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Should Children be Allowed Soft Drinks?

On televisions across the globe, soft drink commercials are plainly made to be irresistible. Yes, it is refreshing. Yes, it is thirst-quenching. Yes, it is tempting! What makes these television ads more inviting is that they don’t discriminate. Everyone is welcome to grab a can — whatever the gender, status, or age. Even children are encouraged to drink soft drinks, anytime, anywhere.

So what is wrong with drinking soft drinks? As the ads imply, one gulp of your favorite soft drinks simply makes any given hot afternoon refreshing. What the ads don’t show are the long-term effects of frequent drinking of soft drinks, especially on children.

Dr. Barnet Meltzer, an expert in the field of clinical nutrition and wellness preventive medicine and the former health advisor of the Olympics, wrote about the reality of what soft drinks are in his book entitled “Food Swings: Make the Life-Changing Connection Between the Foods You Eat and Your Emotional Health and Well-Being”.

In his book, he explained, “But soft drinks are far from soft. High in phosphorous and phosphoric acid, they infiltrate bodily fluids and corrode stomach linings, upset the alkaline-acid balance of the kidneys, and eat away at your liver like Hannibal Lecter. Soft drinks also contain hidden caffeine, refined sugar, and artificial chemicals.”

If this is true, then children are blindly exposed to the destructive qualities of soft drinks. Ironically, “soft” is not exactly a proper term for the drink as Dr. Meltzer believed. Of all the health hazards of soft drinks, the question remains: should children be allowed soft drinks at all?

Soft Drinks and Obesity
According to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, soft drinks contain the highest number of calories compared to other food types consumed by most of the American population.

In a study on children and obesity conducted by Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital, it was found that for every can a child consumes, the body mass index goes up by 0.18 points and obesity risk rises by 1.6-fold.

If you think that a “chubby” child is cute, in reality it may not be. It is not cute for a child to be at a greater risk of chronic diseases such as asthma, heart diseases and diabetes — illnesses that an overweight or obese child will likely have, according to the American Association for the Treatment of Clinical Obesity. It is somewhat alarming to know that these obesity-related conditions primarily seen in adults, are now seen in children too.

Dietary therapies are available for children, and rightfully, soft drinks consumption is not at all included in any dietary program. This is because soft drinks contain way too much sugar (about 12 teaspoons in a 16-ounce serving). To avoid being blamed for causing obesity because of too much sugar in their soft drinks, big cola companies have come up with a “no sugar”, “diet”, and “light” line of products.

Cola Addiction
With the prevalence of the diet product line, is it now safe to give children a daily dose of soft drinks? Well, if it’s okay for children to be addicts, why not? Soft drinks contain 34 to 55 milligrams of caffeine per can. It is enough to make anyone dependent or addicted to the beverage.

A study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins University examined the addictive effect of caffeine from soft drinks. The study showed that a sudden stop to soft drinks intake may show caffeine withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include headache, fatigue, mild depression, muscle pain and stiffness, nausea and vomiting.

Dr. Charles Best, the pioneer in insulin discovery, once claimed that teenagers who drink soft drinks regularly are prone to liver-related problems, which is common among alcoholics. Both caffeine and alcohol are destructive, and both are addictive. However, the American Beverage Association (ABA) still claims that caffeine is not addictive. Those who drink soft drinks religiously are able to stop anytime, according to the ABA. They defended that the mild withdrawal symptoms will only last for a few days.

If this is the argument, then it must be okay to let children drink soft drinks now and let them quit when they’re older. It is easy to quit anyways, they say. But is that really the case?

Soft Drink’s Effects On Bone Health
If it is easy to quit and the obesity issue is already addressed by the soft drinks industry, then can it be said that it is now okay for children to have soft drinks?

Yes, it is okay — IF it is okay to have brittle and poorly developed bones at a young age. In the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, authors Michael Murray, MD and Joseph Pizzorno, MD wrote, “Soft drink consumption may be a major factor for osteoporosis as they are high in phosphates but contain virtually no calcium. This leads to lower calcium levels and higher phosphate levels in the blood.” They further explained that leading soft drink brands contain high phosphates but do not even contain any calcium. This, they said, could lead to a process that could greatly affect bone mass. They reiterated, “When phosphate levels are high and calcium levels are low, calcium is pulled out of the bones.”

Children are still undergoing bone development and without proper nutrition, the quality of the bones may be at stake. What more could happen if instead of getting the nutrition they need, frequent soft drink consumption will make them lose essential nutrients like calcium?

Megan Murphy, a dietician at the Baptist Healthcare Corporation discussed the sensitivity of the trend of young people drinking soft drinks. She said, “Teenage years are the primary time for building bones. After the age of 30, people begin to lose bone density which can lead to bone deteriorating diseases like osteoporosis”.

According to Murphy, continuous soft drinks intake would result in a significant decrease in bone density for young ones. At the age of 50, the decline of bone density would be very dangerous and even fatal.

Drinking soft drinks affect the present and the future. Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero, claimed that the young ones are the hope of the nation. With continuous soft drink consumption, you can just imagine our future heroes as obese, immobile, sickly, passive, caffeine addicts. Now, that’s a scary thought.

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