Of sweets, sweeteners & sugary beverages

Ashenafi Zedebub

“…….Sir, how many glasses of beverages should I take per day in addition to the soft drinks you recommended to me?” asked the person. In reply to this question, the nutritionist said thus: “….. I have never encouraged the intake of sugary drinks. You misunderstood me, sorry!”

It is always difficult to make people understand whenever there is advice concerning diet and food as well as the type of drink they should or shouldn’t take. I remember also what a friend of mine, a medical doctor, told me about one “heavy-weight” lady patient, who sought his advice as to reduce her weight as she was suffering from various types of diseases including diabetes mellitus. The doctor took his time to consult his patient and told her to be very careful concerning the intake of carbohydrates and so on.  He further advised her to pay special attention and to refrain from having a lot of meat and to be accustomed to fruits and vegetables. For instance said he: “Take just two or maximum three pieces of toasted bread with a glass of tea for breakfast.”

The good lady took his advice and left. But, much to his surprise, she returned after an hour or so and asked him: “Doctor, should I take the toasted bread before or after the main breakfast?”

Now, turning to the issue of beverages, as part of Global Burden of Disease Study, a very recent scientific publication analyzed a little more than one hundred dietary surveys representing some 60% of the population of our globe. As regards sugar-sweetened beverages, there happens to be a marked variation in the average consumption, ranging from less than one drink per day in elderly women of China to more than five drinks per day in young Cuban males.

According to the study conducted by experts in the province, more than 180,000 deaths annually are related to the consumption of large amount of sugary drinks.  It is indicated that the majority of deaths took place in low- and middle-income countries. Mexico had the greatest number of deaths related to drinking sugary beverages, with about 318 deaths per million adults; Japan with the lowest per capita rates, with about 10 related deaths per million adults.

Researchers have now and again pointed out that the intake of sugary beverages would adversely affect blood pressure. They underline that it is in particular problematic in people who have hypertension as blood pressure would become completely uncontrollable.

What about artificial sweeteners?  When I travelled to Europe, I asked a waiter in a restaurant what type of sugar-free beverages he could serve us.  Without a moment’s hesitation, he responded: “We have pure water Sir!” That line has never been forgotten. Pure, clean water, the God-given, best, beverage by far and we all would do well to drink it in healthful  and plentiful amounts  without being worried about anything with adverse effect. Physicians and nutrition experts have rendered evidence that often people who use artificial sweeteners think they have more room for additional calories in liquid or solid forms and pack on the weight and, thereby, develop diabetes anyway!

So far, here in our country Ethiopia, I have not seen or rather been unable to come across any sort of research material referring to the intake of sugary beverages and the undesirable effect of it.  The old Ethiopian society was generally not fond of any sort of sugary drinks, other than the traditional “Tej” (made of honey). Even coffee without sugar has never been so strange. Nowadays, however,   people – especially the young men and women – appear to be almost addicted to sugary drinks in addition to chocolates, candies and sugary food, such as cakes, cookies and so on. I myself enjoy the pure, clean water and live healthy. What about you?

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