Research into exactly what soft drinks with added sugar do to our bodies has led to some shocking suggestions. The biological scientist Dr Hans-Peter Kubis, responsible for the study, says that soft drinks with added sugar seem to increase the risk of heart disease, liver failure and hypertension. Not only that, but in children, they have been linked to addictive cravings, and changing younger people’s preferences to junk and sugary food. Apparently, even drinking a can a day or two a week could be enough to alter our metabolism, so that it is easier for us to put on weight. Drinking too many soft drinks can also lead to developing type 2 diabetes as changes in the muscles occur which are similar to those in people with obesity problems and those who already have type 2 diabetes.
The research, which was carried out by Bangor University and published in the European Journal Of Nutrition, showed that by exposing our muscles to liquid sugar, the genes were actually altered which made them use the sugar for energy instead of burning fat. This is a change in metabolism that could become permanent and as our metabolism becomes less efficient, it also becomes less able to cope with the subsequent rises in blood sugar. This, in turn, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Dr Hans-Peter Kubis says, “Having seen all the medical evidence, I don’t touch soft drinks now. I think drinks with added sugar are, frankly, evil.” Dr Kubis is not the only researcher with serious concerns about added sugar in soft drinks. The British Medical Journal reported earlier this month, how the universities of Oxford and Harvard held an investigation into the large amounts of sugar and calories, popular brands such as Lucozade and Powerade contain, implicitly encourage weight gain. And a study in March regarding soft drinks, which was published in the American Heart Association, showed that men who drink a standard 12oz can of sugar-sweetened beverage every day have a 20 per cent higher risk of heart disease compared to men who don’t drink any sugar-sweetened drinks. This study followed more than 42,000 men for 22 years and tests on their blood found that soft-drink fans had higher levels of harmful inflammation in their blood vessels, and lower levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
It may surprise you to learn that supposedly ‘healthy’ energy soft drinks, such as Red Bull, have approximately seven teaspoons of sugar per 250ml in them. This is a huge and sudden sugar load for the body and might explain the recent research, reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, which found that by drinking just two carbonated soft drinks (330ml each) every week, appears to double the risk of pancreatic cancer. And there are hidden sugars in fruit juice as well. A report published in the Journal of Hepatology showed that high levels of fructose fruit sugar in soft drinks can overwhelm the liver, which in turns leads it to accumulate fat. The study, lead by Dr Nimer Assy, warned that people who drank two cans of soft drinks with high levels of fructose a day, were five times more likely to develop fatty liver disease, which is a precursor to developing cirrhosis and liver cancer.
There is a quite disturbing behavioral picture emerging however, from research conducted on children who drink soft drinks with added sugar. In one study conducted at University College London’s Health Behaviour Research Centre, it was shown that children develop a preference for more sugary soft drinks, if they are already drinking them. The study took 346 children aged around 11 and gave them sugary soft drinks or water or fruit juice in the tests. Those given water or fruit juice did not show the same predilection for sugary soft drinks. More research by Oregon University investigated 75 children aged between three and five who were given sugary soft drinks and found that they avoided eating raw vegetables such as carrots or red peppers, instead preferring foods that were calorie laden, such as chips. If the children were given water to drink this avoidance did not occur.
Similar results have been revealed from heart experts at St George’s, University of London, in tests that showed children and teenagers who consume sugary soft drinks are far more likely to prefer foods high in salt. Dr Kubis thinks that the pleasure zones in our brains are being activated, when we consume sugary soft drinks, and this can lead to addictive behavior. “The body absorbs liquid sugars so much faster because they are more easily taken into the stomach lining, and this rapid intake fires up the body’s pleasure responses. At the same time, your brain reduces its desire for the taste of nutrients such as vitamins or minerals. There is a huge overlap between what is addictive behaviour with drugs and the use of sweet food.” He adds that sugar is even more addictive than cocaine. “In lab experiments, even rats who have been made addicted to cocaine will prefer to have a sugary drink instead of cocaine.” Dr Kubis no longer drinks soft drinks with added sugar.