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How to Beat Your Craving for Soda

Are you drinking too many soft drinks?
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Does the guy who restocks the soda vending machine at the office know you by name?

Do you drink diet soda with your morning bagel?

Could your child say "soda" before he said "milk" or "juice"?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be drinking too much soda. Soda's not as popular as it used to be. Beverage Digest reported in March 2006 that U.S. sales of drinks like Coke and Pepsi were down the previous year by 0.7%, the first such drop in 20 years. But we still bought more than 10 billion cases of soft drinks last year.

Soda: Nothing but Liquid Calories

Where's the problem? Every can or bottle of sugared soda adds hundreds of calories to your diet -- but absolutely no nutritional value. In fact, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, soda is the single greatest source of calories in the American diet, representing about 7% of our calories.

Soda is also a big source of health problems, say many researchers. Multiple studies link excessive soda consumption with obesity. For example, a study of Massachusetts schoolchildren found that for each additional sugary drink a child drank per day, his odds of becoming obese increased 60%.

"Studies funded by the beverage industry have suggested no link between soda and childhood obesity; studies funded by everyone else have begged to differ," says David Katz, MD, an associate professor of public health practice at the Yale School of Medicine.

Soda has been linked to many other health problems. Various studies have found that soda may raise the risk of diabetes. Everyone knows soda can damage tooth enamel. And some research indicates that soda could increase the risk of osteoporosis, either by pushing milk out of the diet, or because caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption.

The osteoporosis issue is particularly a problem for adolescent and teenage girls, who tend to drink a lot of soda.

"There's a relatively short time frame in our lives to achieve peak bone mass, and during that time, when girls should be consuming more milk and less soda, that's exactly the opposite of what happens," says Alison Field, DSc, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a researcher on obesity in children, adolescents, and women.

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