Think before you drink

Dr Anjana Kannankara

A glass of chilled soft drink could without doubt hit the spot especially when you are feeling too tired or thirsty after a long day. The fizz moving down the alimentary canal can be so satisfying that you feel refreshed and bursting with energy. But have you ever cared to think about what the dissolved carbon dioxide and added sugars do to your body once you gulp down the glass of aerated drink?
Studies reveal that more than half of the young generation of the world has adopted the habit of consuming soft drinks on a regular basis. Taking sugary drinks such as cola products can lead to a number of shocking health-related problems. Based on a research by health writer Wade Meredith and an infographic by former UK pharmarcist Niraj Naik, the effects of these sweetened drinks inside the body is revealed as quite disturbing.

First 10 minutes

Approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar enters your system which is supposed to be more than the maximum recommended daily intake for the body. The action of the phosphoric acid stops the body from vomiting that might naturally occur due to the overwhelming sweetness.

In 20 minutes

The blood sugar shoots up and insulin is released more by the pancreas to tackle this. The pancreas chugs out insulin to help transport the sugar (which is a carbohydrate) to your muscles for energy. But if the blood sugar content is more than what could be stored in the muscle tissues, all the excess sugar found in the blood stream at that point is turned to fat as a result and stored in the liver.

In 40 minutes

Within 40 minutes, caffeine absorption is complete and the rest of your body responds accordingly. Your pupils become dilated, your blood pressure rises and the liver begins to dump even more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in the brain are most likely blocked to prevent drowsiness.

In 45 minutes

The body starts to produce more dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s pleasure centres and reward-motivated behaviour — physically the same way as heroin works.

In 60 minutes

The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in the lower intestine which gives a further boost to the metabolism. This compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners increases the urinary excretion of calcium. The body would start evacuating the bonded minerals along with sodium, electrolyte and water which would have been useful to the body otherwise but now leaving the body dehydrated.

After 60 minutes

The body has given away most of the valuable nutrients, continues the tendency to produce more urine, the rave subsides and a sugar crash occurs leaving you irritable and sluggish, wanting to reach for another glass of the drink. It may become a vicious cycle if not careful enough.

Other harmful effects

A daily glass of soda has a negative effect on virtually every part of the body, including the heart, lungs, teeth and brain. Your kidney also comes into play by helping dump excess sugar through your urine, meaning your body loses water, which, along with the diuretic effect of the caffeine in the soda, increases your risk of dehydration. The sugar and caffeine in soda is “quite the unhealthy combination”, says Dr Zeytinoglu, an endocrinologist with the University of Chicago Medicine. The effects may also include liver damage, tooth decay, kidney disease, diabetes, heartburn, osteoporosis, hypertension, heart disease and impaired digestion.
Having said this, there might not be an urgent need to banish aerated drinks from your life. An occasional glass cannot pose much of a significant impact on your health. The key is to limit it to moderate quantities if you cannot abstain from consuming it. Logical reasoning would make us understand the harm these drinks cause to our body and surely we need to think twice before including it in our daily routine.

(The author is director,
TGL Foundation, and senior director, FWO)

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