Are you Drinking Yourself Fat?
Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest contributor to sugar intake – and your growing belly.
When I was growing up, my dad bought two six-packs of soda a week. One was RC Cola (because my mom’s family owned stock in it) and the other was A&W Root Beer. Twelve 8-ounce bottles to be shared among five people over a week. And usually, there were some leftover. Because soda, in our house, although it was there for the taking, was really a huge treat, and we just didn’t overindulge.
That was still the case for me as an adult. Despite a perpetual sweet tooth, I somehow could never buy into the added calories in cola, so I rarely drank it. Back then, the stuff was still made with real sugar, until the introduction of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) onto the market in the 1980s, a move that corresponded to the growing American waistline.
Today, sugar and HFCS-sweetened drinks are the largest contributor to our added daily sugar intake, but that’s not just in soft drinks. Sports drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks and coffee beverages add to this mix. But while consumers may compensate for the added calories they get in solid foods by reducing intake at another time of the day, liquid sugars slide by without mindful calculation. In other words, you could be drinking yourself fat with several hundred more calories a day than you can really afford.
And it’s going straight to your gut.
New research is pointing to the fact that the fructose content of sugar (higher in HFCS) is likely to increase visceral (deep belly) fat. And that fat is closely linked to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes than fat that is just below the skin. Several studies in which participants were given just under three 12 ounce regular sodas sweetened with sugar (roughly half glucose and half fructose), saw a dramatic increase in belly fat. While that amount is roughly twice what the average soda drinker consumes each day, there is a significant percentage who consume 50 percent more than that.
A study of teenagers with high fructose consumption, from food and beverages, saw high rates visceral fat, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels.
While added sugars are not the only contributor to our expanding waistlines – eating more calories than most of us really need is a biggie – the health consequences of increasing belly fat are best not ignored.
So, if you’d like to stop drinking yourself fat, start by swapping out one of those sodas a day with an alternative, non-sweetened beverage. Beware of artificial sweeteners, though, as these can trigger the hormone that tells your body you’re hungry, which could lead to the overconsumption you’re trying to avoid.
Next week, more on insulin resistance.
Mary Porter is a nutrition counselor living in the Fort Hunt area. You can email her at email@example.com