Who doesn’t like soft drinks.  They are served during holidays (Christmas, New Year’s, and fiestas) and special occasions (birthdays, weddings, graduations, debuts, etc.).  Meals, particularly lunch and dinner, are incomplete without these drinks that contain carbonated water, a sweetener, and a natural or artificial flavoring.

The sweetener found in soft drinks may be a sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, a sugar substitute (in the case of diet drinks), or some combination of these.  Soft drinks may also contain caffeine, colorings, preservatives and/or other ingredients.

But drinking too much soft drinks can be hazardous to your health. “Employees at a university in Japan who consumed more than two sodas a day were more likely to have protein in their urine when compared to those who had fewer or no sodas on a daily basis,” wrote Health Day reporter Denise Mann.

Protein in the urine, medical experts tell us, is considered an early, but still reversible marker of kidney damage.

Some 8,000 employees were examined.  “Nearly 11% of employees who said they drank two or more soft drinks per day had protein in their urine during three years of follow-up,” Mann wrote. “In contrast, 8.4% of those who did not drink any soda and roughly 9% of those who drank about one can a day tested positive for protein in their urine.”

Another writer commented on the same study: “Drinking soda or other carbonated beverages each day may lead to hypertension and diabetes, which can cause kidney failure, reduced kidney function and kidney stones.

“Be it a cola, non-cola, diet soda or any other sugar-sweetened carbonated beverage, these beverages can increase your risk of serious health issues,” the writer added.

Now, let’s take a closer look.  Anahad O’Connor, in a New York Times feature, wrote: “In a study published in the journal Epidemiology, the researchers compared the dietary habits of 465 people with chronic kidney disease and 467 healthy people.  After controlling for various factors, it was found that drinking two or more colas a day – whether artificially sweetened or regular – was linked to a two-fold risk of chronic kidney disease.”

In contrast, drinking two or more non-cola carbonated drinks a day, the study found out, “did not increase the risk.”

The study is a wake-up call for Filipinos, who love to drink soft drinks. 

The Department of Health (DOH) reports that one person dies every hour from kidney failure.  Every year, more than 7,000 cases of kidney failure in the country are recorded.  This puts kidney failure as the ninth leading cause of death among Filipinos today, according to the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI).

The NKTI said that for every one million Filipinos, 120 of them are most likely to develop kidney failure. 

The kidneys, two bean-shaped organs which measure about 4-5 inches each, produce urine from waste products removed from the blood. While most people have two kidneys, there are few who are born with only one.  “All functions normally performed by two kidneys can be carried out adequately by one healthy kidney,” according to The Merck Manual of Medical Information.

Unknowingly, health problems affecting the kidneys are becoming common compared to in the past.  In you go to a street and ask an average man of what medical problem they fear most, they would either mention stroke or heart attack.  “Many Filipinos don’t realize that developing kidney failure can be just as disabling and life-threatening,” says Dr. Rafael R. Castillo, a cardiologist at the Manila Doctors’ Hospital.

For the uninformed, healthy kidneys clean the blood in the body by removing excess fluid, minerals, and wastes. Not only that, kidneys also make hormones that keep the bones strong and the blood healthy. But if the kidneys are damaged, they don’t work properly.  

Harmful wastes, it has been found, can build up in the human body.  Blood pressure may rise that may cause hypertension.  When the body retain excess fluid and do not make enough red blood cells, kidney failure may result.

“If your kidneys fail, you need treatment to replace the work they normally do,” says the National Institute of Health in the United States.  “Before dialysis was available, total kidney failure meant death,” says the US National Kidney Foundation (NKF). “Today, people with kidney failure can live because of treatments such as dialysis and kidney transplant.”

According to medical experts, dialysis is a way of cleaning the blood when the kidneys can no longer do the job required from them.  Dialysis gets rid of the body’s wastes, extra salt and water aside from helping control the blood pressure.

Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco, in an article published in Health and Fitness, said dialysis is very expensive.  “The average cost of dialysis treatment in the country ranges from P4,500 to P7,000 per session, excluding medication and payment for the services of a kidney specialist,” she wrote.

Kidney disease, particularly end stage renal disease (ESRD), is already the seventh leading cause of death among Filipinos, recent statistics show.  For patients with ESRD, a kidney transplant is often the only hope for survival.  While the number of patients with ESRD is increasing, the number of living and deceased kidney donors remains dismally low.

Dr. Enrique Ona, who used to be the director of NKTI, said that kidney transplantation is cheaper than dialysis “in the long-term.”  “Moreover,” he added, “survival rates and quality of life in transplants are much better.”

A transplant costs half a million pesos to one million pesos for a one-time surgery, as long as the donated organ is not rejected by the recipient’s system.