Having a coke along with a burger and fries may seem like one of our harmless, beloved all-American traditions, but you should know that there are many dangers hidden in your soda. Whether it’s due to the fizz or the caffeine boost, soda is one of the most popular sugary drinks on the market. But it’s also one of the unhealthiest beverages you can consume. Soda does not provide any nutritional value and is generally bad for your health.
We all know that soda has a lot of sugar. Diet soda is not any better since it contains artificial sweeteners, which are also unhealthy. But that’s not all. Soda also contains several other ingredients that are bad for your health.
What is in soda?
Clever marketing campaigns and catchy jingles may help sell soda. But do you really know what ingredients are in popular soft drinks? Although it may vary by brand and type, sugar is one of the common ingredients in soda. A 12-ounce can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar. That’s just in one can. Consider some larger servings at fast-food restaurants have two or three times that much.
Acids are also in most types of soda. For example, phosphoric acid is added to give soda a tangy flavor. Other acids that are sometimes added include tartaric, carbonic, and citric. Soda may also contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring, flavorings, and preservatives.
Why is soda bad for your health?
Whether you drink diet or regular, soda is bad for your health. It contains no nutrients and is essentially empty calories. Drinking too much soda is linked to several health conditions. Regardless of the type, here are 10 reasons soda is bad for your health:
- Weight gain: It’s not surprising that soda is linked to weight gain. The high sugar content makes it one of the worst beverages you can drink. Analysis of studies published in thirty peer-reviewed journals over 40 years indicated that drinking soda is a key contributor to the increase in obesity in the United States. (1)
- Damages the Teeth: Drinking soda damages the teeth due to its acid level and high sugar content. The sugar increases the risk of cavities. The various acids in soda cause tooth erosion. Tooth erosion involves the decrease in dental tissues including dentine and enamel. In one study, bovine teeth were extracted, and enamel was measured. The teeth were placed in 200 ml of various sugary drinks including different types of soda for one week. The teeth exposed to citrus sodas had significant loss of dental hard tissue. (2)
- Increases Cancer Risk: Certain types of soda, such as cola, contain caramel coloring. Caramel coloring is made with ammonium compounds. During the manufacturing process, sugars, ammonium compounds, and sulfites form 4-methylimidazole and 2-methylimidazole. In studies, both chemicals were shown to induce cancer growth in animals including liver and lung cancer. (3)
- Side Effects of Caffeine: Many varieties of soda contain caffeine. Caffeine can lead to problems, such as trouble sleeping, jitteriness, and anxiety. Caffeine can also be addictive, which means kicking the habit can be difficult.
- Accelerates Bone Loss: The phosphate acid in soda is thought to interfere with the absorption of calcium, which can lead to a loss of bone mineral density. In a study involving 1,413 women and 1,125 men, their bone density was measured at their spine and three sites on the hip using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. The participant’s dietary intake was also assessed using a questionnaire. The study indicated that cola intake was associated with a significant decrease in bone mineral density in women. (4)
- Risk of Fatty Liver Disease: Soda is often sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, which has several negative health consequences including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is a significant risk factor for developing cirrhosis of the liver and heart disease. In both animal and human studies, high-fructose corn syrup had a triglyceride raising effect, which contributed to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In one study involving 341 people with fatty liver disease, results indicated that consuming high-fructose corn syrup daily increased liver inflammation. (5)
- Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners: Most types of diet soda contain some type of artificial sweetener. Sweeteners, such as sucralose (Splenda), saccharin, and aspartame, are associated with several health problems, including lupus, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis. (6) Aspartame, also known as NutraSweet and Equal, is associated with increased incidence of brain tumors, mood disorders, declining mental function, migraines and seizures.
- Increased Risk of Diabetes: Drinking soda also increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The Nurses’ Health Study researched the link between soda consumption and type 2 diabetes. The study involved over 90,000 women who were followed for eight years. Participants in the study that reported drinking one or more servings of sugar-sweetened soft drinks developed diabetes twice as often during the study than those who rarely drink soda. (7)
- Benzene: Benzene is a possible cancer causing substance that is found in small levels in some types of soda. It has been linked to leukemia. (8) Benzene levels in bottled water are monitored and regulated. But levels in soda are only monitored informally, which means the exact levels may not be known. Benzene forms due to the presence of benzoate salts, which are used as a preservative, and ascorbic acid, which is in certain carbonated soft drinks.
- Increased the Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Drinking sugary soda may increase a woman’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. One study followed over 180,000 women who completed a food-frequency questionnaire at the start of the study and every four years as part of the follow-up. The study indicated that women who drank one or more servings of sugary soda daily had a 63 percent increase in developing seropositive rheumatoid arthritis when compared to women who rarely drank soda. (9)
Healthy Alternatives to Soda
When it comes to healthy beverages, water is often your best bet. But when you want something with a little more flavor or sparkle, there are several healthy alternatives to soda. Consider some of the suggestions below.
- Infused water: To add a little more flavor to your water, try infusing it with fruit, such as berries or oranges. Mint and cucumber also are good options for a refreshing alternative to soda.
- Sparkling water: Carbonated water is a good choice when you need to satisfy your craving for soda. Although carbonated water can still cause a little bloating and gas, it’s still a healthier choice than soda.
- Zevia: Zevia is a healthier type of soda sweetened with stevia and monk fruit. There are a variety of flavors, including cola that does not use artificial colorings. It does contain sugar alcohol, which some people may have a sensitivity to.
- Iced green tea: Green tea is calorie free as long as you don’t add sugar or milk. It is also high in antioxidants and is available in several varieties.
So, are you ready to kick your soda habit now? Today there are so many natural and healthy alternatives to soda to help make it easy to make the switch. Make this healthy change in your life and your body will thank you!
- Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review
- Influence of Various Acidic Beverages on Tooth Erosion. Evaluation by a New Method
- Carcinogenicity and regulation of caramel colorings
- Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study
- Soft drinks consumption and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- The Potential Toxicity of Artificial Sweeteners
- Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women
- Benzene and Cancer Risk
- Sugar-sweetened soda consumption and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women