Some Refreshing News about America’s Soda Habit

Here’s some refreshing news about Americans and soda: We’re finally drinking less of the stuff.

soda can topTen years ago, on any given day, over 61% of adults and nearly 80% of kids drank such beverages, none of which are particularly friendly to teeth (not to mention the rest of you).

According to new research in the journal Obesity, in 2014, just 50% of adults and 60.7% of children drank them.

Of course, that still leaves a lot of us drinking a lot of sugar. Still, such a significant reduction is an important step forward.

The study monitored data from 18,600 children and over 27,652 adults across 10 years of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

This overall decline in both beverage and [sugar-sweetened beverage] consumption is consistent with previous literature, suggesting a recent “turning point” toward lower energy intake in the US diet, potentially attributable to widespread discussion and media coverage of the role of certain foods (e.g., SSBs) in promoting obesity, changes to food allowances within the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, improvements to school feeding programs, and product reformulations by food manufacturers and retailers.

On the downside, consumption rates remain highest among black, Mexican American, and non-Mexican Hispanic teens – all groups at high risk of obesity and diabetes.

On the upside, the study also found that fruit juice consumption is down, as well. As we’ve noted before, fruit juice is essentially concentrated sugar and a major cause of tooth decay among young children in particular.

boy getting drink of waterWhat kids are drinking more of is what we all should be drinking more of: water.

Among children, the prevalence of 100% juice consumption declined significantly among 12- to 19-year-olds, water increased significantly across all age groups, and no significant changes were seen for coffee and tea, milk, or diet beverage consumption for any age group.

And this may not be a short term trend. Earlier this year, a major trade publication noted that soda sales have been declining for twelve years and counting.

The per capita consumption of soda drinks, including energy drinks, fell to about 642 8-ounce servings last year, the lowest level since 1985, when the Beverage Digest began tracking consumption trends….

Despite the fact that two of the biggest of the soda companies suspiciously fund 96 US health groups – including the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health – more people are seeing this as little more than an attempt to influence public health policy and maintain profits. Consumer education has been a big help, as have soda taxes, with the money going to fund various health programs.

In 2015, Berkeley, California introduced a soda tax after years of battling the industry. They’ve now seen a drop in sales by nearly 10% – and a spike in water sales, as well.

One year following implementation of the nation’s first large SSB tax, prices of SSBs increased in many, but not all, settings, SSB sales declined, and sales of untaxed beverages (especially water) and overall study beverages rose in Berkeley; overall consumer spending per transaction in the stores studied did not rise. Price increases for SSBs in two distinct data sources, their timing, and the patterns of change in taxed and untaxed beverage sales suggest that the observed changes may be attributable to the tax.

That said, water doesn’t always satisfy the urge for a sweet soft drink, especially if you’re going through a detox by gradually reducing your sugar intake. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  • Drink tea – hot or cold. Many spice teas have an inherent sweetness, as do some herb teas such as ginger lemon.
  • Splash a bit of lemon or lime into your water.
  • Infuse your own water with fruit, herbs, or vegetables. Here are a few ideas.
  • Make a veg-centric smoothie. Here are some tips for making sure yours is balanced and not a sugar-bomb.
  • Make your own fresh juice with fresh vegetables and fruit. Again, balance is key. Think green.

Bottom image by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The Impact of Drinking Sugar

You may have seen this image making the rounds on social media lately – a powerful reminder of soda’s impact on your health:

impact of soda

But one thing it neglects to mention happens within the first 30 seconds of drinking pop: It damages the enamel covering your teeth. Enamel. The hardest tissue in the human body. The one tissue your body has no way of making more of.

Zoom into a Tooth by Weird_Weird_Science

As enamel is worn away and the more delicate dentin is exposed, the teeth become sensitive and more vulnerable to decay. Research has shown that among heavy soda drinkers, the damage can be as severe as that wreaked by meth and crack.

Of course, soda is merely among the worst offenders. All similarly sugary and acidic drinks are the issue: fruit juice and juice-based drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas, flavored waters. So even as soda consumption has finally started to go down, enamel erosion continues to be a big problem.

According to research published earlier this year, nearly 80% of adults show some sign of it. Most cases are mild, but 15% had signs of moderate to severe erosion. As we noted before, this is one reason why tooth decay is eventually an issue for virtually all adults.

Along with sugary and acidic snacks, sweetened beverages are a terror for teeth – a fact most recently confirmed in a study published right at the start of this month. This meta-analysis of past studies found that the more sugary, acidic products you consume, the more erosion. They also found that milk and yogurt “had a protective effect.”

And that only makes sense. For one, dairy has also been shown to have a neutral or alkalinizing effect in the mouth. Cheese, especially, may help prevent cavities, according to research published in General Dentistry. It also provides something those other products inherently lack: the nutritional building blocks for remineralizing teeth and bone, keeping them strong and resilient.

There’s a choice that, consciously or not, each of us makes repeatedly each day: Do we give our body what it needs to do its job or do we confound it by throwing up roadblocks to optimal health? Do we support the body’s self-regulating, self-healing capacities or undermine them?

Give your body the nutrition it needs, it knows what to do.

A Can Full of Sugar…

Breaking news! Soda is bad for your teeth!

Wait. You already knew that, didn’t you? Well, who doesn’t need a reminder every so often?

A study published in the Journal of Dentistry back in April again confirmed that the more soda you drink, the higher your risk of developing caries (cavities). Analyzing data from across 4 years and more than 900 adults, the authors showed that adults who drank a sugary drink or two each day had a 31% greater chance of developing tooth decay than those who seldom or never drink the stuff. Those who drank three or more sweet beverages had a 33% higher risk.

sugar poured from soda canNow, sure, you know soda is sugary, but do you know how sugary it actually is? A 20 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola has the same amount of sugar as five Little Debbie Swiss Rolls – 65 grams, to be exact. A 20 ounce bottle of Pepsi contains even more: 69 grams. With each sip, you’re soaking your teeth in sugar, which gets bacteria in your mouth pretty jazzed. They feed on that sugar, then excrete acid, which eats away at the surface of your teeth and creates cavities.

When it comes to soda in particular, sugar isn’t the only villain either. Phosphoric acid – a preservative which also gives soda a crisper taste – erodes enamel and makes your teeth more vulnerable to decay. Check out the videos below to see phosphoric acid chemically reacting with tooth enamel and how a tooth is affected over time:



The acids in fruit juice are a problem, as well.

And if you needed any more reminding as to the trouble with sugary drinks, just take a look at this list of health problems they contribute to. (Just as we were preparing this post, we saw news of yet another study showing how sugary drinks increase abdominal fat.)

Image via Soza Clinic