Sweet Drinks (Even the Diet Ones) Are Not Good For Us!
I don’t think there is an American alive today that thinks that soda is a health food. Thank heavens! I repeatedly hear from patients that they have “given up soda” but when I dig into that seemingly black and white statement a little deeper, it often becomes more grey. Many people consider diet soda (i.e., the absence of calories) to be in an entirely different category than “regular” soda. Many adults that don’t drink soda actually consume lots of sugar-sweetened beverages. Artificial sweetener (or non-dairy creamer) turns an innocent cup of coffee into what we should be calling “coffee-soda”. And the mocha latte thing from the coffee shop is typically loaded with sugar – even when labeled “sugar-free”. In addition to their coffee-soda, many people drink sweetened tea, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit juice, chocolate milk, smoothies and flavored water loaded with real or artificial sweeteners. (If you want to see something really scary, add up the amount of these drinks that the average teenager is consuming.)
When we are talking about health and disease, all of these drinks fall under the heading of sugar-sweetened beverages. None of them are healthy. The absence of calories does not exempt them from the health consequences of consuming them. None of them cause weight loss. If they did, we wouldn’t have an epidemic of obesity and diabetes sweeping our nation. Articles like this are everywhere – but many of us choose to ignore them, telling ourselves that they don’t apply to us because we don’t “drink soda”.
A good rule of thumb: if what you are drinking tastes sweet in your mouth, it’s probably very unhealthy!
I’m not one to say get rid of sugar sweetened beverages altogether – we just need to define them for what they are and recognize their potential to cause disease. We need to drink all sugar-sweetened beverages the same way we drink champagne – rarely and with the knowledge that they aren’t healthy, but still acceptable on special occasions. Not daily.