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15 Mar
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Is Soda Pop at the Heart of the American Obesity Epidemic?

I don’t know what the attraction is. I find the ‘natural’ sugar ones too sweet, and the artificial sugar ones just unpleasant. In fact the only time I drink any of it is when I mix it with beer – which is about six times a year, and even then I only use organic lemonade sweetened with agave syrup and without any other chemical additives.

But this isn’t a plug for organic lemonade. There is an epidemic of sweetened beverage drinking that some are suggesting is seriously damaging to your health – particularly if you are an American. But that’s largely because the obesity problem seems to be worse in the US than anywhere else in the world.

10,400,000,000 gallons of sugar-filled soda pop are manufactured every year in the US.

Each can contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of ordinary sugar. Can you imagine putting ten spoons of sugar into every cup of tea or coffee that you drink? It would be unpalatable. The only reason you can tolerate that amount of sugar in a can of soda is that the soda is acidic and the acidity counter-acts the excessive sweetness. In fact cola drinks are about as acid as vinegar. Would you drink a can of vinegar? Would you drink a can of vinegar with 10 added teaspoons of sugar? That’s effectively what you are doing when you drink cola.

But what exactly is the problem here – apart from the damage the acid does to teeth and stomach, and the damage the sugar does to teeth and the waistline?

The body, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is an interesting thing – especially when it experiences pleasure. But one of the really handy things that the body does is to keep you alive. It does this with loads of feedback mechanisms that allow corrections to be made when the chemical/hormone balance starts to shift away from optimum.

Food is satisfying. It creates a full feeling. As digestion proceeds it allows vitamins, minerals, fats, sugars and other stuff to seep into the system. The body also knows when it’s eaten because of this feedback system. So it knows if it is still in the process of digesting. Consequently, if you eat a big meal, you probably don’t want to eat another big meal shortly afterwards. The body is satisfied.

Sweet drinks don’t have that effect and the body fails to identify the calories as food. So the calories in these drinks are added to your calorie intake without any apparent bodily awareness of them. This is one of the reasons they lead to weight gain. There is also a suspicion that these drinks may stimulate desire for sweet high-carbohydrate foods. In other words they trick you that you are feeling hungry and needing something sweet when you don’t.

“The public now firmly believes that foods containing saccharin are effective in weight control, and has been persuaded by the soft drink industry (through the Calorie Control Council) that these benefits outweigh any possible health risks.”
Samuel S. Epstein MD

You can’t get out of it by drinking Diet versions of these drinks either. Rats who were fed saccharin ended up much fatter than rats who were fed sugary foods. There is a lot of uncertainty about the impact of artificial sweeteners so although they help you cut down the calorie intake from the soda, they may well be stimulating you to eat more unhealthily later on.

That’s not the only bad news.

A study of 90,000 women who regularly drank at least one soft drink a day suggested that they were 40% more likely to develop type II diabetes than women who didn’t drink this much soda.

Colas are high in phosphate. Now the body needs phosphate for bone building and health, but it needs phosphate in balance with calcium. When this balance is upset, perhaps with daily cola intake, the possibility of severe skeletal problems developing is very real.

“It appears that increased soft drink consumption is a major factor that contributes to osteoporosis.”
Michael Murray ND and Joseph Pizzorno ND

A recent Harvard study found that daily consumption of sugary drinks increased the risk of heart disease in men. Drinking two 12oz sugary drinks correlates with a 42% increase in the risk of heart disease. That risk rockets to 69% if you drink three cans per day. The American Beverage Association, as you would expect, issued a statement in response: “Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease – not based on this study or any other study in the available science.”

I think denial falls more into the territory of psychology than scientific research. Mind you denial is pretty much what you’d expect as the response to any threat to a $40,000,000,000 per year industry.

So there you have it. There is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that sugar-filled soda is seriously bad for your health if you drink it regularly. There is also considerable support for the idea that diet soda may well cause you to endure cravings for sweet sugary foods and so, in the long-run, make losing weight much more difficult than if you drank fruit juices, water, or coffee and tea – without sugar naturally. But if you go down the route of fruit juices as an alternative be aware of the differences. A fruit drink has added sugar and frequently artificial sweetener too. Fruit juice is just juice. If in doubt check the ingredients list.

So the next time you fancy a cola, ask yourself if you really do long for 12oz of vinegar mixed with 10 teaspoons of sugar?

Found this interesting? Please feel free to add your thoughts on this subject below.



  • […] and fruit and veggy juices are in. But that can’t be a surprise, especially if you read my Is Soda Pop at the Heart of the American Obesity Epidemic? […]

  • […] Sugar is causing a lot of harm and the sugar in beverages is hidden. If you want to stay healthy and lose a bit of weight, cutting down on sugar is the probably the biggest favour you can do for yourself. And just in case you are thinking of switching to diet beverages instead, check out my article Is Soda Pop at the Heart of the American Obesity Epidemic? […]

So, what do you think?