Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

May 9, 2013

America's youth: Rethinking what we drink

During an exhausting road trip recently, my ultimate Frisbee teammates and I managed to drag our aching legs across a parking lot and into Chipotle for some late-night grub. With heavy eyelids, empty stomachs and 10 hours on the road under our belts, making healthy choices wasn’t exactly a priority. Walking in, I said, “You know, Chipotle burritos taste so much better with soda.” For some reason, though, I decided against a cup of soda, instead opting for ice water. And nothing felt different.

It’s so tempting to want the Coke, the Arnold Palmer, the Monster to round out our meals. However, these sugar-sweetened beverages — SSBs — are unnecessary and extremely detrimental to our health and well-being. It is time that we reconsider — during every snack, every meal, every time in the drive-thru — what liquids we are consuming, especially as a new generation begins to develop and mature. By decreasing intake of liquid calories from sugary beverages, we can observe marked changes in obesity rates, the prevalence of disease and overall physical and mental health.

Ever since I was a small child, my peers and I have been reminded of the negative dental effects of SSBs. No kid wants to have rotten and stained teeth like our friend Austin Powers. A report published in 2001 by the Minnesota Dental Association stated that all soft drinks are highly acidic and that colas can reach pH readings more acidic than 2.4. Subjecting enamel to Coke for only one hour led to significant tooth decay and surface irregularities. Hopefully, most people are now aware of these troubling findings. What many people are not aware of, though, are the hazards of regular SSB consumption beyond tooth decay.

The American Heart Association recently reported that sugary drinks are a factor in 180,000 obesity-related deaths per year. In the U.S., 10 percent of obesity-related deaths were linked to SSBs. Mounting evidence suggests that consumption of liquid calories produces less satiety than does consumption of solid foods, leading to excessive caloric intake and contributing to heightened obesity rates. To support this claim, a 2010 University of Minnesota study found that chronic sugar consumption weakens the brain’s ability to prevent overeating.

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