Iranians Top Guzzlers of Carbonated Drinks

Iranians Top Guzzlers  of Carbonated DrinksIranians Top Guzzlers  of Carbonated Drinks

Soda consumption is high among Iranians, who guzzle 9.2 billion liters of carbonated drinks annually.

Data has it that the rate of carbonated drinks consumption among Iranians exceeds four times the global average, an article in the Persian-language daily ‘Shahrvand’ reported.

While per-capita consumption of soft drinks in the world is 10 liters per person, Iranians consume an annual average of 42 liters including cokes, tonics, seltzers, minerals, and sparkling water. Based on this figure, Iran tops the list of countries using carbonated beverages.

According to the latest reports by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, 2,239 tons of drinks and vinegar worth $1.3 million was imported during the March-September period, indicating a 142% increase in volume and 28% increase in value.

The disconcerting figures fly in the face of a recent announcement by the Food and Drugs Administration that import of carbonated drinks was prohibited. FDA’s deputy head, Soheil Eskandari, said the measure followed the FDA’s ban on import of juices with high sugar content as part of its drive to ensure food safety.

Some sources attribute the rising imports to permits issued during the previous administration whose term ended in the summer of 2013.

“We are doing our best to ensure food safety, but statistics show we have not achieved the desirable results,” said Farid Nobakht, head of the Health Ministry’s Nutrition Department.

“Carbonated drinks are the worst choice of beverages, but have sadly become popular on a mass scale in the society.”

  Unhealthy Culture

Nobakht says the continuation of soft drink imports in spite of restrictive directives stems from lack of coordination and cooperation among executive bodies.

“We lack a culture of healthy eating. If the people are made aware of nutritious diets, there is no need for tougher regulations.”

Soft drinks are a problem not only for what they contain, but also for what they push out of the diet. Heavy soft drink consumption is associated with lower intake of numerous vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. The empty calories of soft drinks contribute to health problems, particularly overweight and obesity. Such conditions have become more prevalent as soft drink consumption has soared.

Frequent consumption of soft drinks may also increase the risk of osteoporosis, especially in people who consume soft drinks instead of calcium-rich milk. Dental experts continue to urge people to drink fewer sodas, especially between meals, to prevent tooth decay (due to the sugars) and dental erosion (due to the acids).

Regular consumers of soft drinks may also be at a higher risk of kidney stones and a slightly higher risk of heart disease. Besides the sugars and acids, other soft drink ingredients are of concern. Caffeine, which is added to many of the most popular soft drinks, is a mildly addictive, stimulant drug.

It also increases slightly the ejection of calcium. Artificial colorings, especially Yellow No. 5, promote attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in some children. Yellow No. 5 also causes hives, asthma, and other allergic reactions in a small number of individuals.

  Dairy Products

Iranians consume dairy products at one-third the rate of Europeans. Out of every 100 Iranians, only four have a satisfactory intake of dairy products.

Every Iranian drinks less than 70 liters of milk per year, while the global per capita rate stands around 300 liters.

Deputy Chairman of the Majlis (Parliament) Health Commission, Abdolrahman Rostamian, lamented the disparity in nutrition of Iranians when compared to global standards. “This reveals nothing but a lack of healthy eating habits in the country.”

Soft drinks are heavily consumed in part because companies promote them vigorously and market them everywhere, in stores, restaurants, recreational areas, vending machines, and even schools. Companies spend tons of money on media advertising each year, and on other promotional activities.

Nobakht said information and raising awareness can significantly boost a society’s nutrition literacy, characterized as the degree to which people have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic nutrition facts.

Unaware of the FDA ban on import of carbonated drinks, Rostamian said fizzy drinks bring huge profits due to their popularity among people.

“Iran’s Ministry of Industries Mines and Trade is in charge of coordinating the market with other sectors, particularly the Health Ministry, but its officials are always dodging the responsibility,” Rostamian has been quoted as saying.

He stressed that the Health Ministry has no authority to regulate supply by itself. All organizations must cooperate to ensure a healthy society, which will not be realized until such time that social health is viewed as a main concern by all.