Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 26, 2021
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What are we drinking?

Over the past few years we have seen a number of research studies linking soft drinks to the development of obesity,(1) as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.(2) Since 2000, obesity and nutrition specialists have been proposing a small tax on foods with little nutritional value, including soft drinks.(3)

Refreshments Canada, the association that represents non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers, responded with the announcement that by mid-2011, containers up to 591 millilitres will display the container’s total calories on the front of the package.(4) Larger ones will display the calories for 250 millilitres. Fruit juices, juice beverages, sports drinks and bottled water will be labelled as per Health Canada’s regulations and in 2012, calorie counts will be displayed on company-controlled vending machines.

Energy? What energy?

In October 2010, the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association published an editorial on “caffeinating” children and youth.(5) It pointed out that many energy drinks contain the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee or two cans of caffeinated soft drinks, which can be detrimental to younger people, especially if they consume these drinks in the evening. Disrupted sleep patterns can lead to obesity, mood disorders, poor school performance and worsen of asthma symptoms. Combined with alcohol, caffeine tends to camouflage the effects over consumption.(6) In January of 2011, the AMA published a similar call to action.(7)

Looks like, but isn’t

Many people avoid dairy products and, instead, drink beverages made from soy, almonds, rice or oatmeal, which are usually supplemented with calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B2 and B12 to reflect the composition of milk. With the exception of soy beverage, they may contain more sugar and less protein than milk. Oats and rice are not good sources of a complete protein, and neither are the beverages made from them. A 250-millilitre glass of rice milk contains 0.4g of protein, compared to 9g of protein found in the same amount of 2-percent milk. Those who choose these beverages must consume other sources of protein.

Water or a supplement?

Vitamin and fruit-flavoured waters are the newest beverage craze and, like energy drinks, marketed to a younger audience. They’re not considered a food so they don’t have a regular nutrition facts table or ingredient list. Instead, they’re treated like a natural health product. Basically, they’re water with added vitamins and sugar. Dosages appear in the small print. While there aren’t studies suggesting any health benefits, one can only imagine that they could lead to nutritional imbalances and an overconsumption of calories if these waters are consumed frequently.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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