Sugary drinks impact health

HARLINGEN — That sugar boost isn’t all its cracked up to be.

People grabbing a Coke or Sprite from the soda machine may think they’re getting a harmless little sugar rush, but that one drink can lead to all kinds of health problems.

“One soda per day can increase your risk for stroke and heart disease, and also for diabetes and obesity,” said Adrian Garcia, 18, a senior at Harlingen School for Health Professions.

He and several other students gathered at HSHP yesterday morning to kick off the “Life is Sweet Enough” Sugary Beverages Awareness Campaign. School board members, administrators, and students gathered for the 30-minute presentation. The students gave a presentation about healthier habits and the problems caused by too many soft drinks.

The students had joined with Unidos Contra La Diabetes, a collaborative partnership dedicated to diabetes prevention.

“UCD collaborated with Harlingen CISD and multiple partners from the Rio Grande Valley to design the educational campaign to urge teens and young adults to make healthier choices in what they consume,” stated a press release from Salomon Torres, program director.

Torres said in the release that in the American diet, 46 percent of additional sugars come from soft drinks.

“Drinking water is the best alternative to sugary drinks and part of an overall wellness strategy to reduce obesity, improve health and prevent diabetes in the Rio Grande Valley,” Torres said.

The students conducted extensive research into the effects of sugary drinks on public health and how those health issues impact other areas of people’s lives. Students from the Media Arts and Communications Academy were also at the launch to give their visual presentation of the event.

“Pre-diabetes and obesity is directly linked to lower educational standards, whether it be lower GPA or lower math and English scores,” Garcia said. “Pre-diabetes and obesity is directly linked to some crises such as asthma and Parkinson’s.”

Even with the information available, some people insist on pursuing old habits, said Nia Cerda, a senior at HSHP.

“They don’t want to change their lifestyle patterns,” she said.

The answer, the students agreed, was to promote healthier living by encouraging people to drink more water. School districts should make sure that water fountains are operational, and school Christmas parties should refrain from serving sugary drinks.

And just because a beverage isn’t on the soft drink list, that doesn’t make it safer.

“Unfortunately, people don’t see sports drinks as sugary beverages even though they are high in sugar,” said Adriana Pacheco, a senior at HSHP.

Superintendent Art Cavazos said he was “super excited” by the new initiative.

“It warms my heart that these students have taken on this campaign and they’re taking it so seriously,” Cavazos said. “I’m super proud of each and every one of you.”