81. [Online]
- Massey LK and Sutton RA (2004). “Acute caffeine effects on urine composition and calcium kidney stone risk in calcium stone formers.” J Urol 172(2): 555–558. [Online]
- Smith PF, Smith A, Miners J, McNeil J and Proudfoot A (2000). Report from the expert working group on the safety aspects of dietary caffeine. Canberra, Food Standards Australia New Zealand. [Online]
- Juliano LM and Griffiths RR (2004). “A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features.” Psychopharmacology 176(1): 1–29. [Online]
6. You’ll risk the development of cancer due to the presence of Benzene
There has been a recent movement towards regulating Benzene levels in drinking water and bottled water both nationally and internationally. However, the presence of benzoic acid in soft drinks is not that strictly regulated that has spurred some environmental and public concern towards a more closer regulation of this chemical in these drinks. The reason why benzoic acid is so hazardous is because it works as a catalyst when it comes into contact with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and metal ions (such as iron or copper) to form the chemical known as Benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical(carcinogen). The chemical reaction usually takes place when when we are exposed to heat or light.
The Food and Drug Administration initiated public trials to test the level of benzene in soft drinks all across the country. 4 out of 100 products were found to contain levels of benzene above the 5 ppm barrier, which is the officially acceptable limit for drinking water. (CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety 2007).
Since 2005, these products were significantly reformulated and the FDA believes that the levels of benzene found in soft drinks should no longer be a cause for alarm. However, there are still companies that either cannot or would not devote extra time and effort to monitor the level of acceptable benzene content in their products. Therefore, general recommendations are that you should not consume more than 1 can of cola a week. Better safe than sorry, right?
Due to high levels of Benzene in cola and other carbonated soft drinks, you are more likely to develop cancer if more than 1 can of soft drink is consumed per week. Benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical (carcinogen).
- CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety. (2007). “Data on Benzene in Soft Drinks and Other Beverages: Data through May 16, 2007.” Retrieved 29th August, 2007. [Online]
Do not get me wrong though: I did not say that consuming these beverages here and there will cause all these aforementioned symptoms. These symptoms and side-effects may appear in case of those who have a daily habit of drinking carbonated soft-drinks, such as coke or fruit juices. If you love soft drinks, and there is no way you would give it up, at least try to limit the amount you consume. Being considerate with your health will pay off, trust me!
Now, share the things that you have learned here with a friend or family member who has been drinking too much coke recently! Why? Because your advice may easily save their life once!
Featured photo credit: Laszlo Szabo via bodybuildersupplementz.com