Is soda really so bad for you? The short answer to this question is a resounding, “yes!”
While reading this, remember that corporations are driven by profits, not by the well-being of their customers. Soda manufacturers use the cheapest ingredients to give their products the right taste, color and shelf line (think nasty preservatives). These ingredients will cause serious health problems when consumed on a regular basis.
Let’s get down to it. Here is a list of ingredients found in most soda:
- carbonated water
- caramel color
- natural flavors
- caffeine (in some)
- phosphoric acid
- high fructose corn syrup and/or sucrose
- aspartame (in some diet varieties)
- sodium benzoate (in some)
What is each ingredient and how do they affect my health?
Carbonated water is plain water infused with carbon dioxide to create the bubbles in soda. I would say this may be the least-offensive ingredient in soda.
Caramel color is an additive that colors food products and natural flavors, such as citrus flavor, and are added for taste. Anytime you see “additive”, be aware!
Natural flavors are man-made additives that make processed and fast foods taste great. That great taste is what keeps you coming back for more. Natural flavors are produced in a laboratory and whatever it is that the flavorists or flavor chemists derived it from was natural to begin with before the flavorists altered it by using chemicals.
Haven’t you ever wondered why you prefer a can of soda over a glass of water? The natural flavors keep your body wanting more. It tastes great! But, I will assure you, as someone who used to drink soda once in a while, when you stop drinking it altogether and allow your taste buds and olfactory system (sense of smell) to adjust to drinking a healthier beverage, you will soon find that your body no longer craves natural flavor-filled beverages. Start paying attention to labels and you will see how many times you see “natural flavors” on the labels.
They are not natural and you are consuming unhealthy chemicals. The food industry uses “natural flavors” as a way to trick us into thinking we are eating healthy, natural foods and beverages. The “natural flavors” falls under a technicality which relieves the food industry from disclosing what is actually contained in a product.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical stimulant called trimethylxanthine. It is a drug and shares a number of traits with drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. Caffeine stimulates brain function and can also cause addiction like these drugs (although not as extreme). Have you ever wondered why you cannot start your day without a cup (or two or three) of coffee or can of soda?
Some of the health issues with caffeine are that it increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and can contribute to the development of heart disease. Decaffeinated and regular coffee increase your cholesterol and homocysteine levels which can be associated with atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) and increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clot formation and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeine can also cause blood sugar swings so diabetics and hypoglycemics should avoid caffeine because of this.
Caffeine stimulates the secretion of stress hormones which can be linked to decreased immunity, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, indigestion and headaches.
Phosphoric acid is a clear, colorless and odorless syrupy liquid used as an acidifying agent to give colas their tangy flavor. Phosphoric acid is commonly used for removing rust. High phosphoric acid intake can corrode stomach lining, eat away at the liver, causes acidity (that approaches the level of battery acid) in the body and disrupts the pH balance of the kidneys.
Phosphoric acid in soda can cause tooth enamel erosion and leech calcium from your bones causing osteoporosis and the deterioration of the jawbone, pelvis and femur.
High fructose corn syrup or corn sugar, has gotten a lot of attention and hype in the news within the past few years. And rightfully so! It is the most common added sweetener in processed foods and beverages. As high fructose corn syrup was introduced into the food supply 30 years ago, obesity rates skyrocketed. HFCS is also linked to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) http://cspinet.org/, “it should also be noted in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, high fructose corn syrup is not generally used in foods, including 7UP.” This man-made sweetener causes so many health issues that are so important to be aware of that I will be doing an entirely separate post on the damage that high fructose corn syrup does to our bodies.
Sugar amounts in a can of soda are exorbitant. Did you know that a can of soda can have 9 to 12 teaspoons of sugar? In just one can! Can you imagine how much sugar you consume when you drink can after can, or bottle after bottle or when you drive through your favorite fast food restaurant and order the big size of soda? Just thinking about it makes me feel so concerned for those who do this every single day.
When your body digests sugar, your pancreas produces insulin to help you use the sugar as energy. Too much sugar can wear out your pancreas which can lead to diabetes. Too much sugar can also depress your immune system, cause tooth decay and contribute to weight gain. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), http://cspinet.org/, sees sugary drinks as a major factor in the obesity epidemic and favors taxing them. CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson, PhD, says sugary soft drinks deserve to be singled out in the battle against obesity because they are the biggest single source of empty calories in the American diet.
Aspartame, used in some diet soda, is one of the most common artificial sweeteners used today. It is sold under the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal. When I attended massage therapy school at Irene’s Myomassology Institute in 2002, the owner at the time, Irene, was a huge advocate of getting aspartame off the market. If anyone walked into her school with a diet soda, she would remove it from their hands and pour it out. This was the first time I was exposed to someone who was so adamant about not using aspartame in what we consume. As I found out more and more about aspartame and what it does to your body, I have to say that I agree with Irene on her mission to get aspartame off the market.
Dr. Janet Hull has great information about the side effects of aspartame. She explains this far better than I can: http://www.sweetpoison.com/aspartame-side-effects.html.
Sodium benzoate is a preservative that is bacteriostatic (stops bacteria from reproducing) and fungistatic (you guessed it! Inhibits the growth of fungi) under acidic conditions. I was unable to find information on the side effects of sodium benzoate but again, it is a preservative which always scares me when I see it in a product.
Remember that our bodies are not made to break down all of the processed, chemically filled sodas that are on the market today. Do yourself a favor by reading the labels on everything you consume to see if any of the above ingredients are in your food and beverages.
And if all of these reasons aren’t enough for you to cut down on and/or quit drinking soda, take a look at the 5-2-1-0 campaign where the “0” in this campaign stands for “limit sugar-sweetened drinks.” Some experts even recommend that the “0″ means zero sweetened beverages. Zero regular soda, lemonade, sweet tea, energy drinks and fruit drinks. Studies show one can a day of regular pop doubles a person’s chances of developing Type 2 diabetes!
Try to cut down on your soda intake, eventually eliminating it altogether and see how you feel! You will be pleasantly surprised!! Even if you drink a small amount of soda each day, it is an unhealthy habit and may eventually lead to drinking larger amounts each day. Is your health worth taking that risk? I strongly feel if we could kick the soda habit as a nation, we would see a significant decrease in both overweight and diabetic adults and children.