Drs. Oz & Roizen: Soft drinks aren't getting any healthier

May 12, 2013 

We recently received a letter touting the new measures that a giant beverage company is taking to "support first lady Michelle Obama's initiative to combat obesity." The company is putting labels on the front of its sugary sodas that state the calorie contents of the entire can or bottle. Until now, the calories were listed "per serving" and appeared somewhere on the side or back.

It's not enough. Shifting those stats front and center may appear more honest and transparent, but it sure doesn't make these products any healthier. If a company wanted to be upfront, then the damage or aging that the beverage does should be on its front. For example: "Drink a six-pack of this a day and make your arteries 12 years older and your memory disappear nine years earlier, and be 26 pounds heavier in just five years."

It's not just sodas that are loaded with sugar and calories (and we mean loaded - one can of soda packs 10 teaspoons of sugar). Other drinks that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or just plain, old-fashioned sugar - many iced teas, fruit drinks, lemonade, energy-boosters and sports drinks - help deliver 47 percent of all the added sugar we consume.

To make matters worse, the sheer quantity of soft drinks guzzled has skyrocketed a staggering 500 percent in the past 50 years. How much are we swigging? In 2008, the beverage industry pumped out 47 gallons of soda for each American (yes, gallons) and 23 gallons for each Canadian.

All that liquid sugar isn't just making us fat. It's also increasing our risk for deadly diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. So don't be fooled by soda labels that appear to bare all. Stick with these smart sips instead:

WATER

It keeps you hydrated, has zero calories and costs nothing, so make it your go-to beverage. Think you need to down eight glasses a day? Maybe not, though it certainly won't hurt. The latest word on water is that unless you sweat up a storm in the gym or live in a sweltering climate, thirst is the best indicator of how much you need. Keep your H20 habit environmentally friendly by toting your own reusable water bottle instead of filling landfills with disposable ones.

TEA (GREEN AND BLACK)

Other than water, around the globe, more people drink tea than any other libation. That's good news, because it's one heart-smart drink. Downing three or more cups a day has been shown to decrease heart attack risk by 11 percent. Catechins, which are a type of health-helping flavonoid found in tea, keep your ticker healthy by boosting production of nitric oxide, a compound that keeps blood vessels nice and relaxed. When you drink your tea, just be sure to do it Asian-style - minus the milk. The proteins in milk bind to tea's catechins, making them less active, according to a study in the European Heart Journal.

COFFEE

Unless you're a woman who is either pregnant or trying to be, a couple of daily cups of joe are perfectly safe. In fact, they may even be good for you. Coffee has been shown to help fend off colon cancer and Parkinson's disease. It also can slash your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. It turns out that java is a prime source of chlorogenic acid, a compound believed to slow glucose absorption during digestion.

A HINT OF FRUIT JUICE

In a perfect world, we'd all hydrate sans sugar. But when you just can't live without some sweet refreshment, turn to 100 percent fruit juice, since it's got vitamins and minerals as well as sugar (in the form of fructose, but that's still sugar). We especially like juices that are also fortified either with calcium and vitamin D or with heart-healthy omega-3s. Just keep servings to no more than 6 ounces a day to keep the sugar hit down.

Drinking liquid sugar is like extending an invitation to obesity, wrinkles, impotence, heart disease and memory loss. So for now, if the drink has calories in it, leave it in the can.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

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