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Diet and Nutrition

Effect of Carbonated Beverages on the Body

04/14/2000

Question:

What effect do carbonated beverages have on the body?

Answer:

Not all carbonated beverages have the same ingredients, however a majority of them do contain sugar, caffeine, carbon dioxide, and phosphates. All carbonated beverages get their "bubbly" effect from the carbon dioxide which is pumped into the beverage under pressure. This bubbly concoction can cause uncomfortable intestinal gas and belching. The high sugar content and slight acidity can make our teeth more prone to decay. Caffeine (which is a drug, not a nutrient) in excess can cause a variety of problems such as increasing blood pressure, feelings of being "hyper" or jittery, making you unable to concentrate, and contributing to sleep disturbances. Caffeine is also thought to play a role in fibrocystic breast disease and heart disease. Up until recently the high phosphate content of carbonated beverages has been thought to cause a decrease in calcium absorption. New studies now believe phosphates in our beverages are not a threat to our calcium levels. Kidney stone formation is being linked to cola intake in some research. But more than this, over-consumption of carbonated beverages is the largest problem of all. As a whole, we drink more soda pop then milk and other healthy beverages. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest report "Liquid Candy," many teens are drowning in soda pop. It`s become their main beverage, providing many with 15 to 20% of all their calories and squeezing out more-nutritious foods and beverages from their diets." They also stated that "most girls have inadequate calcium intakes, which makes them candidates for osteoporosis when they`re older and may increase their risk for broken bones today." In addition, over-consumption of these empty-calorie beverages contributes to the on-going problem of obesity. As for diet drinks, they may not have the sugar and calories, but they do displace the more healthy beverages in our diet. Artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks are considered safe, however some worry that they may contribute to cancer when used in excess. The bottom line: Moderation is the key! Consume carbonated beverages as an added "treat" rather than a substitution for more healthful beverages and foods. To avoid some of the symptoms mentioned above, select caffeine-free varieties. If you are overweight, remember liquid calories count too. Try sugar-free alternatives (also in moderation).

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Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University