Over one fourth of the beverages consumed in the United States are carbonated soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew. These products are marketed primarily to young people, but they are routinely used by people of all ages to quench thirst, accompany meals, or help keep hands occupied at social events. Soft drinks have such a pervasive presence on the consumer landscape that they have become a part of our common cultural backdrop, and people consume them by the gallon without giving it a second thought.
But it is one of the true peculiarities of our modern society that people will unreflectively indulge in all kinds of self-destructive behavior simply because everyone else does, or because government regulatory bodies haven’t passed a law yet making it illegal or issued an official proclamation declaring it dangerous. Remarkably, people have become so habituated to following authority without question that they will pretty much do anything that advertisers want them to do, unless the government tells them not to.
The consumption of soft drinks is an excellent example of this phenomenon of controlled behavior at work. As ubiquitous as these beverages have become, the truth is that they are not safe or healthy, and people are compromising their health by consuming these liquid junk foods. And what is worse, they are allowing their children to fill up their rapidly-changing bodies with these unhealthy substances. Advertising campaigns targeted at adolescents and children work exceptionally well for those companies which are out to exploit them for profit.
The Health Effects of Common Soft Drink Additives
Among all the other additives and chemicals, soft drinks consist of three basic elements: phosphoric acid, sugar (or artificial flavoring), and caffeine.
The American diet is chronically low in calcium and high in phosphates. This relation is symbiotic, because phosphates in the body essentially act as the enemy of calcium, interfering with the body’s absorption of this critical element. When the body is short of calcium, bones become weaker and more prone to fracture, while teeth become softer and more prone to decay. One 1994 study from Harvard found that young women and girls who were soda pop drinkers were five times more likely to suffer broken bones than those who do not consume soft drinks, verifying that the calcium-inhibiting characteristics of phosphoric acid are especially strong in younger people (presumably because their bones are still growing and developing). Diets high in phosphates and low in calcium can ultimately lead to osteoporosis, and regular consumption of soft drinks is a leading contributor to this chronic nutritional imbalance.
The other big problem with phosphoric acid is that it is that it actually eats away at the enamel of the teeth, frequently to the point where significant damage can occur. Making things worse, many sodas contain citric acid as well, thereby intensifying this process of tooth decay. It is not uncommon for adults who are soda drinkers and who have never had dental problems before to suddenly find themselves having to visit their dentist over and over again because they are getting cavity after cavity.
Refined sugar is one of the unhealthiest substances that anyone could ever consume, and no industry uses more of it than the soft drink industry. Refined sugar has been implicated in everything from diabetes to obesity to high blood pressure to heart disease. In children, it is certainly a major cause of tooth decay, and it is believed to be one of the most important causes of Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).
Caffeine is a highly addictive stimulant that can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and vitamin and mineral depletion. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means that soft drinks that contain it do not really satisfy a person’s thirst at all. When the body needs water, the last thing anyone should ever drink is a soda that is loaded with caffeine. The soft drink industry has always claimed that caffeine is added because of its ability to enhance flavor. However, a Johns Hopkins study found that only 8% of regular caffeinated soft drink consumers could tell the difference between sodas that contained it and those that didn’t. It appears that caffeine’s addictive effects are the real reason why it has been added to soft drinks. Of course the advantages of this are well known to soda manufacturers, given that the original Coca-Cola actually contained cocaine.
Of all the ingredients that can be found in soft drinks, there is none more sinister than aspartame, or NutraSweet as it is more commonly known. This neurotoxin, used in place of sugar in diet drinks, has been linked to 92 different health problems – including brain cancer and brain tumors – and it can worsen the symptoms of such conditions as lupus, MS, ADHD, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and Alzheimer’s. It is also known to react poorly with many common substances that people take for health issues including antidepressants, hormones, insulin, and cardiac medicines.
Knowing of its toxic effects, the FDA refused to approve aspartame until the CEO of Searle Industries (the original maker of aspartame) used his influence to convince the Reagan Administration’s first FDA head Arthur Hull Hayes to overrule his own medical experts and approve NutraSweet in 1981. Who was that CEO responsible for putting this dangerous poison on the market? It was none other than Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense and one of Washington’s ultimate insiders.
Dozens of medical researchers have continued to issue warnings about aspartame, but to no avail. Monsanto eventually bought out Searle, and this powerful company has used its considerable political influence to squelch all attempts to get the truth out about this evil food additive. Aspartame had no business being approved for human consumption, and it is now one of the most dangerous food additives on the market – and yet the American people are consuming it by the mega-ton. To give you an idea of how dangerous aspartame is, consider this: If cola makers took out the aspartame from their diet drinks and put the cocaine back in, it would actually be a much healthier product.
Protecting Your Own Health
If there is one thing that the success and popularity of soft drinks proves, it is that the people who are in positions of power in government and industry care always put profits before people. It is foolish to assume that anything is safe simply because it is sold legally or because a lot of people buy it. Everyone has to take responsibility for their own health, as well as the health of their children, and one of the best ways to do that is to never put another dime in the pockets of the soft drink peddlers.