Soft drinks account for more than a quarter of all drinks consumed in the United States. That works out to at least one 12-ounce can per day for every man, woman and child. They are possibly one of the worst beverages for human health even exceeding most alcoholic beverages.
In America in 1850, about 13 ounces of soda were consumed per person per year. In the late 1980s, more than 500 twelve-ounce cans of sodas were consumed per person per year. The 1994 annual report of the beverage industry shows that per-capita consumption of sodas is 49.1 gallons per year. Of this amount, 28.2 percent of consumption is diet soda.
Males typically consume more than females, with teenage boys leading the pack. On average, males ages 12 through 19 drink the equivalent of nearly two cans of soda each day.
Poor people drink more than the more affluent. Low-income adults got about 9 percent of their daily calories from sugary beverages; for high-income adults it was just over 4 percent.
Regular, full-fat full sugar versions of soda has previously been linked to an increased risk of diabetes. But less is known about their artificially sweetened counterparts - often promoted as a healthier substitute.
Results from an earlier Harvard study suggest that high consumption of either regular or diet soda is related to increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Tooth decay, bone weakening,
and caffeine dependence have also been widely observed in populations who regularly consume soft drinks. Men who drink one 300ml can of soda per day are much more likely to require treatment for a serious form of cancer than those who never consumed the drink.
In the spring of 2005, research showed a strong correlation between esophageal cancer and the drinking of carbonated beverages.
Artificially sweetened soft drinks are marketed as healthier alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages, due to their lack of calories. However, past research has shown very serious long-term health consequences due to highly toxic additives and artificial sweeteners such as sodium benzoate, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose and high-fructose corn syrup.
The problem with artificial sweeteners is a reflex that occurs when the brain reacts to sweet taste. The jargon used is "cephalic phase response". When sweet taste stimulates the tongue, the brain programs the liver to prepare for acceptance of new energy--sugar--from outside. If it is indeed sugar that stimulates the response, the effect on the liver will be the proper regulation of that sugar which has entered the body. However, if sweet taste is not followed by real nutrient availability, an urge to eat will be the outcome. It is the liver that produces the signals and the urge to eat. The more sweet taste that stimulates the taste buds without the accompanying calories, the more there is an urge to eat--overeat.
The new findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fly in the face of conventional thinking that regular versions of soda fizzy drinks are always worse for our health.
It is important to note that the findings are only correlations and do not define causation since the effect is compounded by the fact that diet drinkers also consume more - on average 2.8 glasses a week compared to 1.6 for regular drinkers. Moreover, previous research has found that diet drinkers also engage in unhealthier lifestyle habits than those consuming non-diet drinks.
In the study, more than 66,000 middle-aged French women were quizzed about their dietary habits. Their health was then monitored over 14 years from 1993 to 2007.
The researchers, from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in France, examined the rates of diabetes among women who drank either regular or diet soda and those who drank only unsweetened fruit juice.
Women who drank soda had a higher risk of diabetes than those who only consumed juice.
Those who drank up to 359ml of any type of soda per week - just more than a regular-sized can - were a third more likely to develop the disease. The risk was more than double in those who drank 600ml a week - just bigger than a regular bottle.
Drinkers of diet drinks had an even higher risk of diabetes compared to those who drank regular ones. Those who drank up to 500ml a week had a 15 percent increased risk. Once more than 1.5 litres a week was consumed, this became a 60 percent increased risk.
'Contrary to conventional thinking, the risk of diabetes is higher with "light" beverages compared with "regular" sweetened drinks,' the researchers said.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.