What if there was something you could drink that could help you live longer and was free? Would you drink it? What if I offered something else to drink that could shorten your life and would cost you one dollar? Would you want to buy it?

As you might have guessed, the initial question refers to water, which is healthy and free, for the most part. Meanwhile, the latter question refers to a less desirable alternative, soda pop.

A recent study involving half a million people in Europe found that drinking soda pop was associated with a greater risk of death from any cause. What’s even more interesting is how this study found that both regular and diet soft drinks were bad for your health. Drinking sugar sweetened beverages, such as regular sodas, increases your risk of digestive disease deaths. Meanwhile, drinking artificially sweetened beverages, like diet sodas, increases your risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.

I’m sorry to say, but that diet soda may increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. These findings were most significant when people drank two or more sugar or artificially sweetened beverages per day, compared to less than one per month.

This study was published in September 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine. It showed associations, which means it saw connections, but it doesn’t necessarily prove a cause and effect relationship. However, this was an impressive study involving half a million people followed for over 16 years. It excluded people if they already had cancer, diabetes, stroke, or heart disease and it tried to account for body weight and smoking as well. Furthermore, other studies have found similar results.

If you really want a soda pop, it’s not going to kill you to have one, but you probably don’t need several every day. If you do, why not try cutting down? If you don’t feel like drinking a glass of water, consider trying a sparkling water, or maybe take a glass of water and put a slice of lemon in it. Maybe try a natural sweetener like honey. Or, have a glass of milk.

In the last several years, people are drinking less soda pop, and the large soda corporations are listening to consumer demands. You may notice some alternatives the next time you walk down the beverage aisle at the grocery store. However, pay close attention to what’s in them. Many are still loaded with sugar, and others have artificial sweeteners. Be wary of sports drinks, juice, supplement drinks and other alternatives.

My recommendation is to enjoy a tall glass of water. It’s good for your health, good for your pocketbook, and you just might feel the satisfaction of self-care.

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Andrew Ellsworth, MD of Brookings, is a contributing Prairie Doc® columnist who has practiced family medicine for more than seven years. He is immediate past president of South Dakota Academy of Family Physicians. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming on Facebook and broadcast on SDPTV most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.

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