THERE'S sobering news for drinkers this Christmas, and that includes people who do not drink alcohol.
Heavy consumption of soft drinks, as well as eroding teeth, has been linked to asthma and serious lung disease, new research has found. An Australian study has found high levels of soft drink are associated with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in adults consuming more than 500 millilitres per day.
The survey of 16,900 people found those drinking more than 500ml a day had significantly increased chances of asthma and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), causing blockages to airways.
The University of Adelaide researchers said the mechanisms linking soft drinks with respiratory problems remained unclear but one hypothesis was the high sugar in soft drinks made the airways more vulnerable to allergic inflammation. Another possibility was allergic reaction to preservatives in soft drinks.
''This is the first large population study showing an association between soft drink consumption in relation to asthma/COPD,'' the research team said.
The Australian Medical Association and Australian Dental Association are reminding people of the dangers of excess sugar consumption over the holidays.
The AMA president, Steve Hambleton, said sugary foods and drinks provided excess calories, were bad for teeth and could also have an impact on a person's physical health.
''Sugary foods and drinks are nice to have occasionally, but it's important to remember only to consume them on special occasions, and not to include them as part of your regular diet,'' he said.
The dental association president, Dr Shane Fryer, said a 600ml soft drink could contain up to 13 teaspoons of sugar.
''Consumption of these drinks should be limited, but drinking water is the best option,'' he said.
Water may also be a better option for those who routinely turn to alcohol to brace themselves for a Christmas gathering.
The beyondblue group, established to combat depression, warned drinking alcohol to overcome anxiety, they risk longer-term problems, including addiction and increased risk of suicide.
A director of beyondblue, Associate Professor Michael Baigent, said a survey this year revealed many men, who may unknowingly be experiencing an anxiety disorder, are likely to drink alcohol to boost their confidence when they go out.
Professor Baigent said such social phobia disorders were likely to affect one in 10 people during their lifetime.
''If people drink alcohol to give themselves 'Dutch courage', some are likely to develop drinking problems,'' Professor Baigent said. This could lead to deeper anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Professor Baigent said people who believe this may be a problem should see a doctor and for immediate help, call beyondblue on 1300 224 636.