Article Highlights

  • The ingredients in your daily soda may suprise you
  • What sugar has to do with all of it
  • Is diet better than regular?

I know Americans love their soft drinks, but have you ever stopped to think, “What is in that drink?” The answer might surprise you. It doesn’t matter if it is regular or diet. There are some things in all kinds of sodas that you should know.

Carbonated Water

The first ingredient in any soda is carbonated water. Most manufactured drinks create this carbonation by artificially by forcing carbon dioxide into the water. This may change the pH in your mouth to weaken and slowly dissolve the enamel in your teeth.

Research has shown that even though diet drinks resulted in less tooth decay, they were no less acidic than regular drinks and contributed to destroying children’s teeth from the outside. Studies found that teenagers drinking four or more glasses a day increased their risk of decay by 513 percent, which is significant considering 92 percent of 14-year-olds consume fizzy drinks(1).

Sugar

The next big concern in sodas is sugar. (You drink diet? You may need to be more concerned. Hang on, I’ll tell you why.)  Smart consumers go to straight to the label to find the truth about how much fat there is in the foods they are eating. The same concept is true with sugar in sodas.

A serving size for soft drinks is usually 8 ounces or a cup. The bottle of Sunkist has about 130 calories per serving, but it has 2.5 servings in the bottle. Most people don’t stop drinking at 8 ounces; they finish the whole thing which means they are drinking 325 calories, not 130. Since there is usually no protein or fat in sodas, all of these calories must come from sugar. That is about 20 teaspoons worth, almost a half a cup of sugar! Most sodas have at least 12-15 teaspoons of sugar (a little more than a fourth of a cup). That is a glycemic index nightmare!

Soft Drinks and the Insulin Reaction

When your blood sugar rises quickly, your pancreas produces insulin to try to clean up the mess and get the sugar out of the bloodstream. H2O is taken from cells in other parts of your body to try to water it down (so much for great hydration).  In a little while, your blood sugar drops just as fast as it was rising. The end result is that the almost half a cup of sugar you drank is easily converted to fat. Also, because your blood sugar has dropped, you’re hungry and ready for another snack, even though you could already be packing on extra pounds.

To make matters worse, when people go through this sugar- insulin cycle too many times, they get problems like, insulin resistance or sensitivity, irritability, depression, headaches, or lethargy. They also  get diseases like diabetes, heart illness, and obesity. These are diseases that kill people, and quickly.

To Diet, or not to Diet

After saying all of that, I hate to add insult to injury, but the type of sugar in soft drinks is also a huge negative. Most soft drinks are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose is a sugar our bodies are not designed to digest in large amounts and our nation has increased its fructose consumption by more than 10,673% between the years 1970 to 2005.  Fructose is a major problem for the liver, and in studies this type of sweetener actually lessons the effect of the hormone called leptin which is supposed to tell you that you’re full, and stimulates the hormone ghrelin, which tells you you’re hungry.

Diet soft drinks are sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Some of the common brands of sweeteners that use aspartame are Equal, NutraSweet, and Splenda. These products still stimulate your brain and digestive system by making them think sugar calories are coming. But they never do so your brain looks for sugar throughout the day to fill that need. Studies have shown that those who use artificial sweeteners actually eat more sugar during the day than people who don’t use artificial sweeteners. Even more sugar, can mean even more calories and even more weight gain.

Added Ingredients

Of course there are other items in sodas like caffeine and phosphoric acid.

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive stimulant drug in the world. It is found naturally in some foods where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants(2).

I think we all understand that it can be addictive. I had a roommate in college that went through caffeine withdrawals when she tried to give up diet coke. We didn’t like her very much for a few weeks.

Phosphoric acid is an acidifying agent used to give colas their tangy flavor and is also commonly used to remove rust. Because of the addition of phosphoric acid in soft drinks, they are actually more acidic than lemon juice and vinegar. This acid has been linked to lower bone density and risk for osteoporosis and bone disease. Aside from the risk of osteoporosis, cola consumption has also been linked to chronic kidney disease and to kidney stones (3).

The bottom line is that there is nothing nutritionally good for you or your loved ones in soft drinks. They cost a lot, they are empty calories, they may be addictive, and take the place of other more nutritious foods.

Think before you drink.

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