The Sunday Leader

Whisky Is Healthy, Mind Your Mixer!

By Dr. Harold Gunatillake  – Health Writer

Soft drinks cause a range of serious health problems

What would you like to have your Scotch with, your host will ask you politely?  Most guests prefer Soda, Coke, Ginger Ale or some other soda drink, on the rocks or neat. Recently it has been observed in a study that those who drink soda regularly face a health hazard, especially diet soda which puts the consumer at risk of strokes.
Researchers reported their findings at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, 2011. The study, which analyzed data on 2,564 participants of the ethnically diverse, longitudinal Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), divided people into several groups based on their soda consumption: those who drank no soda; those who drank regular soda, either moderately (one to six servings per week) or every day; and those who drank diet soda, either moderately or every day. There were two other groups who went back and forth between regular and diet soda, drinking either moderately or every day.
The researchers found that people who drank diet soda every day were 48% more likely to suffer a stroke or other vascular event over a nine-year span, compared with people who didn’t drink any soda. That risk persisted after researchers accounted for factors like participants’ age, sex, smoking status, exercise, alcohol consumption and peripheral vascular disease or heart disease history.
About 35% of the respondents didn’t drink soda as a mixer at all, and 24% did drink diet soda regularly and at the end of nine years’ observation 559 participants had suffered some type of vascular event, including 221 strokes, 149 heart attacks, and 338 total deaths.
The United States is ranked first among countries in soft drink consumption. Fortunately, Sri Lankans drink king coconut water for thirst, sold on the wayside boutiques, much cheaper than the pop sodas available in hotels and supermarkets in the vending machines.
There is more damaging news for those consuming sodas.

Serious Cell Damage

A new health scare erupted over soft drinks amid evidence that they cause serious cell damage. Research from a British university reported by Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, wrote that it is suggested that a common preservative in popular drinks has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA.
Sodium benzoate also may cause cancer because when mixed with the additive vitamin C in soft drinks, it causes benzene, a carcinogenic substance.

Raises Blood Pressure

New research suggests that drinking sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages every day may raise blood pressure, but a beverage industry trade group calls the study significantly flawed, reported in WebMD, by Salynn Boyles dated February 28, 2011.
The study found that the more sugary sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages people drank, the higher their blood pressures tended to be.
A rise in blood pressure was seen in participants who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages and also had the most added salt in their diets, study co-author Ian J. Brown, PhD, tells WebMD. “We know that salt is a risk factor for high blood pressure,” Brown says. “But our findings suggest that sugar and salt together may be worse than salt alone.”

Kidney Damage

A 2009 Nurses’ Health Study of 3,256 women found a 30% drop in level of kidney function for participants who drank two or more servings of diet pop soda daily. The researchers found that those who drank pop sodas daily had 30% less kidney blood filtering ability than those who drank regular carbonated sodas.
Why do these diet drinks harm the kidneys? It is possible that the sweeteners used in pop sodas may scar kidney tissue over time.

Weight Gain

Diet soda surprisingly raises your risk of obesity. In 2005 a study by the University of Texas Health Science Centre found a 57.1% risk of obesity for those drinking more than two daily servings of diet pop. The researchers had no reasons for this phenomenon.
According to the American Heart Association, “Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the American diet.” Added sugars mean added calories – something you want to avoid to help with weight loss and cut down on belly fat. Yet, high-fructose corn syrup has gradually replaced refined sugar as the main sweetener in soft drinks and has been blamed as a potential contributor to the obesity epidemic.
Does switching to diet sodas help? Although some research has suggested that people who drink artificially sweetened sodas as part of a calorie-restricted diet do lose weight, other studies have suggested that diet soft drinks could even lead to weight gain. For now, there’s no conclusive evidence either way.

Artificial Sweeteners

Most soda drinks now use artificial sweeteners substituted for sugar to get the same tastes in our taste buds. These artificial sweeteners also tend to cause weight gain as much as sugar and high fructose levels in some sodas.

Tooth Enamel Damage

Most pop sodas have sugar with acid. Diet soda eliminates the sugar and not the acid. Phosphoric acid is found in many diet sodas and its purpose is to promote carbonation. But it is known to erode tooth enamel. It is in the darker colas that the phosphoric acid content is higher.
Another ingredient found in these drinks is citric acid. Like phosphoric acid, it eats away at your tooth enamel. If you wear dentures, immerse them in any of these pop sodas for a few days to confirm the above findings.

Bone Loss

Phosphoric acid in soda drinks causes calcium in your blood stream to be excreted more quickly in the urine, thus softening of bones is another side effect.
Consumers get addicted to soda drinks because it is refreshing, quenches thirst momentarily and delicious.

Caffeine Addiction

Many sodas and other soft drinks contain caffeine which is mildly addictive. If you are addicted to sodas you have two addictions, one for caffeine and the other for soda.
In addition there is a high content of sugar in some soda drinks. So most of them are carbonated, caffeine, sugared, with added artificial sweeteners.


Any high calorie diet including high GI foods promotes weight gain and increases the risk of diabetes. Drinking soda not only contributes to making people fat, but it also stresses the body’s ability to process sugar. Rapidly absorbed carbohydrates like high fructose corn syrup put more strain on insulin-producing cells than other foods.
Researchers found that women who drank one or more sugary drinks a day gained more weight and were 83% more likely to develop type-2 diabetes than those who imbibed less than once a month.

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