Will Pop lose its Fizz-le?

Dr. Frank Varon Health Pro
  • The consumption of carbonated beverages (noticed I refrained from being specific -- no matter where I travel in this country, folks seem to have slightly different terms for the same thing) has increased hand over fist for the past few decades except for a recent decline.


    The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently published a report, "Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are harming America's Health" , on the impact of soda pop on our diets. When I went to high school, vending machines were in the lunch room area and not that accessible (if they even worked). We definitely could not take it into the classroom like some schools now allow.

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    I am not saying that drinking some soda pop is bad for you, but some people take it into excess. There have been many health issues raised and research completed about the health problems associated with soda pop consumption.


    Soda pop and obesity and diabetes. Recently, medical researchers have been investigating whether soda pop consumption has anything to do with the incidence of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Some of the results even shocked me. As one might expect, the soda pop industry is using counter media claims about these recent studies. However, more studies show a relationship than not for the time being.


    One study presented by Sharon Fowler, MPH, at the American Diabetes Association's Scientific Sessions meeting in 2005 (Abstract 1058-P), indicated the following results of an eight year study on the risk of becoming overweight or obese from drinking regular or diet soda pop. The results are in the table below.



    Risk of becoming overweight or obese:

        <0.5     0.5 to 1     1 to 1.5     >2

    Regular (%)     26        30.4          32.8     47.2
    Diet (%)         36.5       37.5          54.5     N/A



    In summary, this study found that for each can of diet pop soda, the risk of being obese or overweight increased 41%.


    The other study just published in the July 31 issue of the American Heart Association's journal Circulation found that drinking one soda a day (regular or diet) increased the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by about 50 percent. The researchers concluded: "In middle-aged adults, soft drink consumption is associated with a higher prevalence and incidence of multiple metabolic risk factors."


    These conclusions have extended to infer an increased incidence of heart disease and diabetes as these are related to the incidence of metabolic syndrome. To arrive at a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, three of five criteria must be met. These are a large waistline, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting triglycerides, elevated fasting blood sugar, or a reduced HDL or "good" cholesterol (think of ‘H' for ‘Happy'). While it is difficult from these studies to arrive at a cause and effect relationship, one thing that is known: an association between soda pop consumption and the risk of being overweight, obese, or having metabolic syndrome exists. One factor that has had little consideration is the large quantity of sodium in soda pop. Other research suspects that artificial sweeteners may distort the body's natural calorie calendar.



    Soda pop and oral health. This relationship was noted by dental clinicians in the 1980s with the finding that soda pop was probably related to the increased incidence in tooth decay and enamel erosion. It appears that soda pop causes two things: First, sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup are used to sweeten regular soda pop. A 12-oz. can typically yields the equivalent of 10-12 teaspoons of sugar. These sugars fuel the metabolism for the cavity-causing bacteria that will produce acid resulting in enamel demineralization. With increased time exposure to these sugars, more acid is produced by the bacteria and increasing the chance of enamel demineralization.

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    Second, different brands of soda pop will contain different types of acid and with repeated exposure this will cause tooth demineralization and eventually tooth decay. In addition to the "added" acid for flavoring, the carbonation produces carbonic acid, a weak acid. This causes a deleterious effect by bathing the teeth in acid which might lead to demineralization.


    Please see a photo of one of my patients who now at age 18 has had many of the outer surfaces of his teeth filled. Despite our warnings and recommendations, he continues to drink copious quantities of soda pop and in the photo to the left he is now getting the demineralization (blue arrows) adjacent to fillings that were done within the past two years. His parents complain about the dental bill and two years ago, told him to stop drinking the pop. But guess who is buying the pop? Also, the filling material has also lost its luster and appears dull probably due to the soda pop acidity.


    "'But, there isn't sugar in diet pop!' you might say." Well, for those diet soda pop junkies, you might have noticed that artificial sweeteners used as sugar substitutes are quite potent. To counter this excessively sweet taste, the beverage manufacturers increase the concentration of the acid and carbonation. This adds a "lemony" or "sour" taste to the beverage and balances the sweetness of many artificial sweeteners. You can commonly find people sipping on soda pop all day long. The long-term consumption of soda pop will have a cumulative effect on the demineralization of enamel.


    So now that I have scared you to death, let's have some straight talk.


    First, eating anything in moderation is warranted. And it might be easy to assume that those who indulge in soda pop also engage in other unhealthy eating habits. But where is the research to support this?


    Secondly, people in general DON'T drink enough water. I cannot overemphasize this issue enough especially for those persons that suffer from dry mouth due to the side effects from medications or systemic diseases like diabetes (more on this later!). One sign that you might need to drink more water is if your urine is a prominent yellow (due to being concentrated). Well-hydrated people will have light yellow urine.


    Third, optimal oral health can be achieved with proper brushing and flossing and use of appropriate toothpastes. Visit your dentist and dental hygienist at least twice a year for a dental prophylaxis, a dental examination, and an oral cancer screening examination. For those people at risk of dental disease, your dental team might recommend the use of fluoride gels (prescription) or a remineralization toothpaste like MI Paste (only available at a dental office) or Recaldent can retard demineralization and repair damaged enamel. Recommendations on diet and oral health can be found on the Web site for the American Dental Association.


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    Fourth, I rarely EVER find fault with my diabetes colleagues except on this one issue: QUIT RECOMMENDING DIET SODA POP! If you need to drink a flavored refreshment, please consider the granular drink mixes like Crystal Light or Kool-Aid. And if you just gotta have a soda pop, use a straw to drink it.


    Remember, "Healthy mouths mean healthy bodies".


    Oh and what to do with all that soda pop you no longer want to drink? Well, there is always "The Mentos experiment!"


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Published On: July 25, 2007