March 20, 2023

With the semester midterm week, students have started to become weary, worn out and sick from the mental exhaustion of preparing for exams and essays.

During this time, coffee and sugary drinks are in high demand as students hope to gain that “stimulant” effect. But what many people are not aware of is the amount of sugar these coffee and other sugary drinks provide.

“Sugar is not a ‘bad’ word. Sugar is a carbohydrate, which we need in our body to fuel our brain, muscles and our cells. If it is packaged appropriately (i.e. a fruit) then you can get energy for your day or workout and also other important nutrients that may have additional benefits,” said Dr. Nicole MacDonald, associate professor of kinesiology and program director for the athletic training education program.
A coffee drink or soda can be fine in moderation, but to rely on them for needed energy can cause further problems in the future.

“Caffeine is a stimulant and people can become dependent on it. It may cause heart problems, especially in those that are already at risk,” MacDonald said.

For Karina Diaz, sophomore health science major, soda became an addiction that was hard to break.
“I got really addicted to Coca- Cola last year and I noticed it. I was at the point where I had to drink two a day, so I quit for a whole year. When I started drinking some again, it tasted weird to me, so I thought I was not going to drink it anymore, but I kept going,” Diaz said. “It came to a point where I was tired of it, but I would drink it because it was a habit already. Now I am trying to let it go. I am gaining weight and I truly believe soda is a big cause.”

Diaz consumed more carbohydrates than the recommended daily intake an average person should be consuming. Too many carbohydrates and the body will begin to do the opposite
of what it should.

“Carbohydrates are recommended to make up 50-60 percent of our diet and simple sugars should not be more than 25 percent of that amount,” MacDonald said. “All carbohydrates will be converted to glucose at some point in the body and be used. High fructose corn syrup, for example, is not seen in the brain as a regular food. Foods with (high fructose corn syrup) make you both hungry and unable to shut off your appetite, which, in turn, could lead to obesity.”

These dangerous sugars are not just found in addictive drinks like soda but can be found in coffee drinks as well. Starbucks is famous for their delicious variations of coffee, but even with the calorie amount displayed next to the drink, people still consume far too much for what their body needs.

“Some of the drinks at Starbucks are over 1000 kcals or beyond. It is recommended that an average size person consume about 2000 kcals a day total. If you are consuming a 1000 kcal drink for breakfast you are not only consuming excess kcals that could promote weight gain but are also displacing the kcals that your body needs to function, fight infection and reduce your risks of cancers and other diseases,” MacDonald said.

Some people do understand the risks but think that substituting those extra pumps of vanilla for sugar free and switching from regular soda to diet can be beneficial. However, those artificial sweeteners can be just as dangerous. While they are good for cutting back on calories, they are not good for the body and can cause future health problems.

“The problem I see is that people who use artificial sweeteners take it as an excuse to consume additional calories in other ways. They can also cause adverse effects in some people. Some people may have sensitivities to certain sweeteners including headaches, dizziness, GI discomfort, etc. It should be used in moderation like anything else. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that products have these sweeteners and we may consume too much,” MacDonald said.

Trying to avoid sugar-doused drinks can be difficult, especially in a society that is so consumed with fast food and coffee.

“It is the form that you consume that is the issue; not the sugar itself,” MacDonald said.
Much discomfort can come from trying to cut out unhealthy habits, such as addictive habits like consuming too much Starbucks or soda during a daily sitting. There are, however, alternatives as well as guidelines to follow when looking for something healthy.

“It is a good idea to look at the food label ingredient list. If there is more than 8 grams of sugar in the food and HFCS is in the first few ingredients you should avoid it,” MacDonald said.

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