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How dangerous is soda consumption for kids?

Photo: Jessica Lucia/Flickr


You may have seen an infographic floating around the web this month that details the negative effects of drinking a can of soda, particularly suggesting that there are immediate short-term negative effects on the body after drinking just one can. While the detrimental health effects of soda are somewhat understood, it can be tricky to know just how impactful soda consumption can be, especially for kids. We spoke with naturopathic doctor Emily Lesnak, chief resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, about the effects of soda consumption on the body.


SC: Are there really immediate short-term negative health effects to drinking a can of soda? Are these effects something we can feel, or are they more intangible?

Lesnak: [The] immediate negative health effects to soda would include elevated blood sugar, which over time, can lead to issues like diabetes and poor blood sugar control.  This immediate surge in blood sugar could lead to decreased concentration and focus, which could be an issue while in school or when needing to focus at work [...] If the soda is caffeinated, then this could disrupt the sleep cycle if consumed later in the day.


Is soda consumption something parents should be concerned about with regards to their kids’ nutrition?

Soda consumption is something that parents should be concerned about with their children.  Soda is not only linked to childhood obesity which can mean further complications in life, such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome, but also [can] take the place of more nutritious food and beverage choices.  


What are some alternatives to soda that parents might encourage their kids to drink instead?

Alternatives to soda could be water flavored with a squeeze of lemon or a splash of juice. Coconut water can also be a good choice, [but] watch out for added sugar!  Coconut water provides a good source of electrolytes to keep a child hydrated - great for sporting activities.  

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