Soft Drinks: Harming our Children? [Archives:1999/25/Reportage]

June 21 1999

The world is becoming a global village, connected by satellite networks from which millions of TV sets receive their programs. It is almost as if there is a single power – the USA – trying to impose its image, culture and style of living, all of which have become the standard in many other nations. This allows economic support of international companies, where the cost of one advertisement is equivalent to the cost of production for a European movie. The promotion of a greedy and hurried community with as many desires and requests as there are varieties of the market’s commodities is based on a promotional empire so large that the sun never sets upon it. This empire is based on people’s desires for “easy” and “fast” goods, which is a promotion and extension of the American style of living.
Soft drink companies are one of these companies which dominate the world through advertisement. In Yemen, which has become a part of their domain, such advertisements concentrate on youths and teenagers. These advertisements can be seen in schools, streets, petrol stations, markets and even on children’s clothes. They use bright banners that connect consumption with pleasure and joy. These companies have used fashion, Hollywood stars and even sports celebrities in their advertisements to increase their appeal.
As the American writer, Ivan Inish said, “Thirst became directly connected to Coca-Cola”.
People substitute soft drinks for water in restaurants, qat sessions and public gatherings. These items have became daily necessities.
1. Ingredients and Components: Soft drinks consist of soda water and sweetening materials like sugar, coloring, phosphoric and benzoic acid, plus flavor as cola nut that contains caffeine, and some gases and preserving materials are added as well.
2. Measured specifications indicate that caffeine percentage is not more than 200 mg/kg while phosphoric acid is less than 0.06%. A test of one 300 mg bottle found that the amount of caffeine came to 20-50 mg.
3. Harms : Many studies, such as the study by “The Science Center for Public Health” showed the following:
1. The drinking of too much of such products will be at the expense of milk; this can result in reducing the quantity of calcium in the body which may cause fragileness of the bones.
2. It has been scientifically proved that the main ingredients of bones are calcium and phosphorous. These two elements should be taken in certain percentages in our food; increase the percentage of one of these elements will reduce the absorption of the other. Therefore, the increase in consumption of phosphorous by those consuming such drinks will reduce calcium and increase the possibility of bone disease.
3. Yemeni society consumes huge quantities of stimulating substances, such as tea, coffee and qat, and now comes these soft drinks. The amount of caffeine consumed will increase, especially with the continuos competition of the companies, who increase the size of their products to attract customers. This results in a state of mild addiction to these drinks.
4. Dentist Al Dhaliee pointed out that tooth decay results from the consumption of sweets and soft drinks. These materials consist of organic acids such as citric acid plus sugar. Such factors increase the possibility of tooth decay.
5. Scientific studies proved that consumers of such drinks suffer from kidney stone more than others.
6. The most common thing is to connect these drinks with the digestion process. A study was made on this subject, and found that after drinking these liquids a change of food division inside the stomach occurred. CO2 rose to top while food remained at the bottom.
In conclusion it is worth mentioning here that water is the first and the healthiest drink. Consumption of tea and coffee have many bad effects; for instance tea contains phytate, a substance that prevents the human body from making use of iron or calcium. Therefore, children should not be allowed to consume such drinks, because of the harmful effect they have at the growing ages.
By: Engineer Abdul Hakim Hashim Othman