Smorgasbord Health Column – Worldwide market for fizzy drinks is an estimated 340 billion a year..but at what cost?

We have all drunk them – I remember when I dieted many years ago you immediately reached for the ‘light’ versions and you even have ‘zero’s’ now.  Go to a fast food establishment and you can have a bucket full of it and even a refill!  As you will see, we were aware of the dangers of drinking too many fizzy drinks 40 years ago, but you have got to give the manufacturers their credit they can spin on a dime – or is that $340billion per year in 2014

The estimated consumption of fizzy drinks around the world is 50billion units a day!

There is little doubt that drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health in many respects. Your liver, brain and immune system come under immense pressure when they have to deal with excessive amounts and the long term effect on health is measurable. However, these days, the alternatives that are on every shelf of the supermarket and in bars and restaurants, should not be the first thing you turn to when moderating your alcohol consumption.

The worst offenders are the carbonated drinks. Fruit juices without added sugars and additives mixed with mineral water or undiluted are fine in moderation. They too are high in fruit acids that can cause some tooth damage if you do not clean your teeth at least twice a day, particularly at night.

Even the ‘healthy’ smoothies on the shelves of the supermarket are misleading, even if they do not contain added sweeteners, they are still high in fructose. They do have a recommended portion size of 150gm per day, but I know people who consume the entire contents daily. Which can be 100gm of sugar even in its natural form because of the amount fruit used.

The normal recommended amount of sugar for an adult is 30gm.

It is the processed canned and bottled fizzy drinks that really do have some harmful effects on not only the teeth, but also our operational systems in the body and structural health of skin and bones.

Do people really drink that much fizz?

The American Soft Drink Association was proud to say a few years ago that the average American consumes over 600, 12oz servings per year. Children are consuming many more fizzy drinks than adults and they estimate that the average teenager drinks an average of 160 gallons of soft drinks per year until their late 20’s. What is more horrifying for me is that they also reckon that teenagers get as much as 10% of their daily calorie intake from fizzy drinks. As I mentioned earlier, the estimated number of units consumed world wide on a daily basis is 50billion.

Children and teenagers are still growing and need a huge amount of nutrients to build healthy bone and other body tissues. It is not just that these fizzy drinks are nutritionally sterile; they contain several harmful ingredients that can have long term effects on your health.

What sort of effects are we talking about?

Scientific studies have shown that as little as one or two soft drinks a day can increase your risk of developing a number of medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, osteoporosis, nutritional deficiencies, heart disease and neurological problems.

Most of the calories in soft drinks are in the form of refined sugars or artificial sugars and they have absolutely no other nutritional content. In one study by Dr. Charles Best who discovered insulin by the way, it was shown that teenagers who drink too many soft drinks could develop cirrhosis of the liver, something we normally associate with chronic alcoholism.

There is no cure for cirrhosis except for a liver transplant.

A very common problem when you drink too many soft drinks is the increased acid levels throughout the body. The worst offenders are Coke and Pepsi. It takes over 30 glasses of high alkaline water to neutralise one glass of Coke. That is 24 more glasses per day than I recommend on the healthy eating plan and many people felt that they could not drink those.

How harmful are the sugars in soft drinks and what are the most common effects?

Caries or cavities in the dental enamel are caused by demineralisation of the calcium in them. Bacteria such as Streptococci, Lactobacillus and Actinomyces form dental plaque that clumps together and adheres to the teeth. Acid is produced and the low pH level that results draws the calcium out of the teeth.

All bacteria thrive in an acidic environment. Drinking lots of soft drinks full of sugars and sugar alternatives provides the perfect environment for them leading to increased damage to the teeth. Our saliva contains calcium, fluoride and phosphate naturally, that would normally remineralise our teeth, but if you are constantly taking in the more acidic soft drinks, demineralisation occurs more frequently than the saliva can cope with.

This ability to corrode our teeth is not a new discovery. I trained as a dental nurse back in 1969 and the dentist I worked for wanted to discourage a young boy of 11 or 12 to stop drinking so much cola as it was causing lots of cavities. He had to extract a tooth and he told the boy to come back the next day. We left the tooth in some coke overnight and the next morning only half the tooth was still there. That was over 40 years ago! Amazing that the formula still contains additives that can cause harm to teeth – why is that do you think? Perhaps down to the amount of tax that certain soft drink manufacturers pay around the world!

Does the acid in fizzy drink have a specific effect on any part of the body?

When you introduce the acid in fizzy drinks to your stomach acid it immediately increases the levels of acid dramatically. It causes an inflammation of the stomach and erosion of the stomach lining, which results in very severe stomach aches. Part of the problem is the combination of caffeine and acids in soft drinks, which include acetic, fumaric, gluconic and phosphoric acids. The effect of these acids is so strong that plumbers will often use a soft drink to unclog a drain or it can be used for example to dissolve corrosion on car batteries.

The stomach maintains a very delicate acid/alkaline balance to enable your food to be digested and then metabolised efficiently. You can see now that by just having one or two soft drinks that this balance is disrupted but in the quantities that most people drink them, there is the distinct possibility of severe damage.

