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Getting Older? Skip the Soda in the Era of COVID-19

It should come as no surprise that middle-aged and older adults who drink sugary beverages daily are at greater risk of developing abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared to those who rarely drink those beverages. At least, this is according to a new epidemiological study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. We’ve known this for decades. (Do we really need to be studying this in 2020?)

The study, led by a research team at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, found that adults who drank at least 1 sugary beverage daily had a 98% higher chance of developing low HDL cholesterol and a 53% higher chance of developing high triglycerides, when compared to the group who seldom or never consumed sugary drinks. The scientists also observed similar results when they examined long-term intakes of sugary beverages during a follow-up time of about 12 years. 

Please note, sugary drinks include soda, fruit juices (i.e., orange juice, lemonade, fruit punch), sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade), fruit-flavored or powdered drinks (ie. flavored protein powders), flavored or plain milk products (i.e., strawberry or chocolate milk), energy drinks, vitamin-enhanced drinks and water, sweetened tea, coffee, and alcohol. It basically means any beverage other than plain water and freshly made vegetable juice/smoothies. 

The research study found the following biological systems are linked to increased risk of developing an infection with consuming one sugary drink per day.

  1. Suppresses the immune system for 4 to 8 hours post-sugary drink or beverage
  2. Increase inflammation and further suppresses the body’s ability to fight off an infection.
  3. Lower HDL cholesterol, increased Triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and blood sugar cause poor cellular repair and damage the immune system. 
  4. Increase heart disease risk

The “it's only one drink per day” mentality is dangerous to human health, especially in the era of COVID-19. It has quickly led to a weaker immune system for Americans of all ages and high probability of getting infected with COVID-19.  

For many people, one more coffee or soda refill is causing this worldwide phenomenon. Left unchecked with a growing pandemic in the background, we are asking for trouble.

I’ve touched on both topics in past columns, particularly on the role of diet quality and immune response, linked for your reference:

Immune Boosters to Fight Colds and Flu

Boosting the Immune System in Pediatrics

Drugs & Immune System Support: What We Know and What We Don’t

It is painfully clear that having any consumption of a sugary drink on a daily basis is causing damaging health impacts for all ages. Avoidance or sparing consumption is highly recommended in order to sustain health. 

Embarking on our fourth month of social distancing restrictions, we now know for certain who is more likely to become infected and die from COVID-19. Due to the complexity of immunity and inflammation, these life-saving topics are not adequately brought up in the doctor’s office, even though we have known since the 1980s the problems they cause. Why has nothing changed? And why do we keep researching the same thing every decade?

One thing is for certain: We are better off quenching our thirst with water. Long-term consumption of diet soda on health is not inconclusive, even though so many health experts say that there is not enough information yet. They typically cite 100% fruit juice, coffee, alcohol, milk products, diet soda, sweetened  teas, energy drinks, flavored water and other beverages, are common replacements for sugar-sweetened beverages and claim to have no consistent associations with adverse changes in cholesterol and increased risk of dyslipidemia.  

Extensive long-term clinical studies since the 1980s are clearly demonstrating decade after decade that many health experts' claims are incorrect.  Having a sugary drink is moderation as claimed by many health experts and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is no longer shown to be safe. 

These false claims have unfortunately been one of the critical elements harming the immune system, driving up higher rates of inflammation and creating our nation’s heart disease, diabetes, and chronic autoimmune diseases epidemics.   Our addiction to sugary drinks has also helped drive up our higher rates of death per capita from COVID-19 relative to most other countries.  

What we put in our glass and on our plate may be killing us more than we are led to believe. Have whole fruits and vegetables instead. Mix the veggies up between having them raw versus cooked. They are rich in natural sugars your body loves and can easily process. They are also critical to preventing your future infection with COVID-19.

 

Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health.

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concerns.  We take the extra step to understand the root cause and how to optimize every organ’s functioning.  By better understanding how your environment directly fits into your overall well-being, we create personalized treatment plans which drive away sickness. To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.

Author
Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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