Non diet soft drinks have been around for decades in the developed world, and what was once deemed a luxury is now casually bought and consumed, often without any awareness of the action. But dieticians and health workers have been concerned for some time about the current calorie binge in the "West" and in the developing world, and it's connection to the epidemic of worldwide obesity. One element of the excess intake of calories has been the universal availability of high sugar content, carbonated soft drinks, and many health education programs are focused on reducing the consumption of such drinks.
A report out of Boston has raised another possible negative link relating to carbonated soft drinks, and this time it's an increased rate of violence amongst teenagers in those who consume large amounts of such drinks. David Hemenway, MD, professor of public health and director of the Injury Control Center at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues reviewed self reported data from 2725 teenagers (self reported data always makes me a bit dubious about any conclusions drawn from them) in the Boston Youth Study: and his findings are sure to stimulate debate for some time to come.
What they found was that teenagers who consumed more than five 12oz (350mls) of carbonated soft drink per week:
- Were more likely to carry a weapon, and
- Were more likely to be violent towards siblings, dates and friends.
- Were getting insufficient sleep and
- Were using alcohol and tobacco within the past 30 days.
And of concern was the fact that nearly one in three reported that they consumed more than five cans of carbonated drinks per week. Interestingly, the authors did not report a link with obesity.
Soft drinks not only contain carbon dioxide dissolved in water, but they also contain
high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sodium benzoate, phosphoric or citric acid, and often caffeine, so should the link be confirmed the next question would be "Which one(s) is(are) the culprit(s)"? But we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that soft drinks must be the "root of all evil" and legislate to ban them on the findings of this self reported research. But perhaps we should try to view carbonated soft drinks as something quirky to be tried on occasion, and not the first thing to quench a thirst when walking through the Mall: in many respects, iced-water is a much better choice.