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By Dr. Shawn Morris N.D.
Natural Health Family Medicine Practitioner 

Healthy kids, healthy drinks

Here’s To Your Health


Last updated 2/21/2020 at 4:23pm

This month, I’m excited to write in support of a bill in the Washington State Legislature requiring restaurants to serve healthy drinks on children’s menus. House Bill 2383, the “Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids” initiative, considers water, unflavored milk, and unsweetened non-dairy milk as healthful options for kids, limiting access to sodas and juice.

Sugary drinks cause a whole host of health problems, including tooth decay, childhood obesity and diabetes. Children who regularly consume sodas and juices have a 26% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The house bill is based on recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Heart Association. In a typical 12-ounce can of soda, there are about 10 teaspoons of sugar!

This sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream immediately, because there is no fiber to slow uptake. This makes soda one of the highest glycemic foods, causing an immediate spike of blood sugar (glucose) followed by a surge of insulin from the pancreas.

Over time, high glycemic foods exhaust pancreatic function and cause insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes. The high sugar content also throws off our microbiome and pushes on opportunistic pathogens like the yeast candida. Current research on the microbiome reveals the connection between gut health, brain health, heart health, and overall wellbeing.

Gut bugs help synthesize and activate nutrients, neurotransmitters and immune complexes, regulating our overall health and supporting longevity. Beneficial microbes thrive on complex carbs, veggies, whole fruits, and healthy fats, while inputs like soda, antibiotics, and fried foods destroy our microbial ecosystem, leading to chronic disease long term.

Research reveals the link between poor gut health in kids with a higher risk for childhood obesity. Beyond sugars, there are a number of chemicals in soda linked with systemic disease, such as depression, cancer, osteoporosis, liver and kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. This is why most diet options are not much better, as they contain a number of harmful chemicals — like aspartame — linked with chronic disease risk.

One aspect of sodas and sugary products that get less attention is the link with depression. Current research into depression reveals brain changes involving inflammation. Chronic insulin surges related to sugary drinks is incredibly inflammatory, and directly leads to impaired brain function. A recent study at the University of Florida found that cutting down on soda directly improved depression without other lifestyle or medical intervention.

Sugary beverages are also dehydrating, and researchers now believe that mild dehydration impacts mood significantly. A University of Connecticut study discovered drinking water alleviates depression and improves concentration, likely by supporting nerve conduction and brain functioning. With the incidence of mood disorders like anxiety and depression on the rise, curbing soda consumption and promoting water is a simple, effective intervention.

For oral health, most of us know soda causes cavities, tooth loss, and periodontal disease. Emerging research reveals the impacts of oral health on other body systems. Chronic tooth decay and gum disease is a significant risk factor for many of the systemic diseases listed above, and is a major risk factor for developing heart disease.

At this point, the harmful effects of sugar sweetened beverages is settled science. Implementing nutritional science in the real world is always the major challenge, which is why the “Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids” bill is so exciting.

This public health intervention will have incredibly beneficial long term health impacts. We can support kids to live happier, longer lives — with a dramatically decreased risk of chronic disease. I hope you’ll join me in supporting “Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids,” and write your legislator in support of House Bill 2383.


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