Whether it be a cola, root beer, lemon-lime or whatever Mountain Dew is, most people drink soda in one form or another. If you don’t, and are reading this article merely for confirmation of your holiness, carry on. Poll people today and it’s pretty clear that almost no one actively believes that drinking soda has any health benefits. However, many people do believe that the only bad thing about it is what it can do to your pants size. While its influence on your waistline is definitely a byproduct of the sugary beverage, there are other factors of soda that are much more concerning.
1. There Is No Nutritional Value
When you reach for a soda, you don’t do it for a boost of Vitamin C or Iron. You don’t seek Vitamin B-12, a protein boost or zinc and magnesium. You reach for a soda because you love the taste or you need a boost. And a boost you will get, as soda is primarily made up of sugar, with a bit of caffeine thrown in for good measure. What else is in soda? Not much. Just the carbonated tap water, high fructose corn syrup (unless you’re drinking diet soda, but we’ll get into that), and flavorings and preservatives. Want me to cite a source? Go grab a soda and read the nutritional label, I’ll wait…
See? Soda has no nutritional value except for a ton of sugar, a ton of carbs and a bit of sodium (to cut the intense sweetness of the sugar), and it probably never will, because adding nutrients would likely compromise the taste, which is the only reason anyone drinks soda in the first place.
2. It’s Bad For Your Teeth and Bones
Of course, with so much sugar, one has to assume that soda creates a toxic environment for teeth. And one would be correct to assume so. Sugar is an easily digested compound for bad bacteria in the mouth which cause a chain reaction to lower the pH of plaque and saliva, creating an acidic environment which breaks down the enamel of the teeth. This causes sensitivity of the teeth and eventually cavities. (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/881S.full)
What makes matters worse is that sodas also have phosphoric acid. This is included to create a more tangy bite to the drink. While citrus drinks like lemonade and orange juice are actually worse for your teeth because of their citric acid, consumption of phosphoric acid appears to lessen bone density as well, potentially leading to osteoporosis. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17023723)
3. Increases Belly Fat
In most sodas, most sugar comes from high fructose corn syrup. What’s the big deal? Not all sugars are the same. While glucose leads to subcutaneous fat throughout the body, which isn’t generally associated with disease, fructose causes a buildup of visceral fat, or stomach fat. A high level of stomach fat is directly related to metabolic disease which can result in high cholesterol, heart disease, strokes and diabetes. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20027243) While this may not be the reason you don’t want belly fat, is there any reason you DO want it?
4. It Builds Fat In Your Organs
While glucose can be broken down by every cell in the body, only your liver can break down fructose. Consuming too much fructose, whether through soda or through other high carbohydrate means, can be extremely taxing on the liver. The liver turns the excess fructose, of which there is a lot, into fat. This can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. (http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(08)00164-5/abstract) This disease can result in jaundice, malaise, abdominal discomfort and fatigue. While generally not life-threatening, it can signal the onset of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
5. It Messes With Your Brain
Consuming sugar releases dopamine, which triggers the pleasure sensors in your brain. This is the same process that occurs when you partake in drugs like cocaine, and for those with a predisposition towards addiction, soda can be as addictive as any drug, resulting in painful headaches and withdrawals when you aren’t getting your fix. It also means that you must drink more and more soda in order to satisfy your cravings, which in turn increases your risk of all the other health detriments of soda.
Soda has also been connected to an increased risk of dementia in later years. This is the result of increased blood sugar, which results in increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes has been shown to be a risk factor for dementia. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23657152) In fact, studies with mice have found that high blood sugar impedes decision making skills and impairs memory.
6. It Can Lead to Insulin Resistance (That’s Bad)
Insulin is released by our pancreas to combat spikes of blood sugar in our system. It moves the glucose in our bloodstream into our cells. Our bodies grow resistant to the insulin over time, which means our pancreas has to release even more. This is known as insulin resistance, and it leads to metabolic syndrome, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. (http://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-2-5)
7. It Probably Causes Leptin Resistance (Also Bad)
Also produced by the body, leptin regulates our body’s energy output. It is what is supposed to protect us from both starvation and obesity by regulating when we feel hungry or full. Unfortunately, sugary drinks like soda trigger a resistance to the signals of leptin, and this leptin resistance is now believed to be the main cause of obesity. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359004) There is hope, though. Studies indicate that cutting back on sugar, specifically fructose, reverts the leptin back to its original levels.
8. It Increases Your Risk of Heart Disease
A diet high in sugar is directly connected to the risk of heart disease. We’ve known this for about fifty years. In fact, men who drink one soda per day have been found to be 20% more likely to have a heart attack. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22412070)
This is due to sugar, blood triglycerides and small LDL particles, all of which are risk factors in heart disease and all of which are directly caused by drinking soda or other sugary beverages.
9. There is a Higher Risk of Cancer
As if the risk of heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and dementia weren’t enough, it appears that soda also increases your risk of certain cancers. You may be thinking: “Big deal. What doesn’t cause cancer these days?” Well it turns out that drinking soda doesn’t slightly increase your risk of cancer. It’s a drastic increase.
One study found that those who drank two or more sugary sodas per week, not per day, had an 87% increase in the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404432/)
Consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks has been found to increase the risk of cancer recurrence, as well. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0099816)
We’re sure they’ll find more cancers that are influenced by drinking soda, due to the fact that it appears a high blood sugar has a strong impact on malignant growth, making it more difficult to fight.
What Should You Do Instead?
While you may be thinking now that you’ll just reach for a diet soda, a better choice would be plain water or unsweetened tea. While there is a lot of fear these days over the aspartame in reduced sugar drinks (nearly all reduced sugar drinks, in fact), the truth of the matter is that in order to even exceed the recommended daily amount of aspartame (which doesn’t linger in the system; another myth), you’d have to drink 18 cans of diet soda, whereas exceeding the recommended intake of sugar is a little over half a can of Coke. So while diet soda has never been pegged in a scientific study to be detrimental to health, there is some evidence to suggest that it may impact your ability to lose weight because it tricks the body into thinking it’s consuming sugar. There is a lot of work to be done in this field, though. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Grab a water.