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Sugar Containing Beverages and Obesity

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In the past several decades, average US consumption of refined sugars such as cane and beet sugar, corn syrup and honey has increased for both children and adults. The average adult now eats more than 400 calories a day of refined sugars. These sugars are “empty calories” which contain few nutrients but may increase the risk of becoming overweight and getting type 2 diabetes.

In the past several decades the percentage of teenagers and adults with obesity and/or type 2 diabetes have grown significantly.  The percentage of US adults and teenagers who are considered obese (having a body mass index of over 30 kilograms per meter of height squared) is now about 33% for adults and 18% for teenagers.  About 13% of all US adults have type 2 diabetes. These obesity and type 2 diabetes rates are about twice as high as they were in the 1970’s. Both obesity and diabetes increase risk for many diseases such as heart disease, strokes, vision problems, joint problems, and poorer healing of wounds and injuries. Both increasing intakes of refined sugar and reduced physical activity levels are believed to play an important role in the recent surge in obesity and type 2 diabetes levels.   High sugar consumption can increase the growth of Candida and other yeasts in the intestines.  Other research has suggested that some mycotoxins (toxic chemicals produced by molds or fungi) found in foods can increase risk of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The biggest source of refined sugar for most people are sugar sweetened beverages such as colas, other soft drinks, “sports” or electrolyte drinks like Gatorade, sweetened fruit juices or ades, and the sugar added to coffee and tea. A number of studies have linked higher consumption of sugar sweetened beverages with higher levels of obesity in children, teenagers and adults.  One large study of 50,000 female nurses reported that consumption of more than one sugar sweetened beverage daily was associated with a weight gain of 14 pounds over a 5 year period, while nurses who consumed less than 1 sugar sweetened beverage gained an average of only 5 pounds during this period. Other studies have reported that consuming 2 or more sugar sweetened beverages daily is associated with a 24-98% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes as compared to those who rarely consume sugar sweetened beverages.. 

Still other research suggests that high consumption of sugar sweetened beverages may increase risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, kidney failure and gout.  A good review of the relationships between sugar sweetened beverage consumption and development of obesity and diabetes was written by Hu and Malik and is now in Press in the journal Physiology and Behavior.

The best beverages are water, milk and freshly squeezed juice or smoothies.  Tea or coffee may be consumed in moderation by most people, although they should be avoided near bedtime since they can cause insomnia.   Commercial fruit juices should be avoided since they often contain mold and/or added sugar.  Kaufmann’s phase diets are useful since they are low in both refined sugar and low in yeasts/molds.

Stevia is non toxic natural sweetener which is good to add to coffee or tea. If you crave cola drinks, drink artificially sweetened drinks in moderation.  Some health concerns have been raised about the artificial sweetener aspartame, since one of its breakdown products include the toxic alcohol methanol.

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