effects of soda and “junk” food on children

This document was created by young B. Ashok, a NammaShaale parent.  Thanks so much, Ashok  for all the trouble and much else.

(This doc was sent to me a few months back, I was supposedly waiting for an updated version though it had apparently already been sent to me, lost in the gmail cackle, backed-up, lost, disk crashed, deep angst expressed over the missing stuff by the author and spouse, they were promised ‘as soon as I receive the mail again from them, I would put it up,’ waited , and waited, gave-up again, but this doc was retrieved finally from my aging & clickety-clacking harddisk, reformatted *&^$% and reproduced here in toto. For some undebugged reason, in spite of spending lots of time, I have been unable to format this post to my satisfaction – sorry.

*phew* Everything takes work and time. Henry David Thoreau says ‘simplify, simplify’ – but ‘what must be done, has to be done cheerfully’ – so heh!)

Hope the readers of the blog  find this ‘ready reference’ document of Ashok useful.

Stock market tip: All those parents who have invested in cola companies should exit immediately, because they want their children to exist!


Effects of Soda and “Junk” Food on Children

B Ashok

I’d like to start by expressing a sincere wish that this document no longer be required! I hope that as parents, we are able to learn enough and outgrow this document. When most of us who are parents of young children today were growing up, we did not have soda or sugary “junk” food available in plenty as today. Most of us were lucky enough to receive home cooked meals on a daily basis and grew up on a healthy diet. We only consumed soda, ice cream or other sugary items once in a while and it used to be a treat. Today every little shop sells soda, chips, chocolate and other creamy or sugary items. Irrespective of where you may live, your children are exposed to these on a regular basis. Many children are given pocket money to buy these items daily. Added to this is today’s birthday culture. A birthday celebration today includes cake, soda, chocolate, chips and many other such items. We need to stop for a minute and analyze the effects of all of these foods on our little children. As a starting point, let us also evaluate what changes we need to bring about in the birthday celebration activities both at school and in our homes.

Let us analyze the effects of soda in detail to figure out why this may be happening.

Recent statistics show that the so-called “old age” diseases such as osteoporosis, joint pain, diabetes, etc. are beginning to show up in the younger ages. Other conditions like cavities and obesity are also beginning to occur in children. Countries in the West that were rampantly exposed to the soda culture have realized its effects after the serious repercussions they faced. Today, many countries discourage the use of soda and high sugar diets for adults and children.

The first issue with soda is that each 20 oz can of soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar and 250 calories . These are “empty” calories with little nutritional value. Soft drinks comprise the leading source of added sugar in our diets, providing the average teenage child with the total recommended allowance for sugars from all sources for the entire day. Increasing one’s consumption of sugary soft drinks significantly increases the risk for both weight gain and diabetes. An added side effect is that it also promotes tooth decay since soda bathes the teeth with sugar water for long periods of time.

A second issue of soda is that it tends to replace milk or milk based drinks in children. Decreased milk consumption means that children are no longer getting required amounts of calcium in their diets. Since the 1980s, energy intake from milk has dropped by 38 percent in the United States . This is the same period of time during which soda consumption has skyrocketed.
Last but not the least – everything we do, including our life style and diet, push us into the acidic range. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are all digested down to acids. Even metabolic functions and exercise create some acids (lactic acid). Cola and soda are in the acidic range of 2 PH. Seven on a pH scale is neutral. Any level below 7 is acidic and any level above 7 is alkaline. Note that this is a logarithmic scale, so every point on this scale is 10 times more acidic (i.e. 7 to 6 is 10 times). So soda is 100,000 times more acidic than water! When our body is acidic, it promotes illness and poor health since acidic pH level is the prime environment for bacteria, virus and even cancer cells. Studies show that it takes about 32 glasses of alkaline water at a pH of 9 to neutralize acid from one 12 oz. can of soda .

Now let us look at the effect of other “junk” food, in particular sugary foods.
All of the food that we eat is turned into glucose. It is important that the levels of glucose are kept within limits. Too much is toxic for the body and too less will make us tired and lethargic. Foods such as refined carbohydrates and sugars are rapidly digested, hence making the blood sugar levels high rather quickly. When we eat too much of sugary food, our body protects against the high glucose level by producing more insulin. This in turn reduces the blood sugar level quickly and has other side effects such as sluggishness, irritability / mood swings, craving for sweets or other stimulants like coffee, and (worst for children) poor concentration or fuzzy thinking . The reduction in blood sugar levels sometimes causes us to crave more sweets, resulting in a vicious cycle. The best way to counter this is by having a balanced diet that includes sufficient protein and fibre (in particular organic grains).

So what can we do? Offer children water instead of soda. Stop buying as much soda and “junk” food for our children. Sugar-free juices such as fresh squeezed fruit juice or even packaged juices with no added sugar (e.g Real Activ) are great alternatives. These do not have added sugar and tend to be more natural. Even Club Soda with homemade lemonade is a better option. Another alternative to consider for birthday celebrations are nut based sweets such as kaju katli or badam barfi since the high protein in the nuts helps to counter the sugar high. Instead of creamy or sugary items, parents are encouraged to think about other items to distribute on birthdays such as stationery or art material that the children can use in school.

Finally, the best way to teach our children these habits is by our example. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to set a good example for them to grow with. As parents, we are their first teacher. Let us talk to our children about the effects of eating such food. And limit the usage of these so-called “fun” foods to fewer occasions, not only for them but for ourselves as well. Let us give our children the gift of healthy bodies and healthy minds.


  1. U.C. Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, 2003
  2. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, October 2004
  3. http://www.scribd.com/doc/2335677/Can-soda-Kill
  4. The Food Doctor (http://www.thefooddoctor.com)


NammaShaale has taken some concrete steps in this direction a few months back – the parents and their children are already aware of it – and surprisingly, no one seems to be missing the soda and most of ‘junk’ at the school anymore… Ashok & co and many other parents had been lobbying for healthy habits for quite a while now. Thanks to all of you!

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  • Brinda  On November 30, 2009 at 9:19 am

    A very interesting and necessary article, Ashok – I completely agree with your comments and views. I also feel today’s children face the problem of excess – easy access to everything good and bad and excess availability of everything – from stationery to junk food, vis-a-vis childhoods of past where every new pencil and chocolate was a treat – few and far between. There are multiple providers – parents, grandparents, friends of parents, visitors, relatives and the list grows – so the avenue is always open to kids, occasions are no longer a constraint. Your suggestion on the change in kind of birthday gifts/sweets is very good – in fact, i think a cultural change is overdue – why do food and celebration need to go hand-in-hand? Why not look at other alternatives? I am sure there is enough creativity left among all parents to come up with different, unique and better ideas to celebrate.

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