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Anatomy 101


Peggy Papathakis, RD
When you talk about hydration, water is the fluid of choice. That’s because drinking beverages such as iced tea, coffee, sodas, beer and wine actually encourage fluid loss due to their caffeine and alcohol content. Too much caffeine can even increase blood pressure and cause an irregular heartbeat. 

Substituting other fluids for water can negatively impact our health, especially that of children. A study published in Pediatrics magazine found that children who drink more than 12 ounces of juice per day "were significantly shorter or more overweight than classmates." Prolonged consumption of juice directly from the bottle also can lead to cavities from sugars and carbohydrates that remain on teeth. 

Health experts contend that when children are raised on sugared beverages such as juices, they become accustomed to the sweet flavor and shy away from water. In fact, a 1995 study in The Archives of Disease in Childhood has shown that 71% of preschool children drink no water at all during the day. This contributes to dehydration, which can impact the body in many ways. 

As for teens and adults, reliance on fluids other than water also has serious side effects. For instance, the sugar in colas contributes to tooth decay in teens, while in adults, phosphoric acid can diminish bone density.

"Substituting other fluids for water can negatively impact 
our health, especially that of children." 

Sugar-containing beverages contribute to obesity in children and adults. That’s because excess energy from sugar is stored as fat in the body. 

In addition, a study in the September 1997 issue of Men’s Health magazine indicates that drinking apple juice or grapefruit juice instead of water can increase your risk of kidney stone formation by 36 percent. 

As for sports drinks, they are useful when consumed after or during vigorous and prolonged exercise in high heat. But most experts agree that for moderate exercise, water works better than carbohydrates or sugared beverages. For instance, if you drink 12 ounces of plain water, your body will absorb 8 ounces of it within 15 minutes. If you drink 12 ounces of a 10% sugar solution, less than 1 ounce will be absorbed in the same period. The typical soft drink is a 10-12% sugar solution. 

Remember that ingesting water in proportion to sweat loss best maintains cardiovascular function and prevents body temperatures from rising too high. 

Peggy Papathakis, R.D. is a California-based Registered Dietitian and Clinical Nutritionist Pediatric Specialist at the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento


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Revised: July 31, 2015.