Health Costs of Soda

Read now to learn how soda affects your health. According to the CDC, half of U.S. adults consume at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day. A rise in the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and soft drinks coincides with an increase in obesity in the U.S, and there is also a strong link between soda consumption and tooth decay - which is not good news for your health.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of calories and added sugars in the American diet. When we look at it, the rise in consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and soft drink coincides with an increase in obesity in the US. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. We know that sugary drink portion sizes have increased drastically over the past 40 years, from the 1950s when a typical soft-drink bottle was 6.5 ounces, to now when the norm for sugary beverages is a 20-ounce bottle.

Statistics

A typical 20-ounce soda bottle contains 16 teaspoons of sugar and 250 calories. To burn off these calories, the average adult would have to spend 45 minutes speed walking. Only one bottle per day is enough to exceed the allowed daily intake of added sugars. Research by the CDC found that approximately one-half of U.S. adults consume at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day. There are differences between gender and age in soda consumption. Men consume more sugary beverages than women across all age groups. Young adults have a higher mean intake of sugar-sweetened beverages than older adults. This is something well-known to the beverage industry too, as they spend half a billion dollars yearly on marketing their products to children and teenagers much more than to any other group. For more information, visit:

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Impact on Health

Continuous excessive consumption of soft beverages leads to higher risks of obesity, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other things.

Obesity

Sugary drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Two out of three adults and one out of three children in the US are overweight and obese. Every year a large amount of money is spent treating obesity-related health issues in America. Our digestive system is not evolutionarily designed for drinking calories because sugary beverages are only a recent addition to human diets. There is a hormone called ghrelin in our stomach which lets us know when we’re hungry. When this hormone increases we feel hungry. When we eat, the hormone goes down. However, this only happens with solid food, not liquids. We can drink hundreds of calories, but this will not make us any more satiated, and it will not reduce the number of calories we consume in subsequent meals after the consumption of liquid calories. This means that all of the soda you consume during the day adds up to the total calorie intake, which may not look like much in the short-term, but it can lead to 40 pounds worth of excess caloric intake each year!

Teeth

There is a strong link between soda consumption and tooth decay. Sugar from soft drinks combines with bacteria in your mouth to form acid which attacks the teeth. Each new sip you take is another attack that lasts for about 20 minutes. Ongoing acid attacks, which happen if you consume sugary drinks continuously, can weaken tooth enamel. This is especially dangerous for kids and teens because their teeth are not fully developed. Tooth decay can be easily avoided by limiting intake of soft drinks, brushing and flossing teeth at least twice a day, and visiting your dentist’s office regularly.

Diabetes

People whose sugary-sweetened beverages intake is at least 1-2 servings a day have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Sugar-sweetened beverages raise blood glucose and insulin concentrations rapidly because they contain lots of easily absorbable carbohydrates such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup – which, according to the American Diabetes Association, can contribute to a high dietary glycemic load. High glycemic load diets are known to induce glucose intolerance and insulin resistance and can increase levels of inflammatory biomarkers, which are linked to type 2 diabetes risk.

Cancer

For many diseases, weight gain serves as a link between sugary beverages intake and the development of the disease. This is true for the above-mentioned diabetes, as well as cancer. Obesity has been known to cause nine types of cancer. Together with smoking and avoiding sugary drinks, maintaining a healthy weight important for reducing the risk of cancer.

Heart Disease

Scientists have found evidence for the link between higher intake of added sugars, especially in the form of sugary drinks, and increased risk of hypertension, stroke, and coronary heart disease in adults.

Asthma

A study by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has found that regular soda intake, independent of weight status, is associated with higher incidents of asthma among US high school students. The scientists have hypothesized that the relationship might be due to sodium benzoate found in soft drinks sold in the US.

Kidney Issues

Those who don’t consume sugary drinks are less likely to form kidney stones. Additionally, consuming beverages containing phosphoric acid (dark color beverages, such as Coca-Cola) has a worse effect on kidney health compared with drinking lighter colored sodas such as Sprite. Many physicians recommend that their patients avoid cola drinks as a method of prevention against kidney stones. The best recommendation for your overall health is to drink water instead of sugary drinks. It is a far cheaper, healthier, and more nutritious alternative.

Reproductive Issues

There are quite a few epidemiological studies investigating the association between soft drinks (especially cola drinks) consumption and reproductive issues. However, the results are still inconclusive, and the topic remains controversial. Caffeine and other chemical compounds found in cola beverages could potentially have adverse effects on fertility in persons consuming one or more liters of cola drinks per day.

Osteoporosis

Studies have shown that regular intake of beverages containing phosphoric acid has negative effects on bones. Some scientists hypothesize that high level of phosphoric acid may lead the body to turn to bones for calcium to neutralize acids. Others, on the other hand, have found no link between cola intake and bone health, and argue that phosphorus is a key component of bone minerals, just like calcium, and that there is no evidence its intake is bad for bone health.

Gout

Overconsumption of sugary drinks, especially those that contain high-fructose corn syrup, can set off gout. As your body breaks down fructose, it releases components called purines. The breakdown of purines produces uric acid, which forms painful crystals in the joints and causes gout. According to the Arthritis Foundation, a 2008 study found that men who consume two or more sugary drinks per day have an 85 percent higher risk of gout than men who drink less than one soda a month.

Headaches

Many people who suffer from headaches report relief from pain after caffeine intake. This is due to the vasoconstrictive properties of caffeine – the ability to cause enlarged blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow. However, too much of anything can cause harm. Withdrawal from caffeine can lead to rebound headaches. Caffeine is found in certain types of soft drinks such as Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and energy drinks.

Regular Soda vs. Diet Soda

Many people who want to reduce their sugar and caloric intake, but would still like to enjoy a sweet and refreshing drink, turn to diet soda. However, some researchers suggest that diet soda might be just as bad for your health as regular soda. For example, researchers from Columbia University observed that diet soda drinkers had 60 percent more strokes, heart attacks, and other attacks of blood vessel diseases than other participants in the study, even after controlling for smoking, diet, and physical activity. More research is needed to understand the health issues related to long-term diet soda consumption. So far, there is no clear evidence that diet soda is effective in preventing obesity and that continuous consumption does not lead to increased health risks.

Other Carbonated Beverages vs. Soda

Even though sodas and energy drinks are bad for you, not all carbonated beverages are. There is a common misconception that carbonation causes health issues such as lack of calcium in the bones, erosion of tooth enamel, and irritation of the stomach. The truth is that carbonation is not harmful in itself. It is the other properties of soft and energy drinks that make them harmful to people’s health (primarily sugar, sodium, and caffeine). Different types of carbonated water are available on the market, so you should always read the label first to find out if the drink has any hidden sugars and sodium.

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