Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Cola and Health: ICMR to study health problems of soft drinks

May 27, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 26: The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is gathering information from scientists and research institutions across the country on the
ill-effects of consumption of soft drinks, carbonated water and beverages on the health of people.
This is the first-ever major exercise taken up by the MoHFW on soft drinks in the backdrop of research reports by various laboratories that consumption of soft drinks
and carbonated water is deleterious to the health of people, particularly children. The MoHFW has entrusted the task to the Indian Council of Medical Research. Research laboratories and scientists, who have done work on soft drinks, may send in their data to ICMR by this month-end.
"Since, this issue is of national importance and in the public interest, scientists from all over the country are requested to share their, if any, published/unpublished
data/study with us (the reference of the published paper). If you are currently carrying out any study in the related field, you may send us the same," says Dr GS Toteja, senior scientist at ICMR.
Dr Toteja told this correspondent that the ICMR had already received 120 research papers and they are looking for more such studies so that ICMR could prepare a
comprehensive report. "This is a major exercise. Based on the papers and data presented to us, we will come out with a comprehensive report. A committee of experts will go through the papers," he said.
The MoHFW/ICMR move comes in the wake of publications in different parts of the world including India that soft drinks provide more than the recommended dietary allowance of refined sugar. Some of the soft drinks contain aspartame as sugar substitute, which lowers the seizure threshold in the brain inducing depression, rage and paranoia.
Since phosphoric acid forms a major component in soft drinks, regular consumption of drinks laced with this chemical may affect the body's function to utilise calcium, thus leading to osteoporosis.
Another component caffeine is known to cause jitters, insomnia, hypertension and beast lumps among others.
Based on a similar exercise in the USA, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases included soft drinks on the list of foods, which doctors may advise patients to avoid.
Surveys show that children and adolescents are the heaviest consumers of soft drinks and carbonated beverages. They are known to contribute nine per cent of calories in boys and eight per cent in girls.
The ICMR study will take all these medical facts into consideration before arriving at a final report.

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