Sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the major culprits in the obesity epidemic, but sodas have also been connected to behavioral problems among teens. That link apparently extends to young kids as well.
Among children 5 years old, according to the latest research, those drinking more sugar-sweetened sodas showed increased aggression, withdrawal and difficulty paying attention than those drinking fewer or none of the beverages.
It’s the first time that the effects of sugared beverages have been traced to behavior issues among children so young. But the findings mirror similar trends among adolescents; a 2011 study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that teens who drank more than five cans of soft drinks every week were significantly more likely to have carried a weapon and acted violently toward peers, family members and dates. Another study from the same authors reported that high consumption of soft drinks was associated with a range of aggressive or mood-related behaviors, from fighting, feeling sad or hopeless to even being suicidal.
Many Americans have taken to heart the onslaught of studies indicating that drinking sodas is bad for their health. Consumption has been steadily decreasing during the past decade, and the downward trend continues. A recent Gallup poll found that 63 percent of people “actively” tried to avoid soda compared to only 41 percent in 2002.
The average American still drinks gallons of the sweet stuff — an average of 45 gallons a year, and we still drink twice as much as we did 30 years ago. Studies increasingly show its deadly effects, from our expanding waistlines to the epidemic of diabetes sweeping the country. Research published this month by the University at California at San Francisco found even more bad news: Sugary sodas shorten your life by shortening telomeres, which are the caps that protect DNA by keeping chromosomes from unraveling.
Researchers studied DNA from more than 5,300 volunteers ages 20 to 65. They found that drinking 20 ounces of soda a day shortened telomeres to the equivalent of an additional 4.6 years of aging, comparable to the effect of smoking.
The reasons to stop drinking soda are abundant. Whether you want to cut down on empty calories and added sugars, consume less artificial sweeteners, wean off of caffeine, or even save money, ditching soda is a great place to start.
I actually used to be a big soda drinker–the diet type in particular. Something about it being calorie-free gave me permission to drink it with reckless abandon–so I did. At one point, I consumed more soda than water throughout the course of the day.
Back in 2006 I decided I wanted to rid myself of a dependence on artificial sweeteners, so naturally I started with soda. Over the course of about a year I went from drinking 2-3 sodas per day to 2 to 3 per month. I still very much enjoy a cola with my cheeseburger and french fries, but now that I drink it so much less frequently, I have no problem treating myself to the real deal.
We all know that soda and other sugary drinks aren’t good for our overall health. Research has shown a link between sugary sodas and tooth decay, heart disease, kidney stones, and more.
And now there’s a new risk to add to the list: Liver disease. Researchers from Tufts University have discovered that people who drink just one or more sugar-sweetened beverage a day (like soda) are at an increased risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The research, which was published in the Journal of Hepatology, analyzed the dietary habits of 2,634 study participants who were asked in a questionnaire how often they drank sugar-sweetened beverages. Those drinks included caffeinated and caffeine-free soda, other carbonated sugary drinks, fruit punches, lemonade, and other non-carbonated fruit drinks.