Soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar worldwide, and have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. But, who doesn’t like soda pop? I don’t know of very many people who would say no to an ice-cold soda pop on a hot day (while at work, because I know you’d all rather drink something tastier on a hot day off!). There is no harm in the odd soda pop once in awhile. The harm comes when you drink many of them in a week, or worse, many of them in a day. I didn’t have to look very hard to find many, many sources discussing the harmful effects that soda pop and other sugar-sweetened beverages have on your body and your health. I’ve attempted to summarize these for you in this article.
To start with, I like visuals and I found the following powerful ones online. I think it is important that we all actually see how many calories and how much sugar is in some of the commonly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages. Click on the photo to see a comparison of many sugar-sweetened drinks (Rockstar, Vitamin Water, Juices, etc). And the table outlines calories and sugar in many common soda pops.
Now, to get into some of the effects on your body. I will start with diabetes as that is likely what most people associate sugary drinks with. People who consume 1-2 servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages have a 26% greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over people who consume less than 1 serving a month of sugar-sweetened beverages (Malik et al., 2010). Read that again…if you drink 1-2 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages a day you have a 26% greater chance of developing diabetes than someone who rarely drinks them. That is pretty significant!
Next I’ll touch on weight gain. The consumption of sugar-added beverages has a significant link between amount of consumption and becoming overweight or obese. People who drink more than one soda per week have a greater probability of becoming overweight than in those who drink less than 1 soda per week (70% compared with 47% of women aged >50 years old and 77% compared with 58% of men aged >50 years old) (Malik, Schulze, & Hu, 2006).
Having a fatty liver isn’t a very sexy subject, nor would many people understand why this even matters. I will attempt to explain it as easily as I can, but for more in depth information read the very well written paper that I reference. During regular soft drink consumption, fat accumulates in the liver by the primary effect of fructose which increases lipogenesis (formation of fat), and in the case of diet soft drinks, by the additional contribution of aspartame sweetener and caramel colourant which are rich in products that potentially increase insulin resistance (Nseir, Nassar, & Nimer, 2010). The metabolism of fructose is distinct from glucose. The ‘Coles Notes’ version of the paper explains that fructose consumption causes inflammation in the liver. It also promotes insulin resistance, issues with cholesterol, and increased blood pressure. These symptoms (high cholesterol, hypertension, and hyperglycaemia) are commonly known as metabolic syndrome and fructose contributes to them all. And fructose isn’t just found in soda pop. It is commonly named ‘high fructose corn syrup’ in many packaged foods.
Now a brief note on diet pop for those of you now scared of fructose in regular pop! Aspartame and caramel (colourant) are also used as sweeteners in diet pop. Aspartame can contribute to weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Aspartame is not as harmless as many people think it is. Consider this the next time you choose the diet version of your pop thinking it is the healthier choice (Nseir, Nassar, & Nimer, 2010).
I hope you reconsider grabbing that pop today, or your second pop today after reading through this article. I still enjoy the occasional sugar-sweetened drink, but just like many other things we like to treat ourselves with, it is important to consume them in moderation.
Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Després, J.-P., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 33(11), 2477 LP-2483. JOUR. Retrieved from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.abstract
Malik, V. S., Schulze, M. B., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 84(2), 274–288. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/long/84/2/274
Nseir, W., Nassar, F., & Nimer, A. (2010). Soft Drinks Consumption and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 16(21), 2579–2588.
Other articles of interest: