We’re drinking more soft drinks than ever before – on average, 25 gallons each a year. But what is it doing to our health? Last week, U.S. researchers suggested that girls who frequently had fizzy drinks were more likely to start puberty early. And it’s not just sugary drinks – diet versions, even sparkling water, can have an effect on health, as ANGELA EPSTEIN reports…

1. They speed up ageing

People who drink the equivalent of two cans of full-sugar cola daily may age more quickly than people who never drink it, say U.S. researchers.

Last year, scientists at the University of California found these people had DNA changes that made their cells 4.6 years older – their telomeres, the tiny ‘caps’ that protect the ends of our chains of DNA, were shorter. ‘Telomere length has an impact on cell repair and regeneration and that is linked to the ageing process,’ says Dr Sajjad Rajpar, a consultant dermatologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.’

‘A great deal of research is looking at how telomere length can affect that process.’

2. They trigger sugar cravings

Drinking just two cans of sugary fizzy drinks a day dulls people’s perceptions of sweet tastes and makes them crave sugar even more, says Dr Hans-Peter Kubis, a physiologist at the University of Bangor who led a study into the effects of fizzy drinks on the body.

‘Because sweetness is strongly connected to the reward system in the brain, people may increase the frequency of their use of sugar as a result.’ The bubbles, too, could make you want more sugar.

Carbon dioxide acts as an acid which enhances our responses to other tastes, such as sugar, says Dr Kubis. ‘Though the sugar may create the craving responses, the acidity or fizz of the drink makes the pleasantness of the taste even stronger. This could explain why people prefer carbonated water over still.’

3. They have been linked to cancer

Women who have more than three sugary drinks – fizzy or otherwise – a week may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Last year, researchers from Laval University in Quebec found that the more sugary and fizzy drinks consumed by women, the greater the density of their breasts – a known risk factor for cancer.

It is not clear how the two might be linked and more research is needed.
‘Women with dense breasts have a higher risk of developing cancer because there are more cells that can become cancerous,’ explains Dr Anne Trigg, a medical oncologist at the London Bridge Hospital.

‘It can increase the risk factor four-fold. It may be linked to higher levels of oestrogen, which is associated with breast cancer.’

4. They may damage bones

Drinking large quantities of cola could affect your bones, U.S. researchers have suggested. This is because they often contain high levels of phosphoric acid – added to cola-type drinks to give them a tangy taste, and tingle when swallowed.

A 2006 study by nutritional epidemiologists at Tufts University in Boston found that women who drank cola daily had lower bone mineral density in their hips than those who drank it once a week, regardless of their age, total calcium intake or use of cigarettes and alcohol.

The body naturally strives to maintain balanced levels of calcium and phosphorus – so when there is excess phosphorus, calcium is released from the bones to correct the balance. Researchers didn’t find this effect when women drank other fizzy drinks. It’s possible that the caffeine in the cola had an impact, since caffeine has been associated with risk of lower bone density… see more

source: Dailymail UK