Did you know that Coca-Cola products are consumed at the rate of more than 1.9 billion drinks per day? The iconic American brand is recognized instantly around the globe and sold in more than 200 countries. And that doesn’t count other soft drinks, like gigantic Pepsico products and other smaller ones.
While the word is starting to spread about soft drinks and their health issues, soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, and other sodas have retained millions of people who are quite literally addicted to them.
A recent Gallup poll reveals that about 50% of surveyed Americans still drink soda on a daily basis. What’s more, among those who drank soda, the average daily intake was 2.6 glasses per day. Around the world, Mexicans drink more soft drinks than any other country in the world at roughly 163 liters or 36 gallons per person, per year. Type 2 diabetes directly kills over 70,000 Mexicans a year, and the number is probably much higher, since many people are not diagnosed, or may die of heart disease, strokes or cancer—all diseases that can stem from diabetes and soft drink consumption. In the U.S. soft drink consumption is directly tied to the steep increase in newly diagnosed diabetes patients as well.
Unlike Mexico and other foreign countries, in the United States, soft drinks are mostly sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, an especially vile type of sweetener, even more dangerous than regular sucrose, which is commonly the sweetener used for sodas in other countries. Any large amount of sugar is extremely hazardous to the body, but high fructose corn syrup is even worse than regular sucrose. It is especially taxing on the liver and blood sugar levels. Regardless of the type of sugar soft drinks are sweetened with, these things happen within minutes of drinking a sugary soft drink:
- In the first few minutes, 10-12 teaspoons of sugar hit your system very quickly since it is in liquid form. The only reason you don’t vomit right away from that massive dose of sugar, is because of the phosphoric acid, carbonation, and other flavors that mute its super sugary taste.
- In about 15-20 minutes, your blood sugar spikes to astounding levels, causing an insulin reaction. This means that your liver quickly responds by trying to save you from all that sugar in your bloodstream by turning it into fat cells, especially when that sugar is in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Obviously, your body then tries to store all that fat, and it circulates in the blood stream. (Ever been told you have high triglycerides? This is fat being carried around in the bloodstream, and is often the result of a diet too high in sugar, and refined carbohydrates.) All that fat gets stored on the body, or in the liver, becoming one of the primary causes of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. And of course, it is also a primary causative factor in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even many cancers.
- In a half hour or so, your body starts absorbing all the caffeine in the soda. Your pupils dilate, your heart rate increases, you feel temporarily energized as your blood pressure rises, and your liver, in response to the caffeine, dumps even more sugar into the bloodstream. Result, insulin goes back up, you get hungry and that sugar gets stored as more fat.
- In 45 minutes, dopamine (one of your ‘feel-good’ hormones) is released, stimulating the pleasure center of the brain, very much in the same way as heroin—and equally as addictive too, by the way.
- In 60+ minutes after downing that soda, the phosphoric acid in the soda binds onto usable calcium, magnesium and zinc in your digestive system. By now, the diuretic effect of the caffeine and liquid goes into effect, making you have to urinate. This means your body cannot put those highly valued minerals to use, as they attach to the phosphoric acid and get dumped from the body in the form of urine. And guess what, if you drank that Coke to quench your thirst, you will end up peeing more than that away, making you even thirstier and more dehydrated than you were in the first place.
- An hour after that soda, the caffeine and sugar wear off, and you start crashing. The massive sugar and insulin spike leave you hungrier, tired, irritable, and sluggish. Not only that, you will probably be thirsty again, and given the addicting properties of soda, you may be craving another.
So what happens if you think “moderation is the key” and just have one soda a day? Even just one soda a day has massive consequences to your health.
Diabetes and Obesity
The Nurse’s Health Study which monitored 90,000 women for 8 years, found that drinking a soda a day added about 10 pounds of fat in 4 years. This number actually seems pretty low, and my observation is that it can add much more than that. I’d be more likely to say it’s about 5 pounds a year. One soda a day also doubles your chances of type 2 diabetes, and when the statistics show your odds of getting diabetes, to be one out of three, do you really want to make it almost certain that you will end with type 2 diabetes?
A 2002 UCLA study found that consuming excess sugar actually makes you ‘dumber’. A brain chemical called “brain derived neurotrophic factor” or BDNF, makes it tougher for you to remember things and even harder to learn new things. Another study from University of Copenhagen, links low BDNF levels to depression and dementia.
