It seems like every day I read yet another research finding that documents how and why drinking soda is bad for you. Yet people guzzle it down by the can, the bottle and the glass every day, either oblivious of the data warning them against it, or clinging to the comfort of their favorite brand despite the warnings.
Soda is ubiquitous—available nearly everywhere. It tastes good and it comes in a variety of flavors, sizes, and types of containers. You can get a Big Gulp at the convenience store or a plastic cup at the movies that’s big enough to take a bath in.
And it’s cheap—well, not at the movies but almost everywhere else. Soda is cheaper than fruit juice, milk, or fruit and nut “milks.” The only thing cheaper than soda is tap water. The kicker is that soda basically is tap water—but with artificial flavors, artificial colors and artificial sweeteners added.
Given price and availability, why shouldn’t we drink soda? The simple answer is that soda is really bad for your health. The more difficult answer is explaining why because there are so many bad effects it’s hard to even count the ways. Steve Jobs famously called it “sugary fizzy water,” which sounds innocent but soda does terrible things to your body. I started to cover them all in this post but ran out of room. Instead I’ll concentrate on the “sugary” part today.
A lot of soda’s problems come from the high sugar content in both regular and diet soda. We all know the numbers: a regular can of soda contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. It’s not real sugar, mind you; it’s high fructose corn syrup, which is worse.
This highly processed sugar substitute spikes your blood sugar levels almost instantly, causing an insulin reaction and changing your metabolism. When the sugar high from your first soda wears off, you crave more sugar and, thus, more soda. (Not to mention the chips, pretzels, and other snacks that often accompany soda.) The soda companies are the largest users of sugar products in the country.
BTW: most of the corn used to make HFCS is genetically modified and the process of turning corn into sugar involves traces of mercury. I’m just saying.
Here are just five of the health problems caused by the sugar content in regular soda:
- Soda makes you fat
- Soda has been linked to obesity
- Soda builds fat deposits all over your body, including dangerous organ fat.
- Soda changes your metabolism, making it more difficult to burn fat and lose weight
- Soda consumption over time can lead to diabetes,
But What About Diet Soda?
So why not drink diet soda instead? That doesn’t have sugar, right?
Well, no, it doesn’t but diet soda contains aspartame, which is worse for you in every way—and it even makes you fatter. Yes, diet soda will make you fat. Aspartame is a chemical that has been linked to almost a hundred different—and serious—health problems. These include brain tumors, seizures, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, high blood sugar, increased cholesterol, belly fat, and emotional disorders.
At warm temperatures, aspartame converts to methanol, which breaks down into formaldehyde and formic acid. (Yum. May I have a nice big glass of formaldehyde, please?)
NOTE: To understand why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a substance that turns into formaldehyde in the body and causes major health problems, you have to read about a sweetheart deal involving G.D. Searle and Donald Rumsfeld, formerly Searle’s CEO and Chairman, that began the day after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. It’s a long story but it ends with Mr. Rumsfeld getting a $12 million bonus for foisting a toxic substance on the American Public. Just Google “How the FDA approved aspartame” and read whichever publication you trust the most. Except for G.D. Searle’s annual report, they all say basically the same thing.
And the really interesting thing is that your body doesn’t distinguish between types of sweetener. To your body, sweet is sweet and it wants more of it. So drinking a diet soda will increase your craving for another diet soda or more sweet things to eat. It’s the same slippery slope, except now you have this awful toxic chemical in your body.
So what will diet soda do to your body?
- Diet soda makes you fatter.
- Diet soda has been linked to 100 serious diseases and disorders.
- Diet soda increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of factors including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and increased amounts of belly fat.
- Diet soda increases the risk of heart attack.
Sugar Feeds Cancer
The connection between sugar and cancer is another thing to keep in mind. First of all, sugar feeds our bodies and provides energy. Everything we eat is converted to sugar before it can fuel the body and the breakdown of sugar to provide energy is called glycolysis. Healthy cells can use other forms of food, like fats, as a precursor to this process. Cancer cells can only “eat” glucose.
Six new studies on the connection between and cancer show that: (1) People with the highest levels of blood glucose develop more cancers. (2) People with cancer, who also have the highest levels of blood glucose, survive the least. So the more sugar you eat, the more food you provide for cancer.
Had enough? I can only hope so. The message is getting out. The Big Two soda companies (Coca Cola Co. and Pepsico Inc.) are reporting sluggish sales internationally and the volume of soda consumed in the United States fell last year for the tenth straight year.
But What Do I Drink Instead?
The easy answer is water. Water is good for you because it’s the real thing. It has no calories, no caffeine, no sugar and no glycemic index. It’s free right out of your tap. If you don’t like the taste of your local water, or the minerals don’t agree with you, you can buy seltzer at the supermarket. (Not tonic water, which has sugar, and not club soda, which has salt.)
If you need to add more taste, buy a few bottles of 100% fruit juice (no added sugar) and mix the two half and half. Over time, decrease the percentage of juice and increase the percentage of water. After a while, straight fruit juice will taste like mainlining sugar. And soda will leave a bad chemical taste in your mouth because, well, it’s also filled with chemicals. More on that later.
It’s that simple.