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A 2012 soda commercial for Coca-Cola went something like this: a frustrated polar bear is thrown a bottle of Coke. In his attempt to catch the bottle, he skids across the thin ice and pale snow, knocking down all the polar bears in his way. The bear smiles triumphantly as he manages to secure the bottle in his paws. To him, the ruby red drink in his paws is an elixir of sorts: cold, refreshing, thirst-quenching. But I see it differently – to me, the bear holds one of the leading causes of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
According to a recent study published by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, the consumption of sugary beverages from 2005 to 2013 has decreased for children under 12, but increased significantly for California adolescents (aged 12-17). (See graph below from UCLA Center for Health Policy Research report.)
Not only does the increase in soda consumption mean that adolescents have a higher chance of becoming diabetic and obese, but it also suggests that teens are eating fewer nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and milk.
With a first lady who zealously advocates healthy eating and the importance of nutrition, one would suspect the consumption of sugary drinks to drop significantly. People certainly have the knowledge to make the healthy choice, but they continually make unhealthy ones. What is it then, that keeps people coming back for more? The way that the fiery drink burns your throat? The tiny bubbles that appear and disappear in the drink? Or the adorable polar bears in their ads?
The answer may lie in the formula of the drinks — the holy trinity of salt, sugar, and caffeine.
Sodas are known as addictive beverages. One of the most prominent examples is Coca-Cola. While I am usually no believer of conspiracies, the Coca-Cola Conspiracy seems half-convincing. According to this theory, in the late 1800s when Coca-Cola was first invented, cocaine was extracted from the leaves of the Coca plant, hence the name Coca-Cola. Eventually, the cocaine was switched out for more sugar, salt, and caffeine.
According to Robert Lustig, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, a can of regular Coke contains 55 grams of salt which is approximately 11 teaspoons, enough salt to season a whole pizza. The salt makes you thirstier, the caffeine acts as a diuretic (which makes you have to urinate), while the sugar covers up the salt. What this means, is that the more Coke you drink, the thirstier you get, making you want to drink more and more. The false satiation and high amounts of sugar are what get people addicted.
Trust me, it is not difficult to cut back on soda. The next time you get the craving for something fizzy or sweet, how about a cup of seltzer water or kombucha tea? As the statistics suggest, drinking soda is more than a temporary problem, it has become an addiction.