The Skinny on Soft Drinks

Good, bad, or neutral?

It’s sweet, bubbly, and so refreshing. As a pick-me-up during the day or paired with a meal, soft drinks are many people’s secret addiction. One, two, or three sodas a day couldn’t hurt you, right? Or maybe you think you’re safe since you only drink diet sodas. After all, they don’t have calories, and that’s all you need to be worried about, isn’t it?

Most soft drinks are made of between 90 and 99 percent carbonated water. The rest is sweeteners, acids, flavorings, colorings, preservatives, and foaming agents. In small amounts, these ingredients seem harmless enough, but soft drinks have gotten a bad rap the past few years. Are the concerns valid? Keep reading to find out.

Weight Gain

The amount of sugar found in most soft drinks is anything but harmless. You know the more sugar and calories you consume, the more weight you gain. The increase of sugary drink consumption is a major factor in the rising obesity epidemic. The average 20-ounce soft drink contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar and an amazing 240 calories. The problem with drinking calories is that they don’t fill you up. Pile food calories on top of your drink calories, and you’ve got a weight problem on your hands…or waist. Cut out soft drinks and other high-sugar beverages from your diet and you’ll see extra weight start coming off.

Weak Bones

It’s not just the ingredients in soda that make it bad for you. It’s the vitamins and minerals you’re missing out on when you drink it. Many kids, especially, aren’t getting enough calcium because they’re drinking soda instead of milk. Not enough calcium equals weak bones. Soda is void of any and all vitamins and minerals, while milk provides calcium, protein, vitamin D, and B vitamins.

Another, more damaging way soda weakens your bones is the phosphates it contains. When you eat more phosphate than calcium, it has a negative effect on healthy bone growth.

Diabetes

A third reason you may want to reconsider your soda habit is the risk it poses for diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. This risk applies to regular soda and diet, whether it contains real sugar or is made with artificial sweeteners. Drink more than one soda a day and your risk of type 2 diabetes doubles compared to those who don’t drink soda. Those who drink five servings a day have a 10-fold increased risk.

Why the connection? Consume too many calories and your body stores the extra ones as fat, and being overweight is a major risk factor for developing diabetes. Additionally, sugary foods are digested quickly, leading to a rise in blood sugar levels. And the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas may interfere with the way your body processes glucose.

Heart Disease

As if weight gain, weak bones, and diabetes weren’t enough, soft drinks have also been implicated in an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Studies show you’re 20 to 48 percent more likely to suffer heart disease if you drink a can of soda a day compared to those who rarely consume sugary beverages.

The connection is unclear and more research is needed, but soda may damage your heart by negatively affecting your blood sugar levels, causing inflammation, and contributing to weight gain.

Gout

A clear link has been found between regular soda consumption and gout, a painful type of arthritis usually felt in your feet and legs. Drink at least two sodas a day and your risk goes up by 85 percent. One drink a day and your risk increases by 45 percent.

This happens because the high fructose corn syrup found in sodas raises the body’s uric acid levels, which are linked to the painful condition.

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