The average American consumes 50 gallons of diet and regular soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages each and every year, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy reports. Soda is the single largest source of added sugar in the modern diet, and it’s also the leading cause of childhood obesity in the United States.
Whether it’s a super-sized cola at the mini-mart or bottomless refills at your favorite chain restaurant, soda (even diet soda) sets you up for weight gain and health problems ranging from diabetes to dental issues, supplying you with hundreds of calories and no nutrition in return.
Need some proof? Here are the seven deadly sins of soda, along with simple steps to help you squelch the habit.
1. Diet Soda and Weight Gain
We know that drinking sugar- and calorie-filled soda leads to weight gain, but it may surprise you to learn that even diet soda can contribute to unwanted pounds. In the San Antonio Heart Study, which tracked 3,682 adults over a seven- to eight-year period, those who drank artificially sweetened beverages had body mass indexes up to 47 percent greater than people who did not imbibe. It’s not completely clear why zero-calorie drinks lead to weight gain, but researchers believe that diet soda drinkers have unhealthier diets overall than those who skip soda completely.
2. Soda and Heart HealthEven if you’re one of the lucky few who hasn’t experienced soda-induced weight gain, you could still be putting your heart at risk. Men who drink one 12-oz. sugar-sweetened drink per day are 20 percent more likely to get heart disease than those who don’t drink sugary beverages, a study published in the journal Circulation found. Similarly, a study presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting found that women who have two or more sugar-filled drinks a day were nearly four times more likely to have high triglycerides than those who drank less than one soda daily. They were also at greater risk for excess belly fat, which can affect cholesterol and blood pressure.
3. Soda and Emotional HealthThe simple sugar soda contains (often 10 teaspoons per 12-oz. can!) creates rises and falls in blood sugar levels. This sugar can cause an increase in the feel-good hormone serotonin along with an energy spike, but that’s often followed by a crash that can cause a general down feeling.
A blood sugar roller coaster ride may not be soda’s only effect on emotional health. One study of teens in Boston found that those who drank six or more cans of soda a week were more likely to be violent with family and friends and even carry a weapon. Researchers associated heavy soda consumption with a 9 to 15 percent increase in the risk for aggressive behavior and suggest that sugar or caffeine may be to blame.
4. Soda and Diabetes
The simple sugar in soda can spike the insulin response in your body, which can lead to increased belly fat and insulin resistance — a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, says Erin Palinski, RD, a dietitian and author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “If you already have diabetes, soda is like pouring pure sugar into your bloodstream, causing spikes in blood sugar levels, which can have very serious effects on your internal organs,” she adds.
5. Soda and the Obesity Connection
The largest source of empty calories in the American diet, soda adds to the risk for weight gain and obesity without adding a gram of good nutrition. Unlike healthy foods and even junk food, soda doesn’t leave you with a sense of satiety and that can easily lead to excessive calorie intake. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume only between 6 and 9 teaspoons of sugar each day, but a typical 12-ounce can of soda has about 40 grams of sugar, the equivalent of about 10 teaspoons, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, LD, a wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.
6. Soda and Dental Health
Belly fat isn’t the only visible consequence of chugging all that soda. Your dental health may pay a steep price, too. “The constant bathing of teeth with the added sugar has been proven to contribute to the formation of dental caries,” says Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RD, a nutritionist and author of Cholesterol Down: 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in 4 Weeks — Without Prescription Drugs and Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease. As if getting cavities wasn’t bad enough, your pearly whites are also at risk from the acids in soda, which can erode tooth enamel.
7. Soda and Children's HealthTeach your children that soda is an occasional treat, not an everyday drink. “Soda is both high in sugar and caffeine,” Kirkpatrick says. “Introducing soda early in life may encourage lifelong drinking, putting children at risk for obesity and chronic diseases once they enter adulthood. The caffeine in soda can cause sleep disturbances in children as well.” Instead of soda, offer your kids low-fat milk, water, and the occasional 100-percent fruit juice — but remember that fruit juices and sports drinks also add unnecessary sugar to a child’s diet.
Soda Consumption: How to Cut BackLike any bad habit, it’s tough to turn off the tap on soda, but there are both satisfying and tasty alternatives that won’t wreck your diet. Carbonated water or seltzer will give you the fizz without sugar or calories. Want a flavor jolt? Add a fourth cup of 100-percent fruit juice to 16 ounces of seltzer. Unsweetened herbal teas come in a wide variety of flavors and also offer great taste without calories or caffeine.
Finally, a little tough love in the form of nutritional information can’t hurt when you’re trying to quit. According to a study conducted at convenience stores in Baltimore by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, teens shown information about soda, including the amount of exercise it takes to burn off all those calories, were more likely to make healthier choices, like water.
Thank you, Everydayhealth.com