woman’s hand holding a glass of diet soda

Even though America loves it, soda is not a treat for your body. The truth is, soda is really bad for your health — for many reasons. For people who drink a lot of it, soda will quickly become a factor that leads to:

  • weight gain
  • blood sugar instability and diabetes
  • negative effects on bone health
  • decreased brain function
  • increased risk for heart disease
  • immune system suppression
  • kidney and liver problems

And that’s just the start of it. Both regular and diet soda have no nutritional value, which makes them worse than useless to your body. From the overload of sugar to the artificial flavors, sweeteners and coloring, soda can cause tooth decay, behavioral problems, fatigue, moodiness, headaches and allergies.

Once you know more about soda and its effects, you may find it’s much easier to reach for a healthier option when it’s time for a refreshing beverage.

soda floods your body with glucose and leads to blood sugar spikes and crashes

Soda leads to fluctuating blood sugar and insulin levels

It’s not news that too much sugar is bad for you but avoiding the health problems caused by soda doesn’t mean drinking soda less often. The real scoop is that even a little bit of sugary soda damages your health.

When you drink soda, its sugars (sucrose and fructose) are converted easily and quickly into glucose. This glucose surge causes a sharp spike in blood sugar and leads to a “sugar high.” And the reverse effect doesn’t take long either. The “sugar crash” that follows soda consumption shows up as sudden fatigue or sleepiness, along with a low or depressed feeling as the sugar high wears off.

Drinking sugary soda can put you in the fast lane to developing insulin resistance, sometimes called “pre-diabetes.” Insulin resistance stems from eating (or drinking) too much sugar too often. At some point, your body will stop “listening” to insulin’s life-saving hormonal messages because too much insulin is flooding your body as it tries to deal with all the sugar that’s pouring in.

There’s more to the sugar-insulin story. Having wide fluctuations in blood sugar is a bigger contributor to the development of diabetes than having blood sugar that’s constantly above normal. Those frequent spikes and crashes in blood glucose — especially the spikes — actually alter the way your pancreas produces insulin.

Extreme fluctuations in blood glucose, like the ones you get when you drink soda, are very harmful to your health in a relatively short time period. The more often you drink soda, the greater the damaging effects on your blood sugar. And eventually that damage becomes permanent.

Diet soda has its own serious health effects

Many women, especially those trying hard to lose weight, believe they can avoid the sugar and health consequences of regular soda by drinking diet soda. Sure, diet soda doesn’t contain sugar and is lower in calories, but it has a chilling list of unexpected effects on your body, your weight and your health.

If you’re choosing diet soda to avoid weight gain and metabolic disturbances, you could wind up with just the opposite. Research says that tasting something sweet triggers your appetite and prepares your body to receive calories. But when those calories aren’t delivered, it throws off the essential hormonal responses that keep your metabolism stable. And since your appetite is now turned on, you may overeat to satisfy the craving your body is having for energy.

Many of the chemical sweeteners in diet soda, such as aspartame, alter the microflora in the gut in ways that promote insulin resistance. Women who think they’re taking in fewer calories because they’re drinking lots of diet soda are less likely to use good portion control when eating other foods. That’s one reason why people actually gain weight by drinking diet soda: they eat more.

Drinking diet soda is hard on your kidneys. Just two or more diet sodas a day can reduce your kidneys’ ability to filter your blood by 30%. One study showed that drinking diet soda every day for years leads to a 61% higher risk for stroke or heart attack, with caramel coloring thought to be the culprit. Unfortunately, the list of potential health problems linked to the ingredients in many diet sodas goes on: accelerated bone loss, tooth enamel damage and cancer.

Diet or regular? Say no to any type of soda

Drinking any kind of soda significantly increases your risk of osteoporotic fractures, whether it’s diet or regular, caffeinated or caffeine-free. In certain people, one or more of soda’s ingredients (like the preservative sodium benzoate) can set off allergic reactions that trigger asthma.

High fructose corn syrup is another problematic ingredient. It’s considered a contributor to inflammation and is hard for your liver to process, leading to increases in both triglyceride synthesis and uric acid production. Elevated triglycerides contribute to heart disease, and over-production of uric acid can lead to gout down the line. Two or more daily servings of sugar-sweetened sodas also increase your risk for cardiovascular issues by 35%.

healthy sparkling water with lemon rosemary and honey

If soda is one of your regular habits, it may be time for you to face the problem head on. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Gradually taper down your soda consumption, one serving at a time, over a week or two.
  • Swap soda for regular or sparkling water and add lemon, lime, cucumber slices, frozen or fresh berries, grated ginger or melon balls.
  • Enjoy herbal teas, hot or iced. When you want a sweet drink, try ginger or peppermint tea.
  • Have a serving of iced coffee when you need a pick-me-up and instead of sugar, add cinnamon, nut milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, or a few drops of vanilla or almond extract.
References

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/10-reasons-to-skip-soda/2015/09/08/8a65fc8a-50fb-11e5-8c19-0b6825aa4a3a_story.html?utm_term=.167d2edfd767

Brereton MF, Iberl M, Shimomura K, et al. Reversible changes in pancreatic islet structure and function produced by elevated blood glucose. Nat Commun 2014;5:4639. doi: 10.1038/ncomms5639.

Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends Endocrinol Metab 2013;24(9):431-441.

Shearer J, Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners and metabolic dysregulation: Lessons learned from agriculture and the laboratory. Rev Endocr Metab Disord (2016) 17: 179.

Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature 2014;514:181-186.

Kuk JL, Brown RE. Aspartame intake is associated with greater glucose intolerance in individuals with obesity. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41:795-798.

http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20091102/diet-sodas-hard-on-the-kidneys

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41479869/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/daily-diet-soda-tied-higher-risk-stroke-heart-attack/#.WVK6s1GQxph

Fung TT, Arasaratnam MH, Grodstein F, et al. Soda consumption and risk of hip fractures in postmenopausal women in the Nurses’ Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2014; 100(3): 953-958.

Park S, Blanck HM, Sherry B, et al. Regular-soda intake independent of weight status is associated with asthma among US high school students. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Jan; 113(1): 106–111.

DeChristopher LR, Uribarri J, Tucker KL. The link between soda intake and asthma: science points to the high-fructose corn syrup, not the preservatives: a commentary. Nutr Diabetes 2016;6:e234.

Malik VS, Hu FB. Fructose and cardiometabolic health: what the evidence from sugar-sweetened beverages tells us. J Am Coll Cardiol 2015;66(14):1615-1624.

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003476.htm

Fung TT, Malik V, Rexrode KM, et al. Sweetened beverage consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Am J Clin Nutr, 89 (2009), pp. 1037-1042.


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