One Appalachian’s guide to the health effects of soda

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Rick Morris bikes with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on a recent training trip to Kona, Hawaii

Courtesy of CNN

Hey ya’ll! It’s me again. Name of Rick. You know… the Army vet and firefighter who in February declared to quit smoking on the picture tube during an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. No? How about the Appalachian who recently discovered the wonderful chickpea/sesame concoction better known as hummus. Still can’t place me? I’m one of CNN’s Lucky 7, training for my first triathlon this September in Malibu. If that leaves you scratching your head, well… I understand. I realize I’m not nearly as famous as the brilliant Dr. Gupta. But, whenever I’m in his company, I listen carefully. So, that’s gotta count for something! And, he’s part of the reason for this blog.

Anyway, it was a 50km bike ride along the Queen K Highway with my teammates, trainers, and Sanjay on the Big Island last week that left my noodle working overtime on another potential challenge. I was discussing my other addiction with Sanjay as the Pacific wind and sun beat down on us like a beagle on a rabbit.

I told him how I’ve gone from 10 to 12 cans of soda drinks a day to three or four. Yeah, 10 to 12! He realized I had concern and asked if I was planing to eliminate sodas altogether from my diet. I declared that it was doubtful at the moment. I gave up nicotine this year and figured I needed another year before I could forego the caffeine.

After returning from our week-long training event in Hawayer (well, that’s how I say it), I began to think more about my conversation with Sanjay. Is it the caffeine I was addicted to? Or is it the sugar? Do I drink soft drinks socially, like an alcoholic? Or do I drink them because they are always there?

More thought from my “try-to-keep-it-simple” mind followed. 10 sodas a day, at 150 calories each? Wow! That’s a whopping 1,500 useless calories I was pouring into my body each day. And, for the past 30 years! No wonder I couldn’t rid myself of this belly fat. But a minute bulge at my age (44) was to be expected, right? I mean, most Americans have a spare tire. So, it’s perfectly fine to drink all the sodas I want. Hey, been doing it since my mammie filled my baby bottle with that good ole mountain dew!

That was my rationale, anyways. So, from this point forward that way of thinking stops. Too much of anything can be unhealthy for a feller, ya know?

As Sanjay and I pedaled uphill (the entire day, it seemed) Sanjay mentioned something about all the sugar many of us consume each day and we were soon discussing the health effects. Who needs Wikipedia or WebMD when you got a Dr. Gupta at your side, right?

Diabetes and heart disease are among the illnesses brought on in part by too much sugar in our diets. And, at least for this country boy, most of that sugar comes from drinking soda after soda. So, in the spirit of becoming even more healthy, I decided to investigate. Here’s what I’ve discovered…

  • There is a link between soft drink consumption and obesity.  And it starts with children. Read more here.
  • Soft drink marketers have focused on the adolescent population for years.
  • Artificial sweeteners in “diet” soft drinks may be dangerous to my health. Read more here.
  • Soda is linked to developing metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes. Read more here and here.
  • I feel that if I cut soft drinks from my diet completely, and replace them with water, I would become more healthy, feel better, and live longer.
  • In the 1960s, one soft drink company had 6 ½ ounce bottles. Today, most bottled sodas come in 20 ounce bottles.
  • Many fast-food restaurants offer free soft drink refills.
  • Diet soft drinks may not be a good replacements for regular soft drinks. Read more here.

As a result of finally taking a few hours to uncover the health issues stemming from soft drinks, I’m declaring that I’m working towards the goal of eliminating them from my diet. In some respects, this may be more difficult than quitting smoking. But, I thoroughly enjoy a decent challenge. Around these parts, we generally quip “a country boy can survive.”  Guess my concern for what I choose to drink echoes that statement. Wish me best!

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