sugary drinksWe’ve talked before about how eating too much sugar is bad for your teeth. Sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth which produce acid as a byproduct. That acid eats away at the tooth enamel which, if unaddressed long enough, can cause cavities. Many of the foods we eat, containing carbohydrates, will break down into simple sugars during digestion and provide the body with the energy it needs to maintain its activity. Others are primarily sugar to begin with, in particular soda, fruit juices, and highly sweetened coffees or teas. Drinking these is one of the worst things you can do for your dental health and your health in general. Let’s go over why.

Sugary drinks make you gain weight. Sugary drinks contain the simple sugar fructose as opposed to the glucose that is found in carbohydrates. The way the brain functions is that during eating and digestion, the satiety center of the brain will give off signals after a certain amount of food is consumed. Unfortunately, it does not seem to function this way with sugary drinks. This means that people continue to consume calories long after they’ve consumed enough to power their bodies. They don’t get that “full” feeling from drinking calories the way they do when they eat food, causing them to overeat and gain more weight. Studies have shown that people who consume sugary drinks gain more weight than people who do not.

Sugary drinks make your body insulin resistant. When we eat, the body releases insulin in order to drive glucose from the bloodstream into the cells to serve as stored energy. Glucose can be stored as subcutaneous fat, but fructose is stored as visceral fat. This is the dangerous kind of fat that is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even breast cancer.  When we drink sugary drinks regularly, however, the body has to produce even more insulin than it normally would, driving up insulin levels in the blood. Insulin resistance is a key driver in metabolic syndrome, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Sugary drinks may be the leading cause of type 2 diabetes. American has a diabetes epidemic. We already know how diabetes complicates oral health, but it’s also terrible for numerous other body systems and, if unchecked, can lead to heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and kidney disease.

Sugary drinks are addictive. The digestion of sugar causes the brain to release dopamine which creates a feeling of pleasure. The brain is hardwired to seek out activities that release dopamine. Studies have shown that sugar acts much like cocaine in this way, and people can easily get dependent on sugary drinks in order to continue to feel good or even be able to function. Caffeinated sugary drinks present a double threat in terms of addiction.

Sugary drinks are empty calories, containing little or no nutritional value but much potential harm. Sometimes people rationalize that they can continue to drink soda or juice as long as they brush their teeth regularly, but the health consequences of prolonged soda drinking, such as diabetes, are also linked to poor oral health. Drink soda, fruit juice, or sugared coffees only in moderation if you want to remain healthy and in good shape.