Every September I find myself writing an article about my kids falling off the nutritional wagon. Our summers are less structured than the school year, peppered with more outside influences, fewer rules, and much easier access to ice cream, sugary drinks and candy. I know I am not alone, yet I also know that now is the time to corral it back in.
Our corralling this year has to do with sodas — those sugary sweet soft drinks made with carbonated water, flavorings and chemical additives. Soda just hadn’t been a concern in our house until this summer. We never bought it, we never ordered it at restaurants, and my kids never asked for it. Yet this summer, soda seemed to be lurking around every corner and, boy, did it beckon.
My sons claim that this summer they opened “a can of happiness,” as the Coke advertisements promise. I think they opened Pandora’s box. Here is the dark truth behind that liquid candy.
1. The vast majority of sodas have no nutritional value, at all. Zip, zero, nada.
2. Soda is high in sugar and calories, which lead to obesity, diabetes and blood sugar imbalances.
4. The artificial food colorings, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, MSG and citric acid in soda have been shown to cause disruptive behaviors such as aggression and ADHD, lack of focus and abnormal brain function.
5. Soda can cause heart disease. A Harvard study found that one daily 12-ounce serving of regular soda increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 19 percent.
6. Caffeine is an addictive drug and can affect the developing brains of children. Children shouldn’t consume any caffeine, yet a typical soda provides 35 to 38 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce can. Diet sodas often contain more, as do certain brands such as Mountain Dew and Pepsi One.
7. Soda drinkers are more likely to be lacking in calcium, magnesium and many vitamins. Kids who drink soda often eat fewer whole foods. Drinking soda triggers the body to produce insulin that then triggers the body to crave more sugar. When a child fills up on sugar and other unhealthful foods, he consumes fewer healthful ones.
8. Sodas are dehydrating. They are diuretics just like coffee, tea and alcohol. Our little athletes certainly need to hydrate, and whether children play sports or not, water is essential for every function of their bodies.
9. Soda weakens kidneys and the liver. The high levels of phosphoric acid in sodas have been linked to kidney stones and other renal problems, with diet soda most likely to have a negative effect on kidney function. The sugar and high fructose corn syrup in soda place pressure on the liver.
10. Sodas contribute to tooth decay. The sugar causes cavities and the acids deteriorate tooth enamel. Dentists have reported significant enamel loss on the front teeth of teenagers who regularly drink sodas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers and young adults are the biggest consumers of soft drinks. This is not good! A teenager’s body is smaller than an adult’s and still developing, therefore more susceptible to the chemicals, sugar and caffeine found in soft drinks.
Here’s something for your kids to think about: Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco estimate that “slapping a penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened drinks would prevent nearly 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 deaths over the next decade.” And potentially prevent 240,000 cases of diabetes per year. The tax could generate an estimated $13 billion yearly tax revenue and perhaps also “save the public $17 billion over the next decade in health care-related expenses due to the decline of obesity-related diseases.”
So our family is going to curb soda again. As loudly as it beckons my boys and as tempting as it is to many people, it doesn’t seem like a can (or box) worth opening.
Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company, and author of “The Super Food Cards,” a collection of healthful recipes and advice.