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What Are You Drinking?


By Margaret Adams

Drinking fluids is second nature to human beings because we must stay hydrated to live. During the early years of humanity, water was the fluid of necessity.  As we have become modern, we have so many fluids to choose from—but are these choices good for us?

We can choose to drink soda pop, fruit juice, smoothies, coffees, teas, sparkling water, sports drinks that replace our electrolytes, everybody’s favorite red Kool-Aid punch, or alcoholic beverages. There is such a variety of drinks and flavors to choose from. A lot of what we drink is marketed as being ‘good for us’ with labels like “natural,” “vitamins added,” or “thirst quencher,” and served to us in regular to super-sized containers. With all the variety to choose from, they all have one thing in common: they are sugary drinks that are not good for our health, according to Kelsey Ogletree in her article The Dangers of the Sugary Drink Trend.

This trend in drinking sugary beverages of any kind puts us at risk for multiple health problems such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, higher-risk breast and colon cancer, and weight gain, per Harvard researchers. According to Dr. Natalie Mulk, a pediatrician and author with the American Association of Pediatrics, “The added sugars increase many health harms.” Sugary drinks are a contributing factor in dental cavities and can cause children and adults to lose teeth, according to the American Dental Association.

Sugary drinks add a lot of calories as well. According to Dr. Zhaoping Li, drinking calories is not natural and was never a part of human evolution.  Drinking a 20-ounce bottle of a sugary drink contains around 65 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends adult females consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams). This takes into consideration sugar from all sources, not just what you drink.

In this country, we like everything big, and our drinks are no exception.  But a word of caution—a typical serving size is 8 ounces, so if the drink you are drinking is 24 ounces, you need to multiply the sugar content by 3 because most drinks list the sugar content by serving size. So, you can imagine how much sugar is in large drinks that usually don’t disclose the sugar content. These drinks enter your bloodstream and raise your blood sugar levels very quickly—faster than solid food intake.  When your body has more sugar than it needs for energy, the excess is stored as body fat.  What’s worse is that your brain does not recognize these drinks as food.  Therefore,  calories in liquid form do not produce the feeling of being satisfied and won’t trigger the hormones that tell your body to stop eating, according to Dr. Li.

The North East Ohio Black Health Coalition has reported that the Centers for Science in the Public Interest is working to make sure the beverages we drink are healthy and that we have access to healthier beverages. They are also legally challenging the Big Soda industry’s deceptive marketing, which seems to be targeted more toward poor communities.

What we can do as a community is be more aware of what we drink and how much of it contains sugar, and try to reduce our intake by substituting other options. This includes alcoholic beverages as well. Most importantly, we need to be aware of what we give our children to drink and the impact it may have on their health later in life.  Those juice boxes and juice bottles are doing harm to our children’s health in the long run. Let’s all take a sip of good health!