They're common, they're tasty, and most kids love them. Soft drinks by themselves are not really very dangerous, but over indulgence does lead to several problems. In addition, they displace healthy and essential things from children's diet.
Various types of beverages, carbonated and non-carbonated, are available in supermarkets, restaurants, and school cafeterias. They include:
Almost all soft drinks contain a lot of sugar. An average 12 ounce (360ml) serving of a soft drink usually contains 150 calories, and no protein, fiber, vitamins, or minerals. The large sized portions of soft drinks served at fast food restaurants are even higher in calories, of course.
These so-called "empty calories" go unnoticed in many diet plans. Many children consume two or three bottles or cans of these soft drinks in a day. Children who have a lot of soft drinks have a higher riak of being overweight or obese, and this is unrelated to the amount of exercise and television watching.
Apart from the increased calories and associated weight gain, sugar also gives rise to dental disease. The practice of sipping from a can of soft drink over a prolonged period gives rise to a sugary environment in the mouth for several hours a day, which allows bacteria to flourish.
Children who increase their soft drink consumption often do so at the expense of their milk intake. Milk is an important dietary source of calcium. Calcium intake in childhood and adolescence is very important to build up bone mass, which protects against osteoporosis in later life. Inadequate calcium intake at young ages leads to bone health problems later.
Many soft drinks, especially carbonated cola drinks, contain caffeine. A regular sized bottle or can has as much as 30-40 milligrams of this psychoactive substance. Caffeine is a mild diuretic -- it promotes the formation of urine, which can make the child take frequent bathroom breaks during school.
Caffeine is a stimulant. It causes alertness, and decreases sleep. Poor sleep at night is often associated with increased daytime sleepiness, irritability, lack of concentration, and poor school performance.
Caffeine is also mildly addictive. Children who are used to the intake become restless and irritable if these drinks are withheld.
Other dangerous substances are the food colors used in different drinks. Some of them are suspected of being carcinogenic. Sulphites, used as preservatives, can be a trigger for asthma. Fructose used in soft drinks can trigger off the irritable bowel syndrome, which is a troublesome, painful intestinal condition.
Most soft drinks contain significant amounts of phosphorus. This can lead to removal of calcium from bones, contributing to the problem of osteoporosis.
Last Revision: February 12, 2016
Do we need to do that? Soft drinks get a very bad press, but there is no real evidence of bad health effects of soft drinks. We know dietary fats have a direct link with obesity and atherosclerosis, for example. For soft drinks, such evidence is lacking, and much of the published literature is conjecture. However, they're certainly not health promoting items, and a reduction in consumption is desirable.
Dr. Parang Mehta,
Opposite Putli, Sagrampura,
Surat, India. Tel: +91 9429486624.