Warning fizzy drinks may be bad for your health

Should they carry a health warning?

They said I couldn’t do it. You know who I’m talking about… them, they, those… They said I couldn’t abstain from my precious Diet Coca-Cola and yet here I am without a single drop having landed on my tongue since 11.50PM January 31st 2010. It’s been dicey. I’ve been tempted. However I write to you tonight with a clear conscience. I have stayed true to my mission. So what if it’s only been 18hrs? Are you going through this with me? What have you given up lately? This is hard, don’t judge. Today I have pleasingly rediscovered the simple pleasures of nectarines and have gone through a half-dozen of them this afternoon. Delicious.

I am getting a little ahead of myself.

First; If you have just joined us here – welcome – there is a not inconsequential science experiment being undertaken with myself as the lab rat. Having spent most of my life within the recyclable silver aluminium can of Coca-Cola’s diet drink, I have embarked on a 28 day abstinence from which scientists as far apart as Harvard, Oxford and Thornaby are eagerly awaiting the results. We are regularly told that fizzy drinks are bad for us, and it was my hypothesis that as a person who has drunk almost exclusively fizzy drinks most of my life, we should rapidly see distinct physical changes resulting from the absence of this naughty but nice drink. Would I lose weight? Would my skin improve? Would I have more energy? Would my teeth improve (I’m english)? What if anything would happen, besides a potential nerve shattering crash from so many years on the fizzy nectar.

You can follow my daily progress on Twitter – just type in the hashtag “#xCoke28” to bring up my experiment related tweets. I’d appreciate any messages of support you can send me. As trivial a matter as giving up Coca-Cola may seem, I’m sure we are all aware of someone in our lives who has had addiction problems to more socially unacceptable things like alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling etc. The mechanics are the same. Everybody knows gambling, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and fizzy drinks etc are in greater and lesser ways bad for you, yet we still are drawn to it. I guess the message for things like fizzy drinks is that they are okay in moderation. Well, lets look at that.

According to the Daily Mail, just a couple of cans of carbonated drinks can raise the risk of liver damage, diabetes and heart disease. Quite alarming considering the amount of bottles I was going through and the fact that I was born with serious heart problems. Did my fizzy drink addiction start in the womb?

Having replaced fizzy drinks with juice and water, I can tell you I am not amused to find that same article suggesting two glasses of fruit juice can increase the likelihood of fatty liver disease. These israeli scientists must have had a right giggle after giving this interview.

Until 2008, the Coca-Cola company was using a preservative called E211 in my favourite beverage Coca-Cola Light (thats Diet Coke to us). Fair enough, they change the recipe regularly right? We’ve all seen those new and improved recipe adverts for everything imaginable. Well, this preservative E211 which I had taken in for at least 18 years of my life (more than 3/4) was highlighted by Martin Hickman in the Independent to have possible carcinogenic properties and links to an increase in hyperactivity among children and to having the ability to switch off your DNA.

No sweat right? Ahem…

In more traditional contexts we apparently know that teeth are very susceptible to damage from fizzy drinks. To directly quote a Dr Peter Rock in a 2004 BBC.com news article, fizzy drinks were “by far the biggest reason in causing dental erosion among teenagers”. Confusingly three years earlier the BBC touted an American study that showed “Soft drinks ‘not bad for teeth'”. The author of the study, in a view-point I will support out of loyalty to my addiction, says you only have problems when you drink to excess. Peter Rock suggested even one drink a day could be damaging.

Is there any wonder people ignore medical advice? When the media sends out these mixed messages without the inherent context of academic/medical/scientific discussion that surrounds these studies, then people are just going to shrug their shoulders blankly and carry on drinking/eating/smoking/gambling. Because if the clever people can’t come to an agreement, then I’m not convinced.

I shall direct you to this Mind Connection article on Soft Drinks: Unsafe beverages without comment because I feel it speaks for itself.

I am not here to convince you to give up fizzy drinks. More than likely at the end of this month I will resume drinking Diet Coca-Cola but at reduced amounts. This is purely an experiment born out of curiosity, what I think all worthwhile ventures come from. I hope you stick with me on this journey. Follow my struggles daily on twitter, and I’ll post another blog update after the first week.

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