By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

Recently, I wrote an article on the many benefits of drinking water. I was pleasantly surprised by the response from people around the community.  Therefore, I would like to follow that article with one about soft drinks.

Soft drinks were once used as occasional treats, as sports performance boosting drinks or as energy drinks given to those recovering in the hospital. Through marketing, easy availability and low costs, some of these sugar-filled drinks have become part of the daily routine for millions of adults and children all over the world.

Soda is one of the most consumed beverages in the United States, second only to water. According to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA), Americans guzzle 57 gallons of soda per person every year as if it wasn’t full of sugary calories.

But what’s happening inside the bodies of soda consumers with each sip?

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), as soon as soda is swallowed, the pancreas is notified and rapidly begins to create insulin in response to the sugar. Insulin is a hormone the body uses to move sugar from food or drink into the bloodstream, where cells are then able to use sugar for energy. Within just 20 minutes, blood sugar levels spike and the liver responds to the insulin by turning sugar into fat for storage.                                                                                               Within 45 minutes of gulping down a 20-ounce glass of soda, caffeine from the drink is fully absorbed, and as a result your pupils dilate and blood pressure rises. The body produces more dopamine, which stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain — just like a low-grade line of cocaine.

When the hour chimes, the body begins to experience a blood sugar crash, which is around the same time a person reaches for their second soda, or for another sweet and sugar snack to suffice. Soda’s connection to the obesity epidemic is so intertwined, Harvard researchers have calculated each additional soda consumed increases the risk of obesity 1.6 times.

In addition to the threat of reaching obese levels, researchers also found, after following 40,000 men for two decades, that those who drank a sugary beverage each day had a 20 percent increased risk of having a heart attack. The high fructose corn syrup — a cheap replacement for cane sugar — has been associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which leads to diabetes and heart disease.

Beverage companies know the haphazard sugar cycle all too well. In the United States, they spend approximately $3.2 billion in marketing each year in an effort to tempt consumers to pick up a liter of brown bubbly sugar with their pizza, or a case of cans for their child’s next birthday party. Those little children have an 80 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they become regular soda drinkers. Their future could also be one full of kidney problems, reproductive issues, osteoporosis, asthma and bad teeth with dissolved tooth enamel.

Consumers often drink commercial fruit juices in the belief that they are healthier than soft drinks. However, the manufacture of fruit juices is a highly industrialized process.

Orange juice, for example, is made in huge quantities. The entire orange is squeezed and goes into the tank, which means that neurotoxic cholinesterase inhibitor pesticide sprays on the peel end up in the juice. Although the juice is pasteurized under high temperatures and pressures, pressure-resistant and temperature-resistant fungi and molds can remain in the juice.

Other fruits, such as grapes, present additional problems because of the large amounts of fluoride-containing pesticides used on the crops. Fruit juices are very high in sugar and have actually been more detrimental to the teeth of test animals than sodas!

If you want to drink fruit juice, buy a juicer and make your own with organic fruit. It’s best to dilute a small amount of fruit juice with mineral water (either flat or carbonated). The juice of one-half grapefruit added to a glass of sparkling water, for example, makes a delicious, refreshing drink. A recipe for a pineapple cooler, made from equal parts fresh pineapple juice and whole raw milk, is found in old cookbooks. In restaurants, order mineral water with fresh lemon or lime.

Above all, be smart with your beverage choices. It is foolish to assume that anything is safe simply because it is sold legally or because a lot of people buy it. Everyone has to take responsibility for their own health, as well as the health of their children.