Fact File: Soft Drinks, Hard Facts

by David Egan on August 2, 2011

Health effects of soft drinks

Over-consumption of soft drinks has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

If your children regularly drink fizzy drinks, they could have a greater risk for a number of health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes and even weaker bones.

There’s no problem drinking soft drinks now and again, but many kids consume far too much of these unhealthy drinks when they should be drinking water.

For many of us, soft drinks have become a completely normal part of life – time for some hard facts!

What are Soft Drinks?

Fizzy sweetened drinks like colas, lemonades & orangeades.

What are the Health Risks?

There is strong evidence that drinking sugary soft drinks is linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes – simply drinking less fizzy drinks and more water can even help people to lose weight. Some scientists think that rising soft drink consumption is one of the key causes of the obesity epidemic in the United States.

Fizzy Drinks and Weaker Bones

Many scientists are concerned about the effect that soft drinks have on bone health. Soft drinks don’t contain any beneficial nutrients, and they are low in calcium. As well as this, when young people consume soft drinks they tend to drink less milk and this means that they may not get enough calcium. This is an important issue during childhood and adolescence, which is a key time for bone growth and development.

Cola drinks may be a particularly poor choice, as they contain phosphoric acid which can have particularly bad effect on bone health. Some studies have linked soft drinks with an increased risk of bone fracture and a reduction in bone mineral density in children. Drinking soft drinks regularly, particularly in adolescent girls, has been linked to osteoporosis in later life.

Dental Health

Examining mouth The potential damage of soft drinks to dental health is quite serious, particularly in children. This is mainly due to the fact that the immature enamel of children’s teeth is more easily dissolved by acids, such as those found in sugary soft drinks.  While saliva has the ability to neutralise acid levels in the mouth this ability decreases with more frequent consumption of acidic foods and drinks.

What Should Children Be Drinking?

Ideally, we should encourage our children to drink plenty of water and to avoid soft drinks whenever possible. Having soft drinks occasionally (like at a party) is no harm, but regular consumption is something to be avoided. Don’t think that you can just switch to the sugar-free version of your child’s favourite soft drink. Artificially sweetened drinks have been associated with obesity, and may contribute to causing your child to develop a sweet tooth.

Tips to Encourage Healthy Drinking Habits

  • Bottle of water and glass with iceKeep a jug of water in the fridge, with maybe a slice of lemon to encourage your kids to drink water
  • Ask schools to provide filtered water, or to provide working water fountains
  • Ask schools to stop selling soft drinks to students, a practice which is still common
  • Drinking milk is a healthy option
  • Unsweetened fruit juices are healthier than soft drinks, but they still contain a lot of fruit sugars, so are best taken with meals or diluted with water
  • Stop buying soft drinks – remember that you’re the boss

If you restrict access to soft drinks your children will eventually stop asking for them – remember this is for your children’s own good!

Are you concerned about the amount of soft drinks children consume? Do you limit or ban your child from soft drinks? We’d love to hear your views on this subject – please use the comments box below!

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