Junk Drinks Becoming an Issue
July 16/Law & Health Weekly -- "You are what you drink." That is the implication of major new studies indicating that what you drink may be as important as what you eat when it comes to health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many others, according to Dr. Cheryle Hart, medical advisor for AquaHydrate.

One study referred to America's obsession with sugared drinks as "America's hidden drinking problem," with four out of five children and two out of three adults drinking sugar-sweetened beverages daily, whether sodas, sugary waters or so-called sports drinks. According to research at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and elsewhere, sugared beverages are the leading source of added sugar in the diet of young Americans. In his book The World is Fat, Barry Popkin claims that the average American gets 400 calories a day from beverages alone.

According to Hart, Mayo Clinic trained physician and author of several best-selling health and nutrition books including The Insulin Resistance Diet, the medical evidence is clear. "'You are what you drink' may be truer than 'you are what you eat,'" she said. "Junk drinks - sweetened beverages such as sodas, sugary waters, and sports drinks - may pose even more serious problems in terms of obesity and related health problems than junk foods. And artificially sweetened drinks are also implicated in weight gain. The solution is clear: Americans need to get back to drinking water, and nutritionally enhanced waters ... are the best choice." Hart points to several recent studies that confirm the link between obesity, disease, and "junk drinks."

Research at HSPH showed that the addition of only one can of a sugary beverage every day for a year could result in a weight gain of 15 pounds. Also, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that while both liquid and solid calorie intake were associated with weight change, only a reduction in liquid calories was shown to have a significant affect on weight loss during their study's follow-up period. In addition to being a major contributor to weight gain, there is now strong evidence that sugary drinks are linked to "diabesity" and heart disease in women. Recent studies show that women who have one or more servings of a sugary drink per day have nearly double the diabetes risk of women who rarely have sugar drinks and that women who have more than two servings of sugary beverages a day have a nearly 40% higher risk of heart disease.

In addition, artificially sweetened beverages may pose their own health problems. A long-term study of 3700 people showed that those who averaged three or more artificially sweetened beverages a day were more likely to have gained weight over an eight-year period than those who did not drink artificially sweetened beverages.

From the July 20, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition