Saturday, November 3, 2012

Diet and Energy Drinks: Solutions or part of the problerm?

Per capita soft drink consumption has increased nearly 500 percent over the past five decades, and children, unfortunately, are a major reason for this staggering increase.

Kids are introduced to soda at very young ages and consumption only increases, as they get older.

An estimated 56 percent of 8-year-olds drink soda daily, and once the teenage years come, some kids drink at least three cans of soda each day.

Regular soda is, of course, a significant source of sugar (mostly in the form of fructose), with each can containing about 10 teaspoons of sugar, but due to artificial sweeteners' health effects, diet sodas may have far more serious health effects.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened soda and other beverages has been linked to the rising obesity epidemic, along with other health issues, among kids. [1]

Likely as a result, a campaign has begun to get kids to stop drinking so many sugar-sweetened beverages… unfortunately, rather than replacing them with water or other healthy beverages it appears many kids are simply chugging down diet sodas instead – an absolutely terrible choice for kids' health.

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta have found that more kids than ever in the United States are downing diet drinks – approximately double the number that were drinking them a decade ago. The study looked at data from a federal health survey, which ended with the year 2008 and showed that 12.5 percent of children were drinking artificially sweetened beverages. [2]

On the surface this may appear to be a positive switch if it means kids are consuming less sugar as a result, but diet sodas are actually worse for your health than regular soda, due to the artificial sweeteners they contain. As senior research of the study, Dr. Miriam Vos, noted:

"We do want children to drink less sugar. But the challenge is that there are no studies that have looked at the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners in growing children."

Though diet drinks may be lower in calories they may actually contribute to weight gain, a study by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. After following 474 diet soda drinkers for nearly 10 years, they found that their waists grew 70 percent more than the waists of non-diet soda drinkers. Further, those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a 500 percent greater increase in waist size!

Worse still, no one knows what impact these substance will have on kids who start drinking them at young ages and continue on for decades throughout their lives.

Consumption of artificially flavored drinks may prove to be a hard habit to break. As stated in the journal Nursing:

"Artificial sweeteners are 200 to 13,000 times as sweet as sugar, and this enhanced sweetness is mildly addictive. Sweet taste triggers the dopamine signal, the same pathway triggered by drugs of abuse such as cocaine. If artificially sweetened sodas increase cravings, a person may need more sweets to feel satisfied, leading to excessive calorie consumption and weight gain."

Also be very wary of vitamin waters, if you take a closer look at the labels, you'll discover they're spiking these waters with a lot of unsavory ingredients, many capable of wreaking havoc on your metabolism, hormones, and other physiological processes. Many of these so-called "functional waters" contain one, two or more artificial sweeteners, even though the water may not be advertised as "diet" or "low-calorie." Some even contain sugar, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners like acesulfame potassium (ace-K) or sucralose (Splenda).

Parents also need to be aware of the use “energy drinks” by their children.  These products are useless at best and can even be dangerous.  In fact the New York attorney general has launched an investigation into energy drink manufacturers’ marketing and advertising practices.  The probe is looking into whether the companies are overstating benefits from certain healthful-sounding ingredients while downplaying the role of caffeine; another issue is whether manufacturers are adding multiple sources of caffeine, such as guarana, but not disclosing the full amount on the label. [3]

In December 2011, a 14-year-old girl suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia linked to caffeine toxicity after drinking two 24-ounce energy drinks in a 24-hour period. The girl’s mother as well as Senator Dick Durbin has since called on the FDA to regulate the caffeine content in the drinks. In a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Durbin stated:

“ … 30 to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks. However, a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that energy drinks pose potentially serious health risks. The report found that between 2005 – 2009, the number of emergency room (ER) visits due to energy drinks increased ten-fold from 1,128 to 13,114 visits.” [4]

A major factor contributing to these hospitalizations is the exceptionally high levels of caffeine in energy drinks. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adolescents should not consume more than 100mg of caffeine daily. One 16oz can of Monster contains 160mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to almost 5 cans of soda. However, this caffeine level does not account for caffeine from additives, like guarana, or ingredients with stimulating properties, like taurine and ginseng.

Consuming large quantities of caffeine can have serious health consequences, including caffeine toxicity, stroke, anxiety, arrhythmia, and in some cases death. Young people are especially susceptible to suffering adverse effects because energy drinks market to youth; their bodies are not accustomed to caffeine, and energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and stimulating additives that may interact when used in combination.

Originally, athletes were the target market for energy drink makers, but that soon expanded to target teenagers and young adults. Now, the majority is marketed at 18- to 34-year-olds (although younger teens often drink them as well), and the marketing is working – despite reports of serious adverse effects linked to their consumption (the risks are especially severe in children, adolescents, and young adults with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavioral disorders or those who take certain medications).

The U.S. energy drink market is expected to reach nearly $20 billion in 2013, which is close to a 160 percent increase from 2008. Among the functional beverage category, the energy drink segment has experienced the largest volume growth and increased annual sales, both in the United States and abroad

A child or teenager who chronically lacks energy should be a red flag and the source of the issue needs to be found rather than covered up with supplements or energy drinks. Some of the natural options that will provide an energy boost without the scary side effects include eating a balanced diet with plenty of “good fats” like walnuts, pastured butter, whole eggs, olive oil and avocados.  Also getting plenty of quality sleep and intense bursts of exercise will also help provide the “jolt” you are looking for.

Extra Credit

A very interesting article that highlights recent research out of UCLA on the potential negative effects that high dietary intake of fructose can have on our health.

Why Half of America May Have Impaired Brain Function by 2030:


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