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Beer and soda are two of the most popular and unhealthy beverages available today. They’re both associated with a long list of health risks. In fact, experts warn that in choosing which one is worse is a matter of determining the lesser of two evils, reports Sade Oguntola.
Beer and carbonated soft drinks are two of the most popular beverages available today. For decades, Nigerians have been drinking just as much beer as carbonated drinks.
Carbonated drinks consumption is even much more in students. In fact, many people take carbonated drinks more than water. Needless to say that majority of people who take carbonated drinks do so for various reasons.
Carbonated soft drink consumption has become a highly visible and controversial public health and policy issue.
They are viewed by many as a major contributor to obesity and related health problems and have consequently been targeted as a means to help curtail the rising prevalence of obesity, particularly among children.
Unfortunately, carbonated soft drinks are just as dangerous to health as smoking cigarettes or alcohol. Experts say that emerging science on the addictiveness of sugar, especially combined with the known addictive properties of caffeine in many sugary beverages, makes carbonated drinks as addictive as tobacco products. Its addictive nature and sugar content also makes it as unhealthy as alcohol.
Sugar is highly addictive and can cause blood sugar fluctuation, mood disorders, poor digestion, suppressed immunity, weight gain, tooth and bone decay. The effects of excessive sugar consumption can even lead to deadly diseases such as heart disease and cancer on the long run.
Drinking just two cans of carbonated soft drink a day has been found to cause severe long-term liver damage, a condition that normally results from chronic alcohol abuse. This, abuse if not checked, can lead to victims needing a transplant because of the liver’s inability to process the huge amount of sugar.
Too many soft drinks can potentially cause diabetes and heart damage as well as being a major contributor to obesity. Diet drinks is not an exception either. Diet drinks in particular have been shown to lead to excess weight gain even though they have fewer calories than regular carbonated drinks, they can trigger the appetite to eat more.
Contrary to popular belief, diet soda and other foods and beverages made with artificial sweeteners like aspartame can actually cause both weight gain and health problems. Researchers in a presentation at the 2011 meeting of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) on 474 participants studied over a 10-year period found that those that consumed two or more diet sodas a day experienced waist size increases that were six times greater than those who did not drink diet soda.
The researcher, while debunking the false notion that drinking diet beverages is beneficial for weight loss, reported that consuming diet soda actually leads to a 70 per cent increase in waist size compared to those who do not drink them. Clearly, this is an indication that using the name “diet” is, in itself, misleading.
Conversely, in a related study, researchers also found that aspartame, a commonly-used chemical sweetener in diet foods and beverages, is actually responsible for raising blood sugar levels. In tests using mice, those that consumed chow with added aspartame experienced elevated blood sugar levels compared to mice simply eating regular chow.
Are soft drinks as harmful as alcohol or tobacco? How healthy is carbonated drink? Professor Temitope Alonge, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, stated that soft drink consumption, for instance, in children poses a significant risk factor for impaired calcification of growing bones.
Professor Alonge explained that the lowering of calcium levels in children due to high consumption of carbonated drinks could ultimately lead to poor bone mineralisation, and as such an increased risk of broken bones in children who consume soft drinks.
The medical expert stated that soft drink consumption may be a major factor for osteoporosis as they are high in phosphates but contain virtually no calcium because many people end up substituting water and other health drinks with soft drinks when they want to quench their thirst.
Soft drinks have emerged as one of the most significant dietary sources of tooth decay, affecting people of all ages. Acids and acidic sugar by-products in soft drinks soften tooth enamel, contributing to the formation of cavities. In extreme cases, softer enamel combined with improper brushing, grinding of the teeth or other conditions can lead to tooth loss.
Mrs Beatrice Eluaka, Head, Nutrition Division, Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, stated that nutritionists would never recommend children or young adults to make sweet drinks. “As nutritionist, we never recommend that children be given any sweet drink once the person eats as he or she should because of tooth decay. Parents should avoid giving sweet drinks, including energy drinks, so that they do not become addicted to it,” she said.
In addition, a situation where sweet drinks are given to children before their meals, she stated could be detrimental. “The drink served fills up the child’s tummy, leaving no space for nutritious food,” Mrs Eluka declared.
Unfortunately, heavy soft drink or beer consumption can interfere with the body’s metabolisation of different medicines. For instance, carbonated drinks interfere with iron supplements, antacids and antibiotics such as penicillin and ampicillin.
Although many people savour taking medications with different drinks such as carbonated drink, Mr Michael Irabor, Deputy Director, Pharmaceutical Services, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, stated that due to the possibility of drug-food interaction, the best option to use is plain water.
Mr Irabor stated, “aside the fact that certain drugs, when taken with others either increase or decrease the effectiveness of the other, in the same manner, food, including drinks also affect the effectiveness of some drugs.”
Mr Irabor stated that “pharmacists always recommend that drugs should be taken with plain water, not juice, tea or soft drinks. Coffee also falls into this category. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant and it can also interfere with the drug. Water is the best to use and it should be water at room temperature. It does not have to be hot.”
In addition, Mr Abiodun Ajibade, an industrial pharmacist with Alvid Nigerian Limited, Mokola, Ibadan, Oyo State, said ingesting pain medications with an alcoholic drink or coffee when suffering from a headache lead to a faster relief of the pain, hence people should not take their medicines with alcoholic drinks because of the two interacting with each other.
“For instance, hypertension medicines are aimed at reducing the blood pressure. If it is taking with an alcoholic drink, it may actually potentiate a blood pressure lowering effects than desired. When the blood pressure goes down below the normal (hypotension), it is deadly,” said Mr Ajibade.
Certainly, beer and carbonated soft drink are both a significant cause of the poor health that has become so prevalent today. Does it really matter which one is worse? It is like trying to choose between cancer and heart disease. If one must know which is worse, then compare the health of a long term alcoholic to the health of someone who has a long history of excessive soda consumption. They are both likely to be suffering from poor health and disease. So there is no need choosing between the disadvantages when it is possible to avoid them.
If you’re going to indulge in the consumption of soft drinks or beer, simply choose whichever one will give you the most enjoyment, consuming them in moderation, while keeping in mind that even though both is taken in moderation, it will still come at a cost.Share