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MailTribune.com
  • Put down those sugary drinks

    While most are filled with calories, even diet and sugar-free ones are bad for you
  • It happens to me several times each day. I see a round-bodied person sucking on a jumbo-sized soft drink. Occasionally, the container is so large the individual needs two hands to steady it. Bracing the super-sized drink carefully, the chubby individual brings the big-rig fluid to their mouth with lips puckered. They squeeze the straw tightly — and suck.
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  • It happens to me several times each day. I see a round-bodied person sucking on a jumbo-sized soft drink. Occasionally, the container is so large the individual needs two hands to steady it. Bracing the super-sized drink carefully, the chubby individual brings the big-rig fluid to their mouth with lips puckered. They squeeze the straw tightly — and suck.
    The people I've witnessed sometimes are indulging in huge paper cups filled with sweetened soft drinks while driving a car (the two-handed approach is a little tricky — but they seem to manage). They are seldom walking or physically moving. I know this sounds harsh, but I usually see them with bottoms planted on a bench or in a chair — their sugary "sport" drink nearby.
    "Eat less and move more" is the universally recommended solution for staying trim and healthy. What would happen if we completely eliminated sweetened soft drinks and their accompanying straws? And what if we coupled that with a walk around the block? Just wondering.
    Ah, I hear you saying, "I already do that." And I respond, "Good for you!" How about your preteen granddaughter who has those startling little rolls of cascading fat around her middle. Does she walk?
    A single 12-ounce can of cola contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. Sugar has no nutritional value.
    The average older adult (age 40 to 59) consumes 350 calories in added sugar each day, according to Dr. Barry Popkin, director of the University of North Carolina's Interdisciplinary Obesity Center. Most of that added sugar comes from those sugary soft drinks that masquerade as "energy."
    Now your granddaughter can be heard saying — "But I only drink sugar-free!" Even those low/no sugar diet drinks are hard to defend because they position us to want more of that addictive sugary taste. In several small studies (Purdue University), the sugar substitutes actually promoted weight gain. (Omigosh!) Apparently, you confuse your body by eating artificial sweeteners and it loses the ability to properly assess and direct incoming calories.
    That doesn't do it for you? Think about it like this (I don't care how old you are). Drinking even one 12-ounce can of soda a day increases your risk of heart attack by 24 percent, according to nutrition studies done at Simmons College in Boston. This risk does not develop with prolonged use — it takes only a few short years. And not only cardiac problems can result. Research has suggested excess sugar does everything from setting you up for yeast infections to putting you in danger for liver disease.
    I try not to offer problems without solutions. Are you ready? Try Lemon-Cucumber Water. I am not a fan of cucumbers, but I suggest this lovely summery drink with great assurance. It's unexpectedly refreshing and there is absolutely no sugar involved.
    Peel and thinly slice half a small cucumber and half a lemon. Put the slices in a 2-quart jar filled with water (preferably filtered). Let it stand for an hour or two. Pour over ice. Drink and enjoy.
    Share with any available grandchildren. Straws are optional.
    Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.
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