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Lisa's Blog

A Soft Drink a day Keeps Good Behaviour Away

Lisa Cutforth - Saturday, August 24, 2013

I was reading the paper this morning and was astonished to read that HALF of all Australian children drink one can of soft drink a day and 13 per cent drink three cans or more (as published in the Journal of Pediatrics).  I was devastated to learn that parents are giving babies soft drinks in their sippy cups and bottles (as reported in the Medical Association). 

The mistake I often make as a practitioner is the assumption that common sense is common and that people have been exposed to the education and facts that I have that prevent me making those decisions and mistakes.

I did my dissertation at university on ADD/ADHD and treatment about 10 years ago, so know too well the relationship between poor diet and behaviour problems, not just in children, but adults too.

The headline of the article I was reading was "Soft drinks make kids crazy" (The Courier Mail Saturday 24 August).  In fact I wouldn't even have read it except that I was so surprised that this was "news".  I thought this was OLD NEWS and by now EVERY ONE KNEW that soft drinks make kids crazy.  Apparently many still don't realise the disastrous effects soft drinks are having on children. 

For those that don't yet know, and that is what this article was highlighting was a study by the University of Columbia on 3000 five year olds, that children who had a can of soft drink a day had more behavioural problems than those who drank none. 

"All five year olds have "behavioural problems", it has nothing to do with soft drink, my kid is just hyperactive." I have heard parents explain. But the reality is a sugar hit accompanied with a caffeine hit to a young developing brain can have the similar effect to a drug.  It can make kids excitable, jittery, distracted, giddy, dizzy and agitated.. and at an age they are not able to explain what has hit them, they just act it out.  A parent looking on says, "What's got into you, stop being so naughty, calm down."  But they have been over stimulated chemically and physiological and like someone under the influence of alcohol or a drug, you can't just "switch that effect off" and "behave properly". 

The other down side of soft drink is the sugar hit (and caffeine hit) triggers the stress response commonly referred to as "fight or flight response" (which activates hormones that give the body a kick of adrenalin) which typically will "get us going" or "makes us withdrawn".  This fight or flight response in children could be played out as aggression or depression.  Certainly a daily hit of this is not good for a body especially not a little one on a regular basis. Unfortunately "sugar" is not just "sugar" when it's consumed in those quantities in that fizzy, caffeinated delivery system.  Caffeine will accelerate a sugar hit to the brain.

The article notes the Australian Dental Associations Dr Peter Aldritt's coment: "I think people would be shocked if they realised that the average soft drink has 16 packets of sugar in it."

Just in case you didn't know: Soft drinks are also often full of artificial ingredients which effectively are toxins the liver has to then deal with, and the sugar and acidity of sugary fizzy drinks erode tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay.  Those are some of the LONG KNOWN effects. 

Certainly something we don't want our children to get a "taste" for or develop addictions to this early in their little lives.  Let them seek out soft drinks if they must when they are adults and are practicing free will, but certainly don't allow or ignorantly facilitate daily consumption of soft drinks. 

Better alternatives for children (0-10)?

Breast milk or formula, water, Freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juices (diluted with water and not before 6 months), sparkling mineral water, caffeine free herbal teas like fruit teas or Jasmine tea or Rooibos tea (for over 2s and never from a bottle and away from meals).


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