Eventually with constant increased acidity levels there will be erosion of the gastric lining, the phosphorous which is found in high levels in soft drinks will effectively neutralise the hydrochloric acid in the stomach acid, making the digestive process ineffective and this results in bloating and gas.

Carbon dioxide is produced when we consume the soft drink and this depletes the amount of oxygen in the body and some researchers are beginning to connect to this to increased risks to cancer from damaged cells.

How can consuming soft drinks contribute to osteoporosis?

The large amounts of sugar, bubbles created by carbon dioxide and the phosphoric acid remove nutritious minerals such as calcium from the bones allowing them to become weak and brittle. The increased levels of phosphorous from the acid disrupt the calcium-phosphorous ratio, which then causes the calcium to dissolve from the bone.

It is becoming more of a problem as children and teenagers substitute the milk that they used to drink in preference for a coke or Pepsi or other fizzy soft drink. Although milk is not the only source of calcium, it is essential as part of the diet of the growing body and when it is removed at an early age and substituted by this calcium depleting drink, there are long term effects. I have seen the x-rays of the bones of a 16-year-old that could have been those of an 80-year-old.

What about the caffeine that is in some drinks?

Caffeine is a mild drug; in adults too much can elevate blood pressure and cause anxiety. In young children it can cause hyperactivity as it acts a stimulant on the nervous system and they can also suffer from insomnia, anxiety, irritability and irregular heartbeats. Caffeine is addictive and this causes the drinker to want more and more of the soft drinks. It is not unusual for people to drink one can after another much like a chain smoker and cigarettes.

Pregnant women who drink excessive amounts of soft drinks with caffeine in them could possibly be increasing the risk of birth defects.

Is there anything else that causes concern in soft drinks?

Apart from the preservatives and additives I have already covered there are the colouring agents that are used. In particular your lovely dark, bubbly glass of cola did not originally start out as brown in colour. That is due to the caramel colouring caused by the chemical polyethylene glycol which is antifreeze – there are concerns that this is carcinogenic.

What can we use as substitute for canned and bottled soft drinks?

I still enjoy the occasion coke on a hot summer day, but my consumption is down to perhaps two a year from one or two a day. The acid erosion of my teeth is testament to their power of these drinks.

Part of the problem is the addictive nature of caffeinated drinks. To be honest it can be hard for adults, let alone children to give up drinking the harmful variety and you may have to try and wean yourself off them over a period of time.

Substitute drinks like Cranberry juice topped up with sparkling water or soda– Cranberry has actually been shown to help prevent the bacteria from clumping and forming plaque in the first place.

Drink still fruit juices unsweetened but make sure that you are cleaning your teeth thoroughly at the end of the day.

The simplest is to have a bottle of water to hand throughout the day and drink that every time you are thirsty. After about three days you will notice that you will have lost the craving and that the fizzy drinks actually taste far too sweet and have an after taste.

©Sally Cronin Just food for health – 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here:

31 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Worldwide market for fizzy drinks is an estimated 340 billion a year..but at what cost?

  1. As a child it was a great treat to have a Pepsi at a party or even rarer mum and dad lettting us have one when we were out. I can remember the science teacher putting an old pennie in a glass of coke and it coming out good as new! I never drank it since then or let Coca Cola enter our house, but it’s about more than just teeth.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I hardly ever drink carbonated beverages any more. I actually prefer the taste of water.
    Substituting tap water for a carbonated or alcoholic beverage at a restaurant is a great way to save money on your bill. The markup is huge!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely true, Sally. Fizzy drinks are poison to the body, just like chocolate, which contains over 300 chemicals. However, even if kids did read this, it wouldn’t stop them drinking the stuff unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. I am so pleased I was a bad mother who didn’t allow fizzy drinks or a Mr Frosty I used to say if it does to your tongue what is it doing to your insides…I think I have been forgiven now …haha…Linked back in today’s post…Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I stopped drinking fizzy drinks whe I went to Pakistan as the ones for sale there are loaded with even more sugar and so sweet I couldn’t bear them. Now, I’m glad I lost the taste for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article, Sally. For many years, one of my worst habits was to grab a soda or two per day. Then I switched to diet soda, but those aren’t a healthy alternative either. The past two years, I have not touched soda—amazingly I don’t miss it at all (unlike ice cream, which I also gave up and still crave).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fascinating info as always from you Sal. I never knew that it would take 30 glasses of high alkaline water to cut the acid from one Coke, that’s frightening.
    I’m glad I got off the diet Pepsi wagon over 30 years ago. Of course, you may catch me having 1 or 2 while on vacation, and that would be my 2 a year also. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A coke was a treat in a blue moon for me as a child. I used to drink a lot of it in my 20’s and started to get dizzy spells so stopped drinking it. Now it’s water all the way, sometimes with Robinsons cordial in it. I love a soda water and lime on a hot day but I do admit, I’m a demon for the Prosecco at social times.

    Frightening what these fizzy drinks can do to a body!

    Liked by 1 person

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