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Fast Food Drinks Creeping Calorie Count

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Drinks have always been a significant part of fast food restaurants. A McDonald's menu from the 1950s featured nine items and five of them were beverages. Ray Croc, the man who helped make McDonald's a global giant, first became acquainted with the chain while selling them Multi-Mixer machines to make shakes.

You didn't have to be too creative in the early years; simply offering standardized food at every location was a revolutionary idea. But as restaurants started to specialize, drinks became a way to stand out. A&W had root beef floats, Orange Julius had fruit drinks and Starbucks took coffee out of the percolator and turned it gourmet.

Today the trend is BIGGER. A standard serving of Coca-Cola in the 1950s was 8 ounces. Now a small drink in most restaurants starts at 12 ounces, a 50% increase. But supersizing hasn't stopped. The large (or "Grande") at Starbucks was originally 16 ounces. A few years later they introduced the "Venti" or 20 ounce drink. Today the Trenta is available with 31 ounces of coffee.

Not to be outdone, Burger King cup sizes start at 16 ounces and go all the way up to 40 ounces of soda. Of course those pale in comparison to the 7-11 Double Gulp. It's a mind numbing 64 ounces of soda. If you drink one Double Gulp with regular Coca-Cola, you would take in a staggering 156 grams of sugar, or about three times the average person's daily maximum.

You might not think that's a problem. After all, business is just providing what the customer wants. You wouldn't see these enormous drinks everywhere if people weren't buying them. That's a valid argument. But just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you SHOULD do it. Whatever happened to corporate responsibility?

Studies show that when you give a customer the option of moving from one size to another, for just a few pennies more, they tend to "supersize" their order even if it's more than they wanted. Then they eat or drink the excess amount because they don't want it to go to waste.

Sugar also triggers cravings. Researchers found that once you start to consume sweet drinks, you crave more sweets and eat more food in general. Fast food restaurants know that if they can give you more cheap sugar in your drinks, you'll buy more food. The more they sell, the more profit they make. Here's why that's a problem.

According to the American Heart Association, "Sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one single source of calories in the American diet and account for about half of all added sugars that people consume." People between the ages of 20 and 39 who drink sugary beverages, take in an average 336 calories a day just from drinks. What's worse is most of those drinks have no nutritional benefits.

Many researchers have concluded that excess calories from what we're drinking are directly responsible for the ever-growing worldwide obesity epidemic. Now they've started to link the excess sugar in our diets with dementia and Alzheimer's. Here's how it works.

When you down a sugar packed drink, it fills your blood with glucose. Then your insulin levels rise to handle the excess. The more you drink sugar, the more glucose your body has to deal with and the more your insulin spikes. Over time your cells stop responding to the insulin and they quit trying to deal with all the glucose in your blood. The pancreas is forced to work overtime to make even more insulin.

Eventually there's so much insulin circulating through your body that it overwhelms the brain. The brain becomes less responsive to insulin and it becomes harder to think or form memories. Over the long-term neural damage becomes permanent.

Huge sugar and calorie packed drinks are the gift that keeps on giving. Obesity, diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer's just to name a few. Try something radical the next time you visit a fast food restaurant: order water!

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9/7/2013