Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Soda: Bubble trouble?

A healthful diet isn't only about the foods you eat. It's also about what you drink. Americans are drinking more and more soda — leading to an increase in certain health problems. Research has linked soft drinks to conditions such as: Gout. Men who drank sugar-sweetened soft drinks had a higher risk of this form of arthritis than those who didn't, according to a 2008 study. Risk significantly increased for men who had five or more sodas a week. The study didn't include women. Gout occurs when uric acid crystals develop in joints. Symptoms include pain, heat, swelling and redness in the affected areas. Uric acid typically forms as substances called purines — often found in high-protein foods — are broken down in the body. But, for soft drink lovers, the risk of gout may be linked to the sweetener fructose found in most non-diet sodas. Fructose is the only carbohydrate known to increase uric acid levels. In the study, the men who drank diet sodas did not appear to have a similar increase in risk. Obesity. A 2006 review of 30 studies showed a strong link between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and weight gain and obesity in children and adults. Weighing too much is a risk factor for many health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, depression and some types of cancer. Metabolic syndrome. Another recent study found that people who drank one or more sodas per day had an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. This was true whether study participants drank diet or regular. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. These factors include obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and high cholesterol. High fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener in soda, may be at least partially to blame, according to the authors. But, people who drink soda may be more likely to eat an unhealthful diet overall, leading to a higher risk. Kidney problems. A 2008 study linked the consumption of two or more sugary sodas a day with albuminuria, an early sign of kidney problems. Low bone density. Another study demonstrated a correlation between cola — both regular and diet — and low bone density in women. This can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of bone fractures. Consider your options A 12-ounce regular soft drink can contain 135 calories or more. These empty calories can start to add up quickly. The next time you're tempted to reach for a soda, try one of these refreshing beverages instead: Ice water with a slice of lime Carbonated water with a slice of lemon Unsweetened iced tea Low- or fat-free milk By Michael W. Rosen, M.D. Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

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