It’s no surprise that soda is not good for you. From the huge amount of sugar (or artificial sweetener) to the sketchy additives, as well as the complete lack of nutritional value, there is just no redeeming reason to drink soda.
Okay…yes, sodas taste good and deliver a powerful rush of energy. They are also widely available, coming packaged with many restaurant meals. We tend to think we are losing money if we don’t take the soda.
But in the long run, drinking soda is not only damaging to your health, it doesn’t sustain that energy boost you crave. As you’ll see, there are at least 10 good reasons to give up the habit. Don’t shoot us; we’re just the messenger!
1. It makes you gain weight
One soda has more than the daily recommended dose of added sugar, but it doesn’t make you feel full the same way as calories that are eaten. Therefore, the sugar you’ve taken in via soda gets forgotten when making food choices the rest of the day. Your liver doesn’t forget, though.
The form of sugar most commonly found in sodas is high fructose corn syrup, which can only be processed and used by the liver. When you drink heavy doses of HFCS, the liver is forced to convert much of that fructose into fat that gets stored within this vital organ as well as pumped into the bloodstream, ultimately settling around the waistline.
2. It increases your risk of type 2 diabetes
Drinking just one soda a day greatly increases your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which involves a cluster of conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure), excessive blood sugar levels, and high cholesterol. Having metabolic syndrome puts you at much greater risk of eventually developing diabetes.
The body is simply not made to process that much sugar all at once. A soda habit forces the release of an excessive amount of insulin, which eventually becomes ineffective at its job.
When that happens, the body pulls water from all of its cells in an attempt to flush out the extra unprocessed sugar. That’s diabetes, and it can lead to all sorts of further health complications.
3. It is void of nutrition
There is no question that soda represents wholly empty calories. It has no vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, or fiber. It is simply water, sugar, caffeine, and chemical additives.
Diet sodas are no better, though they contain zero calories. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to several health problems, as we’ll discuss in our next point, and in fact may cause your body to react in the exact same way as if you’d had the sugar.
4. Artificial sweetener can make you sick
Drinking diet soda is just as bad. Data is emerging that non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose may have a negative effect on metabolism, gut bacteria, and appetite.
Some studies suggest that common sweeteners trigger headaches or migraines in people prone to them. But even worse, the incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease among people who drink diet soda regularly is no lower than for those who drink the non-diet version.
5. It destroys your teeth
Obviously sugar is problematic when it comes to the health of your teeth. That’s because the bacteria that live in your mouth feed on sugar and produce acid as a byproduct. The acid eats away at your enamel, causing cavities.
When it comes to soda, though, it’s not just about the sugar. A recent study published in the journal General Dentistry studied and compared the mouths of a cocaine user, methamphetamine user, and habitual soda-drinker.
It found the same level of tooth erosion in all three cases. In the case of soda, the damage was caused by citric acid, which compounds the damage already done by sugar.
6. It can cause depression
Plenty of things can cause depression, and depression may be mild or intense, clinical or high-functioning.
Still, it is worth noting that the American Academy of Neurology determined that over the course of 10 years, people who consumed more than four cans of soda per day had a 30% higher risk for clinical depression than those who avoided sugary beverages entirely.
Now, four sodas per day is obviously an excessive amount that most people probably don’t consume – we hope. However, if you are struggling with a chronically low mood and using soda for a boost, know that it may be causing more harm than good.
7. It is harmful to bones
Researchers at Tufts University recently found that drinking soda compounds the problem of degenerating bone mineral density. Our bones naturally become less dense as we age, and the problem is more significant for women than men. That’s why older women especially are encouraged to take a calcium supplement.
The study showed that cola drinkers tend to have a 4% lower bone mineral density than non-drinkers. Part of the problem may be that drinking a lot of soda leads to reduced consumption of calcium drinks like milk.
Caffeine has also been associated with limiting calcium absorption. But another idea is that the phosphorus in colas gets consumed in quantities disproportionate to available calcium and thereby leads to bone loss.
8. It irritates the skin and eyes
If you want to get honest reporting about the safety of food additives, look to Europe, which has taken the lead in banning substances found to be dangerous to humans.
Sodium benzoate and a close cousin, potassium benzoate, are both common additives to soda. Both are classified by the Food Commission in England as mild irritants to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
Now, maybe you consider “mild irritation” to be worth it, but it seems to us like adding a paper cut to a gaping wound – you were already in dire straits but now are that much more uncomfortable. Stop blaming those itchy eyes and dry skin on seasonal allergies if you are regularly downing sodas.
9. It causes reproductive issues
The culprit in this case is actually the can or plastic bottle you drink from, rather than the soda inside. These vessels are lined with bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupting chemical.
Federal agencies have agreed that BPA can cause harm to infants at normal exposure levels, and so bottles and sippy cups are now mostly free of the stuff.
However, despite growing evidence that BPA plays a role in infertility and birth defects – and can spike blood pressure levels – the investigation into the effects of BPA on adults has been tabled. It continues to line soda cans and bottles, as well as the containers used for canned produce. If that doesn’t make you angry, what are you taking? (And can we have some?)
10. They are addictive
Eating sugar causes dopamine to be released in the brain, and that makes us feel good. Humans are hardwired to seek out things that release dopamine, which is how addictive drugs compel users to keep taking them, even as their health declines.
The amount of sugar in soda releases a huge blast of dopamine, and so is especially attractive to the brain.
That feeling is behind the problem of addiction, and numerous studies reveal that habitual soda drinkers consume the drinks in a pattern that resembles that of addictive drug users.
If you have become addicted to soda, you will experience overwhelming cravings, need to drink soda to feel “normal,” and experience physical discomfort when you aren’t able to have some.
For all these reasons and more, it is important to at least limit your intake of soda if you can’t quit all together. It’s perfectly understandable if going cold turkey is a scary idea.
Try gradually eliminating soda from your diet as you replace it with other healthier options. Plain water is best, but you can also go for sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice if it’s bubbles you crave.
If what you really need is the caffeine, lightly sweetened tea and coffee are much better sources of this. Just remember that ditching soda is the single biggest move you can make to shed unwanted pounds and improve your general health. In the end, it’s a small price to pay for the reward you’ll get.