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Cola fizz: recreational drinks need not be health oriented (COMMENTARY)

Being an ex-serviceman, I have been visiting the army canteen every month. Apart from picking up my liquor quota, what compels me to visit the canteen is the demand of my 15-year-old son for his cola drinks. Last week when I came back from the canteen minus the colas, he was visibly agitated.

Sunday, August 27, 2006 | 9:28:38 AM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Being an ex-serviceman, I have been visiting the army canteen every month. Apart from picking up my liquor quota, what compels me to visit the canteen is the demand of my 15-year-old son for his cola drinks. Last week when I came back from the canteen minus the colas, he was visibly agitated.

When I told him that colas were not available in the canteen because of the pesticide controversy, he shot back: 'Papa, as a sports doctor, you claim to be the guardian angel for sportspersons' health and fitness. Tell me how many sportspersons have died or been maimed because of drinking colas?'

My son has a point. Cola companies spend a fortune in sponsoring sports events. Coca-Cola is the major sponsor for Olympic Games, which is certainly not a game for rats or pests. Pepsi sponsors World Cup cricket. Major sports bodies like the International Olympic Committee and the International Cricket Council are not foolish to accept sponsorships from companies whose products are harmful to the precious health of sportspersons or even to the public.

From tobacco to alcohol, now it is the turn of soft drink manufacturers, especially the cola companies, to come in the hit list. True cola drinks do not qualify to be labelled as health drinks or food supplements. But they qualify to come under the category of recreational drinks. Recreation is an integral part of human lives where people seek relaxation from the monotony of routine life. Recreational activities are not necessarily health-oriented.

Similar to recreational sports, recreational drinks, including carbonated drinks, have a place in the social life of human beings when they look around for amusement and enjoyment to bust their stress. The question of health or nutritional benefits becomes redundant here. Colas being recreational drinks need not compete with milk and fruit juices to justify their existence in the market.

The detractors of cola also need to be made aware of the health benefits, not necessarily the nutritional benefits, of cola drinks. Cola drinks, in addition to their water content, also contain high calorie-yielding sugar, which is an instant source of energy for daily workout. Caffeine, a stimulant present in the colas, increases the state of alertness and also delays the onset of fatigue.

The same caffeine is present in coffee, tea and chocolates, too. It is this property of caffeine to get you alert and keep you alert which prompts people to start their day with a cup of bed coffee or tea. That is also the reason why one likes to enjoy a cup of coffee while at work or sitting through late hours at night preparing for examinations. Therefore any argument that cola drinks have no health benefits borders on ignorance.

The ignorant should also understand that it is not the pesticides or other poisons but the presence of caffeine that has prompted certain societies and local administrations, including some in the US, to ban or restrict the sale of colas, coffee, tea and even chocolates in school canteens. Caffeine, being a stimulant, can suppress appetite. Children, especially during the growing age, should have a good appetite to facilitate the consumption of optimum food to ensure good health and avoid malnutrition.

Anything detrimental to appetite should be kept out of the reach of small children. That explains why mothers at home have to keep running after children, who tend to take too many cola drinks or chocolates, to feed them. This also brings out the secret of remaining slim with the help of stimulants. Models and film stars take note of this. So one need not get hysterical an

Copyright : Indo-Asian News Service
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