Please, No More Soda for the Children!

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August 18, 2013

So it is that time of the year when all of us are rushing to Office Depot or Staples for school supplies.  The summer is fleeing quickly and our children are heading back to school.

Maybe I am idealistic but I like to think that most parents want to raise healthy children even when we ourselves are not so healthy.  It is that unselfish love that gave us the urge to have children.  Two days ago, I was shocked to hear about a study, published in the recent Pediatrics JAMA, on the effect of soda on five year old children. Young children who drink more soda, researchers found in this study, have an increased risk for aggression. withdrawal and attention problems.  Other earlier studies on soda or sports drinks in adolescents and teens have found similar results with disturbing symptoms such as hopelessness, depression, aggression and even being suicidal.

Why was I shocked? Because who would have thought a five year old would be given 4-5 sodas a day?  It does not take a rocket scientist to know feeding “liquid sugar” to children would bring so much harm to their health, and yet obviously there are parents out there who would allow such a bad habit. 

What else can soda do to our children as they grow up?  Multiple studies have shown a clear increase risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart problems! 

To read about the multiple health risks with soda drinking, I recommend the Harvard School of Public Health’s article on sugary drinks and obesity.  This very well written and easy to understand article cited a few astounding facts about soda.  Some are listed below:

  • A typical 20 oz soda contains 15-18 teaspoons of sugar and upward of 250 calories. A 64 oz soda can have up to 700 calories.                                                                         
  • In 2010, preschoolers saw an average of 213 ads for sugary and energy drinks, while teens viewed an average of 406 ads, the more reason for us not to let our children watch too much TV!                                                                                                                                                
  • From 1989 to 2008, calories from sugary drinks increased by 60% in children ages 6-11, and the percentage of children drinking them rose from 79% to 91%.                                                                                                                                                                             
  • Every day, half of the people in the U.S. consume sugary drinks with 5% getting at least 567 calories or the equivalent of four cans of soda; sugary drinks including sports drinks are the top calorie source in teens‘ diets!  Isn’t that a scary fact?                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  • One study shows a link between kids‘ soda drinking and obesity, with every additional 12 oz soda drink leading to 60% increase risk of obesity during the 1.5 years of follow up.                                                                                                                                             
  • 1-2 cans of soda a day or more have been linked to 26% greater risk of type 2 diabetes and even greater risk in young adults and Asians.        
  • A study over two decades of 40,000 men found a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack for just an average of one can of soda a day!  Another study found a similar link in women.                                                                                                                    
  • A 22 year study of 80,000 women found a 75% higher risk of gout in women drinking a can of soda a day as compared to those who don’t.  Similar studies have shown the same link in men. 

What else can soda do to your children?

According to the American Dental Association, most soft drinks contain phosphoric and citric acid.  Prolonged exposure to these acids can lead to “enamel erosion” or the loss of hard tissue on the teeth’s surface.  Bacteria on the teeth, when meeting with sugar, will produce acids that can further damage your children’s teeth.  Tooth decay and enamel erosion process can also stain teeth.  Soda and sports drinks are among the worse foods in terms of causing teeth staining!                                                                                                    

Of course, as adults, we are the role models for our children.  If you will be the one to miss your soda — no problem! Get some tonic water and add a few slices of orange or lemon. Give yourself a few days and you will get used to the new taste! Like everything else in life, it’s not the matter of the mouth, but a matter of the mind.  Maybe then, you can give up your soda, so that your children would do the same!  Believe me, I know it’s not an easy habit to rid off.  I can hear my nephew Jeremy screaming as he reads this blog and he probably hopes that his father, my brother Vinh, will not see this article.                                                                                        

Maybe I should suggest to my brother that he should eat more blueberries and kale, or the kind of food Dr. Marsha Seidelman has been suggesting for the brain, so that he can make better judgements when grocery shopping.  Just kidding, brother.