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 The Hard Health Facts on Soft Drinks

Photo of pitcher of flavored waterConsider eliminating soda from your life if you are seeking better health. read on to learn more about how soda can harm you.

If it seems to you that authorities have been recommending that you not drink soda for a long time, you’re right. In 1942—more than 70 years ago—the American Medical Association specifically singled out soft drinks when it strongly recommended people limit their intake of added sugar.

Before the 1950s, standard soft drink bottles were 6.5 ounces, instead of the 20-ounce plastic bottles that have been the norm since the 1990s. And those 20 ounces of soda contain 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar and as much as 240 calories, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

The Negative Impact of Soda

The increased intake of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sports and energy drinks, has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic and is otherwise negatively impacting the health of Americans— including increasing the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) notes that drinking soda does not directly cause type 2 diabetes. Consuming the extra calories sodas contain can eventually result in weight gain, however, and excess weight significantly increases your chances of developing diabetes. Sugar-sweetened drinks are the greatest contributor of added sugar in the U.S. diet, the ADA notes. It is thought that they promote weight gain because people don’t reduce their food calories to compensate for the excess calories they are drinking.

In addition, beyond their effect on weight, recent studies cited by the ADA demonstrate that sugar-sweetened drinks may also increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes because they increase your overall sugar load. This can lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, problems with your body’s ability to make insulin, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and fat accumulation.

Those same factors may also increase your chances of heart disease, the ADA adds. A study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation—which followed more than 40,000 men for more than 22 years—concluded that the most frequent soda drinkers had a 20 percent greater risk of suffering a fatal or nonfatal heart attack compared with those who rarely have such drinks.

Research, including a 2011 study that appeared in Hypertension, has also linked soda consumption to higher blood pressure. In addition, a 2010 study by The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that women who drink one sugar-sweetened soda a day increase their chances of developing gout by 74 percent. Those who drink two or more sodas daily increase their gout risk nearly two-and-a-half times.

Seek Out a lternatives

What about drinking diet soda? The ADA recommends diet sodas and teas as an alternative to sugar-added drinks because they contain zero grams of carbohydrates, do not raise blood glucose and—because they use artificial sweeteners instead of added sugars—help keep your calorie intake low.

Still, finding alternative beverages to sip on is the best plan for your body. So, if you shouldn’t drink as much soda, what should you drink?

The ADA recommends:

  • Water
  • Unsweetened teas
  • Coffee
  • Low-fat or skim milk
  • 100 percent fruit juice (without added sugar)
  • Low-sodium vegetable juice

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, water provides everything your body needs to restore fluids lost through metabolism, breathing, sweating, and waste removal. It’s perfect for both quenching your thirst and rehydrating.

If you want something more than just plain water, try infused waters. And instead of buying more expensive flavored waters, Harvard recommends making them yourself by adding the following to a cold glass or pitcher of water:

  • Sliced pieces of citrus fruits, such as lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit
  • Crushed fresh mint
  • Peeled, sliced fresh ginger
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Crushed berries

Sparkling water is another refreshing alternative, particularly with a splash of fruit juice. Try mixing 12 ounces of sparkling water with an ounce or two of fruit juice.

The ADA recommends low-fat 1 percent or skim milk, which also provides you with some important vitamins and minerals. That’s also true of 100 percent fruit juice, but make sure there is no sugar added. And if you don’t want the carbohydrates contained in fruit juice, consider low-sodium vegetable juice, which—at just 50 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrates per cup —is a good alternative, according to the ADA.

By Bruce E. Beans, a feature writer for Vitality. For more information, visit the american diabetes association at


Soda, pop, soft drinks—whatever you call them, there are a number of ways these sugar-filled beverages wreak havoc on your body.


Too much soda puts your bones at risk by leaching nutrients from your body. Multiple studies have linked soft drinks with low bone density and low levels of calcium. There is even a correlation between soda consumption and an increased risk for fractures among some groups.


No one is certain what causes irritable bowel syndrome—colon muscle problems, sensitive nerves, infections, and mental health issues are all prevailing theories. For many people, drinks with caffeine or large amount of artificial sweeteners—a.k.a. soda—can be a trigger for symptoms.


Studies have shown that adults who drink one or more sodas daily greatly boost their risk of suffering heartburn during sleep. The high acid content of carbonated drinks is partly to blame, according to researchers. And when it comes to treating chronic heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, carbonated soda is at the top of the list of foods to avoid.


Women who drink two or more sugary sodas a day are significantly more likely to have early signs of kidney damage, according to multiple studies. People with more serious kidney damage often experience swelling, fatigue, a loss of appetite, and muscle cramps. When kidneys stop working altogether, people need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.


Sugary beverages feed bacteria in the mouth, creating acids that can erode enamel, cause cavities, and eventually lead to tooth decay. Drinking soda throughout the day gives the bacteria more opportunity to attack your teeth.


© Krames StayWell 2013. The information in this newsletter is intended to be used as a general guideline and should not replace the advice of your doctor. Always consult your doctor for personal decisions. Models used for illustrative purposes only. Material may not be reproduced without written permission from Krames StayWell.