New soda study raises more concerns

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 11:30 AM

Jamie Lampros

The list of possible health hazards for people who consume soft drinks just keeps getting longer.

Not only can the drinks raise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and obesity, but a new study reveals that drinking too many may be associated with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide in South Australia and published in the February edition of the journal Respirology. Nearly 17,000 people age 16 and older were asked in a telephone survey about their soft drink consumption.

Overall, 13.3 percent of participants with asthma and 15.6 percent of those with COPD reported consuming more than half a liter of soft drink per day. That equals roughly two 8-ounce glassfuls. The study also found that smoking makes the problem even worse, especially for COPD.

McKay-Dee Hospital food and nutrition director Kathleen Nielsen said that, while the study is interesting, it is not conclusive, and, because it was a self-reported study, the data may not have been as reliable.

"If you look at the results on the third page of the study, it says that among nonsmokers there was no association between soft drink consumption and asthma and COPD," she said. "So maybe the smoking is really what causes the most problem."

After reviewing the literature, Nielsen also

said she didn't find other studies that link soft drink consumption to respiratory illnesses.

Rocky Mountain Allergy, Asthma and Immunology physician Dr. Douglas Jones agrees.

"While it may seem there is an association between soft drinks and asthma and COPD, there may be other factors involved that are not addressed, such as what was the weight of the individuals," Jones said. "Those who consume soft drinks are more likely to be heavier and not exercise as much and that may put them at more risk as well."

In addition, Jones said he sees patients all the time who claim to have asthma, but actually do not have the disease.

"I see the potential for several confounding variables," he said. "I think more studies with less variables need to be done before a conclusion can be drawn. This does not seem like a very reliable study."

Nielsen said soft-drink consumption is still a serious issue and the overconsumption is a concern for many reasons.

"As a dietitian, one of my biggest concerns is that drinking sodas replaces other more nutritious beverages, especially milk," she said.

Many adults and children do not get enough calcium and other vital nutrients found in dairy products, Nielsen said. Another concern is that non-diet soft drinks contain a lot of calories that can contribute to obesity.

"There is also evidence that even though diet sodas do not contain calories, overconsumption of them contributes to obesity," she said.

"I think it is more important to focus on improving the American diet by eating a lot more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. When people focus on positive behavior changes and really make those changes, the negative behaviors change, too."

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