Got a two-can-a-day habit? You're not alone.
Carbonated soft drinks account for more than 28 percent
of beverage consumption in the United States, according
to the National Beverage Association. And this has
more than doubled over the past 20 years.
Certainly, nobody should mistake soda for a health
drink, but is it really all that bad? Here's
the latest on soft drinks and your health.
What's in it?
Soft drinks consist mainly of water, carbon dioxide
(which creates the fizz), flavoring, artificial coloring,
caffeine (except caffeine-free varieties), acidulants
(such as phosphoric acid, citric acid, malic acid
or tartaric acid), preservatives, potassium and sodium,
and, of course, sweeteners.
A 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 150
calories and between 40 and 50 grams of sugar (in
the form of high fructose corn syrup or sucrose),
equivalent to about 10 to 12 teaspoons. In diet sodas,
artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose,
acesulfame K and saccharin take the place of corn
syrup, but otherwise the ingredients of both the
regular and diet versions are the same.
What are the issues?
Many health experts blame the increase in non-diet
soda consumption in large part for high obesity rates
in the United States and the health problems associated
with it, such as type 2 diabetes. With each can of
regular soda providing about 150 calories, if you
drank one can a day without cutting back on other
calories, you could gain about 15 pounds a year.
trying to lose or control your weight, the National
Institutes of Health recommends you quench your thirst
with water, sparkling soda with a splash of fruit
juice or an occasional diet soda.
The Food and Drug Administration has given its stamp
of approval for safety to acesulfame K, aspartame,
saccharin and sucralose (Splenda). According to the
FDA there are no known health risks associated with
moderate consumption (one or two 12-ounce servings
a day). The only exception is for people with a rare
genetic condition called phenylketonuria, who cannot
consume aspartame. However, recent studies show that
long-term consumption of artificial sweeteners can
blunt our normal sugar taste receptors, leading us
to crave more foods with real sugar later.
think your teeth are safe because you stick to diet
soda. The acid in all varieties of soda (regular,
diet, cola and non-cola) is even more damaging to
teeth than sugar. Acid wears away and weakens tooth
enamel, which in turn can lead to cavities and other
forms of tooth decay. In fact, a study in the January/February
2005 issue of General Dentistry
non-cola soft drinks, energy/sports drinks and commercial
lemonade "showed the most aggressive dissolution
effect on dental enamel." To minimize the damaging
effects, try not to sip these types of drinks for
long periods of time and rinse your mouth with water
or brush your teeth afterwards.
Caffeine dependency: Many
soft drinks, including both colas and non-colas,
contain caffeine. Caffeine can be addictive and acts
as a stimulant, which can cause insomnia, irritability
and a racing heartbeat in some people. If you have
problems with caffeine and are trying to cut back,
wean yourself off slowly to lessen withdrawal symptoms
and avoid products that boast extra caffeine.
Weak bones: Some studies
suggest that excess consumption of phosphoric acid,
an ingredient in all soft drinks, can deplete the
bones of calcium by preventing the nutrient from
being absorbed. This is a special concern for post-menopausal
women prone to osteoporosis. A contributing factor
may also be that heavy soda drinkers simply don't
drink enough healthy beverages, like milk, which
can lead to low calcium levels.
Diet soft drinks may be a better substitute for regular
soda in terms of avoiding added sugar and calories,
but the simple fact is soda is not healthy. If you
regularly choose soda over more nutritional beverages
such as water, milk, 100-percent juice or even in
place of a healthy snack, you may not be getting
enough essential nutrients.
The bottom line
As usual, the key is moderation. Limit yourself
to no more than one or two cans (a maximum of 24
ounces) of soda a day, and make sure they don't
replace more nutritious foods and beverages in your
diet. As long as soft drinks are not your main source
of fluids and you're otherwise following a
well-balanced, healthy diet, a daily fix of fizz