Divergent views trail sugar-laden soda drinks

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By Princewill Ekwujuru

Consumers are polarised over the consumption of sugar laden or aspartme (sweeteners)- laced soda drinks and their health implications.

Some  argue that researchers and dieticians have proved that sugar-laden soda varieties are linked to decreased brain  function, increased risk of diabetes and heart attack.

They said research has also established that soda drinks are linked to increased risk of heart attack and even excessive weight gain and that those who drink a can of diet soda drinks per day are at the risk of suffering stroke and developing other diseases.They pointed out that studies have shown that  a can of diet soda ironically may not  guarantee a healthier option.

Consumers also stressed that nutrition experts have pointed out that a 330millilitre can of regular sugar-laden soda drink contains an equivalent of 35grams of sugar, about seven teaspoons or more. Although this is the recommended daily intake of sugar for an adult in just one can, extra consumption becomes a health hazard.They also accused  producers of  failing to warn about  the potential health complications inherent in excessive consumption of soda drinks.

In acknowledgement of these concerns, nutritionists are focusing on  alternatives to soda drinks, while recommending plenty intake  of water daily.C&M  investigation revealed that soda  like many other drinks contains high levels of artificial sweeteners, which are however controversial.

Investigation also revealed that artificially sweetened sodas are not better than  sugar-laden products in terms of the danger they pose to  health and  that diet drinks do not reduce the risk of  obesity-related conditions such as  Type 2diabetes.Meanwhile, experts have warned that sweetened soda drinks or other sweetened beverages can cause weight gain as they make people eat more.

Consumers speak

Some consumers that spoke to  C&M  complained about  the  amount of sugar in soda drinks, stressing that  soda companies should do something drastic to minimize sugar-related ailments while others say they do not think there is anything wrong with the amount of sugar in soda drinks, but advised those complaining to look for  alternatives. Godfrey Abanji, a civil servant,  said  studies  have examined the health implications of  sugar and revealed the disadvantages of sugar-laden and sweetened soda outweigh their advantages.

“Sugar is a major concern to consumers,” he stated adding  that  producers don’t warn consumers   and  that  NAFDAC should caution them on the  use of sugar.Michael Efengbai, a communication expert with Explicit Communications, Lagos agrees “In my view they are not  responsible corporate citizens”. Ngozi Nwanmadu, who works with a pay-TV company said “My husband is fond of drinking a particular brand of  soda, until he developed complications and was diagnosed with high blood sugar, a situation that  resulted in diabetes.”

Okechukwu Omengboji, a trader who sells foodstuff at Isasi, Iba Local Government Development Area, said “My grouse against sugar-laden drinks is premised on my brother’s predicament. He was addicted to soft drinks and I kept warning him, until I discovered he was getting obese. After a short while, he began to lose weight  and  complained of  chronic tiredness  until he went to the hospital and was diagnosed with excess blood sugar which means he is  diabetic. The doctor said it was not due to soft drinks, but  I have reduced my consumption of soft drinks and other products with sugar.”

James Arobile says he drinks at least a soft drink  daily and has not experienced any complications stressing “There are several others  who do  and without complications.Take everything moderately, if you have to take it, but for me, I take a  native concoction  to neutralize my blood sugar”.

Experts react

Dr. Daranijo Ademola of Belinix Hospitals, Egbeda, Lagos, says “Obesity increases your risk of potentially life-threatening conditions like Type 2  diabetes,  heart disease, some types of cancer and stroke. It’s not only a protruding tummy  that should concern you.

A 2002 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that high levels of refined sugar, such as those found in soda actually deprived the brain of a chemical necessary for learning.Rats that were kept on a diet packed with sugar showed a decreased ability in their  hippocampus – part of the brain that controls memory and learning – after several months.

Both full fat and sweetened soda drinks can make you gain weight.Another study conducted in 2012, found that just one can of carbonated drink increases the risk of heart attack by 20 per cent compared to those who drank no soda.The study which looked at the drinking pattern of  more than 42,000 men discovered there were almost 4,000 cases of heart disease over a 22-year period in men who drank more soda.

The researchers attributed this to an adverse change in fat in the body and inflammation caused by soda drinks, both of which can damage the heart.Another theory is that sweeteners alter gut bugs, making it harder for the body to use sugar. Artificial sweeteners have also been linked to increased levels of hunger by tricking  the brain into thinking it’s getting a sugary, high-calorie treat.”

Also speaking, Francis Njoku of Jons Medicals, Egbeda, Lagos, says “Sweetened beverages can affect how the body uses insulin. The use of artificial sweeteners in sodas means it can be just as dangerous to consumers, increasing risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke.  Even more worrisome is it’s effects on those trying to achieve conception”. Dr. Val Igbanti of Bell hospitals, Ajegunle, Ajeromi Local Government Area, LGA says: “Sugar is to blame for many health problems, but without it, your body would cease to function properly. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit and lactose or milk sugar are  beneficial to health.





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