| A Soda a Day Keeps the Vitamins Away
drinks may fill you up, but they let you down when it comes to vitamins
A University of Missouri consumer economist,
analyzing the results of a national food survey, found that people
significantly increased their chances of being deficient in the
recommended daily allowances (RDA) for common vitamins and minerals
when they consumed a lot of sugared drinks.
RDA deficiencies are not common. In
the some 15,000 people who self-reported their food intake for the
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, from only 1 percent
to 8 percent of the participants were not getting the proper amounts
of certain vitamins and minerals.
However, says Michael S. Finke, an assistant
professor or consumer and family economics at Missouri, the consequences
of getting ever more calories from soft drinks or fruit-flavored
sugared drinks with no nutrients is a trend that needs attention.
"RDA deficiency is not a major
problem because a lot of foods have vitamins and minerals added,
but this study shows that more nutrient-rich foods are being replaced
by sugar drinks," says Finke, author of the study, appearing
in the December issue of the Family and Consumer Sciences Research
"People haven't really highlighted
the consequences of this major food consumption trend," he
Part of the problem could be simple
economics, he says. Soda is a very cheap way to get calories.
"Soda pop has always been around,
but it's so much cheaper now, relatively speaking, than it was 30
years ago that it is an enticing food option for resource-constrained
families," Finke says. "A three-liter bottle of soda is
69 cents and contains 1,000 calories."
The only cheaper food source, he says,
is vegetable oils.
Between 1970 and 1997, Finke says in
his study, there has been a 86 percent increase in annual per capita
consumption of carbonated, sugared soft drinks. One 12-ounce can
of cola supplies about 150 calories from about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
In the study, Finke reviewed the results of a 1994-1996 survey
of the USDA's Food Intakes by Individuals, to see if there were
any associations between soda consumption and vitamin and mineral
deficiency among participants in the self-reported food survey.
The scientists looked at 14 vitamins
and minerals, including: vitamins A, E, C, B6, and B12, thiamin,
riboflavin, niacin, and folate, and the minerals calcium, phosphorus,
magnesium, iron, and zinc. The study did not include information
about any vitamin or mineral supplements taken.
"The results were a little bit
more dramatic that I had expected," he says. "I expected
the results would be significant for nutrients associated with foods
that might be replaced by soda, like calcium in milk, but the results
were also significant for every other vitamin and mineral."
Finke and his colleagues found that
sugar drink consumption was the most consistent variable -- more
than gender, race, or income -- to signal the probability that people
would not meet their RDA requirements.
The problem, he says, is not failure
to meet RDA requirements, as only a small proportion of the participants
actually failed to do so, ranging from 181 people (1.2 percent)
for niacin to 1,168 people (7.8 percent) for vitamin A. However,
the trend of increased soda pop consumption could increase the likelihood
that more people would fail to meet their RDA requirements down
"If someone drinks two cans
of soda daily, which is about 15 percent of daily caloric intake,
there is a 1 percent decrease in the probability that the person
will meet their RDA requirements in calcium, for instance,"
Finke says. "So if the trend continues in the future as it
has in the past, sugar drink consumption will have an even greater
impact on failure to meet RDA's."
Finke says he is an economist, not
a nutritionist, "but it seems obvious that we should pay attention
to this trend in U.S. food consumption and look at things we can
to do reduce sugared drink consumption by making other foods less
expensive and more palatable."
Connie Diekman, a nutritionist at
the Washington University in St. Louis, agrees that soft drink consumption
is a trend threatening to compromise good, nutritional health, especially
in young people.
"What this study and others
have shown is that adolescents increasingly turn to soft drinks
for hydration and then don't need to get those calories from healthier
choices," she says. "In addition, the long-term effects
of inadequate calcium -- maybe not deficient, but less than that
needed for bone health -- are a major health issue."
Reference Source 101