Interestingly enough, there was yet another study from the University of Copenhagen which found that low BDNF levels are linked to depression and dementia. And BDNF levels are also connected to insulin resistance, which puts into process not only diabetes, but also makes you at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
And one other big problem from consuming sweet drinks: According to a 2010 study from the University of Minnesota, chronic sugar consumption dulls the brain’s mechanism for knowing when to stop eating, making you definitely more susceptible to weight gain and obesity.
It’s not the bacon that causes heart attacks, it’s definitely the soda. There exists a strong correlation between soda and heart disease. One of the more recent studies from Harvard (2012), found one can of soda a day increase heart disease by 20%, according to a New York Times. article. While this risk can be associated with the increased risk of high blood sugar, and diabetes (which in itself causes increased risk of heart disease), regardless, heart disease and stroke risk do go up significantly. A study from the University of Miami found that those who had a daily diet soda habit had a 61% increased risk of “cardiovascular event,” including heart attack and stroke, than those who drank no soda — even when factors such as smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and diet were controlled.
People who drink soda, or other sugary beverages have a higher risk of developing cancer in the gallbladder and bile ducts around the liver, a Swedish study suggests. The evidence suggests that obesity, and elevated blood sugar levels also increase the risk of malignancies. Given that many cancers feed on sugar, this is truly not surprising.
Another very deadly form, and fast-moving type of cancer, pancreatic cancer ,is also tied with drinking a soda or two a day. In fact, the risk of pancreatic cancer increases by about 87%, according to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Soda drinking is also one of the biggest causes of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
Yes, soda is also highly connected to COPD and increase risk of asthma attacks, according to this–recent study by the University of Adelaide that found that drinking too much soda can increase the risk for developing asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD.
Bones and Teeth
While its common knowledge that sugar leads to tooth decay, the acid in soda is far worse. In fact, it’s a bit like drinking battery acid as far as the damage goes to the tooth enamel. A 2006 study published in the Academy of General Dentistry journal found that drinking soda is nearly as harmful for your teeth as drinking battery acid and the damage is comparable to what happens to a meth user’s teeth.
The citric acid and phosphoric acid added to offset the sweet taste of the large amounts of sugar, actually corrode tooth enamel right alongside the sugar. According to the Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center, soft drinks are among the most significant dietary sources of tooth decay. “Acids and acidic sugar byproducts in soft drinks soften tooth enamel, contributing to the formation of cavities. In extreme cases, softer enamel combined with improper brushing, grinding of the teeth or other conditions can lead to tooth loss.”
The phosphoric acid binds to calcium, magnesium and zinc—all vital bone and teeth minerals, and actually pulls them out of the body, rendering them useless for bone and tooth material. So not only does the acid erode the outer surfaces of tooth enamel, it also eats away at the inherent structure of teeth and bone, causing massive tooth decay, and osteoporosis as well.
Convinced yet? While drinking soft drinks and sweet fruit drinks is highly addictive, the best bet is to quit cold turkey. Don’t think that you can resort to artificially sweetened beverages, as these have even worse consequences than sugar-sweetened beverages.
Try to find some appealing and delicious alternatives.
I love the fizzy, tangy taste of kombucha, and this serves for me as a great substitute for drinking a sugar-laden soda. Besides the great refreshing, thirst quenching taste of kombucha, they have incredible health BENEFITS including cancer fighting, low sugar, tons of great probiotics, anti-oxidants and more. There are a zillion tasty flavors and brands of kombucha out there these days, some of which even taste like soda now, but without any harmful sugar or chemicals — Live Soda is my favorite brand of Kombucha that tastes amazing, has 7 billion probiotics per serving, but only has 5 grams of sugar per serving instead of the typical 40 grams of sugar in a soda.
If you cannot develop a taste for kombucha or just don’t like the price of kombucha, try some herbal tea, either hot or on ice, with a touch of stevia. My favorite is Celestial Seasonings Red Rooibos and Vanilla flavor with a drizzle of maple syrup. Its delicious either hot or cold and has a sweet mellow flavor. Or try cutting up some fruit in a pitcher of spring water. The fruit adds a little bit of flavor without the sugar or calories. Cucumber and sliced limes are also quite tasty in water, and if you love the bubbles, drink sparkling spring water—one of my favorites. Sparkling mineral water also adds some great electrolytes and minerals as well.
Bottom line—GIVE UP SODA. There is no moderation with this drink—it’s extremely harmful to your body—head to toe!