“Don’t drink your calories” is a phrase I remember hearing repeatedly from a young age, but never quiet grasped the concept of it until recently.
It comes to no surprise that one out of five children and adolescents in America is currently in a struggling race against the obesity epidemic, fighting to win. Childhood obesity is a chronic disease and is defined as a disorder of excess body fat, which increases the risk for health issues and premature mortality [Lakshman, Elks, and Ong]. In the United States, between specific years, during 1971–1974, childhood obesity was present among 5% of 2–19 year olds, however, in 2007–2008, childhood obesity existed among 16.9% of 2–19 year olds[Ogden and Carroll]. These shocking numbers prove that over the years, childhood obesity has significantly increased due to the abundant fast food restaurants clouding our streets, cheap prices of processed snacks attracting more customers by the day, and the addiction of cellphones and television, replacing the motivation to move.
The way our body works is straightforward. If you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight. But, if you take in more calories than you burn, your body mass increases. Therefore, in order to maintain a healthy weight, it is essential to consume a well, balanced diet and exercise on a regular basis. Simple right? Now, let’s talk about your favorite sugary or fizzy drinks — one of the biggest factors to the childhood obesity epidemic.
According to Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietician, calories in drinks are stealth calories and she mentions that “scientific evidence confirms that although such liquids count as calories, the body doesn’t detect them the same way as it would detect solid food”.
Most purchased drinks, excluding water, are high in sugar and calories, just like many processed and unhealthy food items may also contain. You may think they have the same affect on your body, right? Unfortunately, studies show when people consume liquid calories, chances are, they end up consuming more food — therefore more calories. Richard Mattes, a professor at Purdue University for food and nutrition, states, “Fluid calories do not hold strong satiety properties, don’t suppress hunger and don’t elicit compensatory dietary responses”. A study recently conducted in Birzeit University proved that carbonated drinks intensify hunger as carbon dioxide, found in the drinks, stimulates ghrelin, a hormone in the body responsible for hunger. Similarly, drinks are loaded with excess sugar, which not only leads to extreme exhaustion, but also hunger (believe it or not, a twenty-one fluid ounce cup of Sprite has 44g of sugar). The overconsumption of calories due to excessive sugar intake is caused by the release of neurochemical dopamine. With the increased release of dopamine, the number of cellular receptors — which respond to the neurochemical — are reduced [Jabr]. This is one of the main factors of overeating.
In order to maintain a healthy weight, avoid consuming sugary and fizzy drinks and focus on eating nutritional foods containing vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fats, etc. If you’re thirsty, reach for a glass of water. Unlike other drinks, water doesn’t make you hungry as it has zero calories, is not carbonated, and has no sugar! Consuming a diet which is less in sugar and less in unhealthy carbohydrates will keep you full for longer and extremely satisfied.
Cities, such as Philadelphia, have introduced a tax for soda and soda sales have plummeted immensely. Although this is bad news for the soda companies, the health of the public is benefiting.