Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), designed to tempt your palate, are silent killers. Results of a recent study estimate 184,000 deaths per year are directly attributable to SSB consumption.
Sugar is added to many drinks to tempt you into buying and consuming them. Soda, soft drinks, fruit punches, sweetened milk and blended tea and coffee have this addictive ingredient added, simply to appeal to your taste. Energy and sport drinks that have sugar for energy replenishment are increasingly consumed for pleasure, and would also contribute to recreational sugar overload. These drinks contain calories, and little (if any) additional nutritional value.
These drinks satisfy your taste buds, and may provide a transient “sugar high”, but are dangerous. There is an enormous amount of sugar in some of these benign-looking potions – as much as 16 teaspoons, or 240 calories in a standard 20-ounce serving! I challenge you to put 16 teaspoons of raw sugar onto a plate. You may think twice before buying your next soda.
The problem is that you consume these liquid calories without filling your stomach. So, you still eat normal sized meals on top of this, and very quickly end up in calorie overload. More than this, because this simple sugar is rapidly absorbed, you get a sudden rise in the level of sugar in your blood (that’s what gives you the “high”). Your body responds by pumping out insulin to cope with the sugar surge, and blood sugar levels then drop precipitously, leaving you hungry. And then you eat!
As a result of daily calorie overload, people that drink a lot of sugar-sweetened drinks are at significantly increased risk of obesity (in both adults and children), diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. The emergence of diabetes is a strong indicator of the profound metabolic disruption associated with sugar overload. This isn’t simply a disease of sugar metabolism; it’s part of a complex degenerative inflammatory condition that accelerates aging and causes heart disease and premature death. Adults that consume 1 or more SSBs per day have an 80% increase in the risk of developing diabetes. This is terrifying!
For these reasons, researchers at Tufts, Harvard, University of Washington and Imperial College London collaborated to estimate the number of annual deaths caused by the consumption of SSBs. They estimate that 184,000 worldwide deaths per year are caused simply by drinking too many sugar-loaded drinks! That’s equivalent to losing every resident of Huntington Beach in California, each year. Of these, 133,000 deaths are from diabetes, 45,000 from heart disease, and 6,450 from cancer. An astounding 8.5 million years are lost each year due to ill health, disability or premature death as a result of our fatal attraction to sugar-loaded drinks! (Circulation 02, June 29 2015)
There is a little good news in this story. Whereas consumption of SSBs increased four-fold from 1965 to 2010 in the USA, it has started to decline (by almost 20% over last 15 years). People are beginning to heed the advice of experts, including this author (see specific advice on limiting “empty” calories of SSBs in the article Drink Well for BodyWHealth). Fortunately, we are reacting to the blaring alarm signals, and beginning to modify our diets. Not enough though, and everyone in search of BodyWHealth should be highly conscious of this silent thief. If you allow it to, it may steal your youth and health, and maybe even your life.
Drink smart, for BodyWHealth!