As revealed by new data released a few months ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the promising trend over the last two decade of Americans abandoning sugary drinks seems to be stalling out. The new data show it has nearly flat-lined since 2009. In 2003, for example, children on average consumed about 220 calories per day from such drinks. It has settled at about 145 calories a day from 2011-2014.
In 2010, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimated that 4 to 8-year-old boys and girls need 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day if they are sedentary, and 1,400 to 1,600 calories daily if they’re moderately active. Though this may look like progress, guidelines recommend that no more than 10 percent of a person’s daily calories should come from any form of added sugar covering all foods and beverages consumed. Add to this the fact that approximately one-third of all children in the United States are either overweight or obese and you have a troubling trend.
Meanwhile, regulation of the marketing of these beverages to young people seems to be missing in action. According to a report from Science in the Public Interest, in 2013, beverage companies spent $866 million to advertise such drinks, many of them directed at young people. According to a Federal Trade Commission report, youth consumption of carbonated beverages increases by almost 10 percent with every 100 additional television ads viewed.
And while these ads continue to blast away, concern about the health consequences of overindulging in not only sugary drinks, but their diet drink counterparts, continues to trickle in. A new study published by the American Heart Association suggests that people in their study who drank at least one artificially sweetened beverage a day had almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia than those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages.
Researchers caution the study only shows an association with these diseases. It was designed as an observational study and does not prove that diet drinks actually cause stroke or dementia. At the very least, it suggests more research in the area is needed.
“Although we did not find an association between stroke or dementia and the consumption of sugary drinks, this certainly does not mean they are a healthy option,” said Matthew Pase, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. “We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages,” he added.
Researchers used data on more than 4,000 people over 30, examining their brains with M.R.I. and measuring memory with psychological tests. All completed well-validated food frequency questionnaires.
It should also be pointed out that the American Beverage Association issued a statement taking exception with the study and its conclusions. It notes that the authors of the study acknowledge that their conclusions do not – and cannot – prove cause and effect.
Proof of cause and effect seems to be a major bone of contention in this back-and-forth between science and the beverage industry as various studies continue to make a connection between sugary drinks and numerous health conditions. Many of the latest studies seem to be zeroing in specifically on energy drinks. And, while the global energy drink market is forecast to reach $61 billion by 2021, the volume on concerns of health experts of the dangers energy drinks pose is beginning to be turned up.
The World Health Organization, for one, recently warned they “may pose danger to public health.” Children should not consume them, added the American Academy of Pediatrics. In the face of these recent statements and reports, the American Beverage Association has responded by saying it stands by the safety of energy drinks, indicating many of the ingredients they contain are also found in common foods and that have been rigorously studied for safety.
But what exactly are those ingredients, and how do they impact your body?
Most energy drinks typically contain loads of caffeine and added sugars, as well as vitamins (such as B vitamins) and legal stimulants such as guarana, a plant that grows in the Amazon. Guarana is mentioned in the NCAA’s 2016-17 banned drugs list.
Another common ingredient is taurine, an amino acid that’s naturally found in meat and fish. You’ll also often find L-carnitine, a substance in our bodies that helps turn fat into energy. Exactly how they impact your body is the subject of much of the current research. What is of concern is the vitamins, amino acids and herbals found in energy drinks are often found in higher concentrations than naturally in food or plants. It is known that doses of caffeine, as just one example, equal to or above 200 milligrams can be linked to caffeine intoxication. The Mayo Clinic currently recommends that healthy adults who choose to drink energy drinks should not exceed one can per day.
“Energy drinks not only have been shown to raise stress levels, increase heart rate, increase blood pressure, they’ve also been shown to make the blood a little bit thicker,” Dr. John Higgins, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston recently explained to CNN.
The possible interaction of caffeine with the other ingredients in energy drinks could impact the function of your arteries by inhibiting them from dilating properly, especially during exercise, Dr. Higgins added.
Their current popularity among young athletes looking for an extra energy boost is well established. Even though the National Federation of State High School Associations recommends they not be used for hydration prior to, during or after physical activity.
Something to think about until this thing about cause and effect is clearly resolved.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.