A soft drink refers to a beverage which does not contain alcohol. It is often carbonated and usually sweet. Colas, iced tea and fruit squashes are some of the beverages that fall in this category. The term ‘soft’ is used to contrast it to the term ‘hard’ which is used for alcoholic drinks.
Soft drinks have become a definite part of our lives. The market is flooded with various brands and flavors. We are spoiled for choice. Studies have shown that the consumption of soft drinks has greatly increased in the last twenty years.
 Nutritional value
Soft drinks contain no vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber or any other nutrients. In addition they also contain preservatives, artificial flavoring and artificial food coloring. Since they have no nutritional value the calories they provide are referred to as empty calories.
 What they contain
Soft drinks contain distilled water, carbon dioxide, sugar, preservatives, artificial flavoring and artificial colouring. In addition they contain sodium, phosphoric acid and caffeine.
Distilled water makes up almost 90% of a soft drink. It is water that is so purified that it has no minerals left in it. Drinking this on a daily basis is harmful as it will lead to mineral deficiencies in the body.
Carbon dioxide is injected in to distilled water to give it that fizz that is so characteristic of soft drinks. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that is exhaled by us when we breathe out. Too much carbon dioxide kills healthy cells.
A 325 ml can contains as much as 10 to 15 teaspoons of sugar. Consumption of too much sugar leads to other problems such as tooth decay, diabetes, arthiritis,indigestion and skin problems. Consuming too much sugar also increases the urinary excretion of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and sodium from the body. This eventually leads to a disease of the bones known as osteoporosis. One can a day gives you more sugar than is necessary for your body. When the body gets used to too much sugar, it craves it, causing a sort of addiction.
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin are used in diet drinks. Research shows a definite connection between artificial sweeteners and cancer. However these studies were mostly carried out on rats and the effects of sweeteners have yet to be proved on humans.
Preservatives have to be added to soft drinks to prevent them from getting spoiled and to prolong their shelf life. The preservatives that are permitted are sodium benzoate and sulphur dioxide. If more than a certain amount of these preservatives are consumed through soft drinks they can cause many health problems. Sodium benzoate is believed to cause skin rashes, hyperactivity and asthma. Sulphur dioxide is used for industrial bleaching and consuming too much of it can cause skin problems,perhaps even coma and death.
Sodium is used in most soft drinks to give the drink stability and to keep its contents evenly distributed. Consuming too much sodium causes thickening of the arteries and various heart problems as well as high blood pressure.
Most soft drinks contain citric, phosphoric, malic or tartaric acids. These acids are used to preserve the sweetness of the drink. Phosphoric acid causes the calcium in the body to dissolve rapidly causing osteoporosis. The acid also damages the lining of the stomach. A study showed that if a human tooth was placed in a cola, the tooth became soft within two days and lost most of the calcium from the enamel.
The phosphoric acid found in the stomach nullifies the effect fo the hydrochloric acid making it difficult for the stomach to digest food and causing gas and bloating.
Artificial flavorings and colorings
Artificial flavorings are added to soft drinks to give them taste and flavor. These flavorings cause hyperactivity in children. The other flavorings that are used are Tartrazine, Carmoisine and Brilliant Blue. These cause allergies, skin eruptions and food poisoning and even cancer. Brilliant Blue, Tartrazine and Carmoisine have been banned in most countries.
Caffeine is a stimulant which helps a person to feel mentally alert and overcome fatigue. But it is not without its side effects. Caffeine stimulation causes the heart rate to increase, increases blood pressure and also constricts the cerebral arteries.
Caffeine is addictive and people who get used to having a daily fix find that they become mentally sluggish, depressed and sometimes have a headache. A caffeine addiction is usually not taken seriously and therefore becomes a difficult habit to break. Large amounts of caffeine in the system can even cause aggressiveness and recklessness.
Excessive caffeine consumption is also believed to cause stomach and bladder cancer.
 Effects of soft drinks on the body
A high consumption of soft drinks is one of the major causes for obesity in children. Children who consume too many soft drinks tend to eat more. This is because consuming too much sugar in the from of soft drinks causes a rise in the insulin levels of the body making them hungrier. Soft drinks are usually consumed along with fast foods which are equally fattening. Children who consume a large number of soft drinks are likely to suffer from diabetes later in life.
The size of the bottles in which soft drinks are sold have increased manifold since they were first manufactured and sold.
Tooth decay is another effect of consuming too many soft drinks. The sugar contained in soft drinks causes dental cavities. The acidic content of the drinks erodes the tooth enamel and also causes a depletion in the calcium of the teeth. Many dentists advise drinking through a straw as then the drink is then swallowed directly without really coming in contact with the teeth.
Another side effect is the increase in acidity in the body. All soft drinks are highly acidic but the dark ones more so. They disturb the alkaline balance of the stomach when too many of them are consumed. Eventually this leads to inflammation of the stomach and the erosion of the lining of the stomach which is extremely painful. It also causes poor digestion.
The large amount of caffeine found in soft drinks can cause problems like anxiety, insommnia and irritability. Many children and most parents do not realize that this is due to the consumption of soft drinks.
A recent study suggests that consumption of too many soft drinks can lead to liver cirrhosis, a condition that usually occurs only in alcoholics. Liver transplantation is the only solution to this disease.
The large amounts of sugar, the bubbles from the carbon dioxide and the acids that are found in soft drinks deplete nutritious minerals from the bones and make the bones brittle. The phosphoric acid dissolves the calcium from the bones making them weak and susceptible to fractures. This condition is known as osteoporosis.
 Did you know
- A bone placed in a cola drink will dissolve in a few days.
- A bottle of cola poured down a toilet bowl and left for an hour will leave it sparklingly clean.
- Brushing your teeth after consuming a soft drink can actually erode the enamel from your teeth because of the presence of the acids in the soft drinks.
- To neutralize one glass of cola you have to drink 32 glasses of water.
- Pouring a can of cola over the terminals of a car battery that has corroded will remove the corrosion.
- Aluminum foil dipped in cola can be used to rub off rust spots from the bumpers of cars
- Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Juicing For Health