Though most of us know soft drink is not the healthiest choice, a new study shows the actual damage it can do to the human body.
Just two cans of soft drink a day overworks the pancreas – an organ that helps digest food and control blood sugar – leading to a high risk of diabetes. It also stops the body burning fat as it should.
Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute studied 28 obese* or overweight young adult volunteers who ate a normal breakfast, lunch and dinner. On one day they drank a can of soft drink for morning and afternoon tea. On the other day they drank water instead of soft drink.
Their blood was tested throughout both days while they sat (rather than exercising) for seven hours each day in a laboratory*.
Half an hour after finishing a can of soft drink, the level of sugar in the volunteers’ blood was high, which is why drinking soft drink often makes you feel almost instantly energetic.
This is different to eating other food, where it takes longer for the body to get an energy boost. Even the sugar from chocolate is released more slowly than from soft drink.
The pancreas starts making a hormone* called insulin when there’s a high level of blood sugar. Insulin’s job is to help keep your blood sugar levels as even as possible.
Insulin does this job by moving through the blood and telling your cells* to take in sugar that’s floating through the blood. The cells start turning the sugar into energy and storing what they can’t use.
That’s why you suddenly feel energetic and this process quickly reduces the amount of sugar in the blood.
The problem is there’s so much sugar it just keeps coming and coming. The human body knows this could damage your blood vessels*, so the pancreas protects the body by keeping on making insulin to get the sugar out of the blood and into the cells.
Drinking two cans of soft drink a day means the body is producing lots of insulin almost all day, which stresses your pancreas.
If your diet has too much sugar in it, meaning your pancreas has to constantly make insulin, eventually your cells become resistant, or used to the insulin. That means more and more insulin is needed to do its job. In turn, that makes more and more work for your pancreas. Eventually, the pancreas starts to fail, which can lead to the serious disease called diabetes.
The study also found that when insulin tells your body to burn sugar, it also tells it to stop burning fat. Usually when you’ve eaten food, the body burns some sugar and some fat. But when you’ve drunk soft drink, your body is concentrating on burning sugar (to get it out of the bloodstream), so it won’t burn much fat.
This is a recent public-health message about the health risks of drinking soft drink
MORE TO KNOW ABOUT DIABETES
- Diabetes is a serious disease that means your body can’t control the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in your blood.
- About 1.7 million Australians have diabetes.
- There are three types: type 1, type 2 and gestational* diabetes. It is unclear what causes type 1. Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women. Most cases of diabetes are type 2.
- All three types of diabetes are increasing in Australia.
- Being overweight, having a poor diet and not exercising enough put people at much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- People with all types of diabetes need to eat healthy food and exercise to control the disease.
- Some people with diabetes need to take medication, including insulin. Diabetes can shorten life expectancy* and cause blindness and foot infections, among many other serious health issues.
Source: Diabetes Australia
- obese: a medical term for very overweight
- laboratory: where scientific testing is done; a lab
- hormone: the body’s chemical messengers to tell the body what to do
- cells: smallest, basic unit that makes up living things
- blood vessels: veins, capillaries and arteries that carry blood
- gestational: during pregnancy
- life expectancy: how long you can be expected to live for
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
- What organ is overworked when you drink soft drink?
- What hormone does the pancreas make?
- What does insulin do?
- What is diabetes?
- What three things put you at risk of type 2 diabetes?
1. Warning labels
The article tells us about some of the dire consequences of drinking too much soft drink. Other harmful products (for example, cigarettes) are required to carry warnings on the packaging. Perhaps soft drink makers should have to do this too.
Design a soft drink package that contains a warning. Your warning must be based on facts found in the article. It is up to you to decide how prominent and how shocking you think it is necessary for the warning to be.
Extra resources: Examples of warnings on products such as cigarettes and alcohol
Make a “Dos and Don’ts” list for people who want to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum links: English
The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s. Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?
HAVE YOUR SAY: How do you feel about drinking soft drink now you know more about what it does to your body? Will you consider saying no to soft drink? Why or why not?
Use full sentences. No one-word answers.