girl drinking soda

Pop quiz – what are the biggest calorie-hogs in the American diet? Pizza? Potato chips? Hamburgers? Actually, try breads, grainy sweets – cake, cookies, donuts – and sodas, says a 2010, American Dietetic Association study.  The average American sips at least one can of soda per day, nearly 44 gallons per year. Consumption, though, is at its lowest level in 30 years, plummeting from 54 gallons in 1998. While water has finally won the title of “King of the Refrigerator”, soda enthusiasts claim that glugging a can of soda has health benefits.


Poppin’ Positives

Pop, with a pH level similar to stomach acid (2 to 3.5), effectively treats 50% of gastric phytobezoars, solid masses of indigestible fibers from fruits and veggies that clog the small intestines, by busting them up, relieving nausea, vomiting, and bloating.

Think of soda as Pepto Bismol’s younger, cheaper, bubblier sister. It contains phosphoric acid, the same ingredient found in over-the-counter, anti-nausea drugs. Plus, its carbonation reduces stomach acidity.  And its sweet flavors trigger the reward center of the brain, making you feel that you’ve “opened happiness”.

drinking soda

With 23-47 grams of caffeine, a swig or two of soda also increases productivity, memory, focus, problem-solving, and general cognitive function. Although a typical can of soda has seven teaspoons of sugar, according to a 2006 study published in Physiology and Behavior, it can rev up your metabolism, increase your body’s temperature, and break down fat cells.

Falling Flat

With the above benefits, why kick the caramel-colored bubbly to the curb? Regardless of soda’s health benefits, a 12-ounce can, with nearly double your recommended daily sugar intake, can wreak long-term havoc to your body.

Your brain

According to a 2002 study, fizzy high-fructose corn syrup causes learning disabilities. It stunts the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), which is essentially Miracle Gro for your brain’s cells.  Soda has also been tied to Alzheimer’s, obesity, depression, and even schizophrenia.

To make matters worse, some citrus-based sodas contain brominated vegetable oil (BOV), a flame-retardant chemical found in plastics and electronics. BOV prevents the flavoring from separating from the drink, but it also builds up in your system so guzzling more than 2 liters per day can cause long-term memory loss, skin lesions, infertility, behavioral issues, and nerve disorders.

Your teeth and bones

Each time you knock back a soda, its sugar bonds with the bacteria in your mouth, creating acid that lowers your saliva’s pH balance.  To buffer the acid, your body leaches calcium from your bones. Your weakened enamel boosts bacterial growth leading to cavities. Researchers at Tufts University also found that dark-soda drinkers are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. Even though participants took calcium and vitamin D supplements, they had a four percent lower bone density in their hips. An interesting side note: participants that drank citrus-based, light-colored sodas didn’t suffer from any bone loss.

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Your heart

Sugary drinks are linked to 180,000 deaths per year. This might be because pop puts a strain on your ticker, says a 2012 American Heart Association study. Researchers discovered that participants who drank just eight ounces of soda per day were 20% more likely to have a heart attack.

According to a 2013 study, downing soda can cause irregular heart function, erratic heartbeats, and even death. The scary cause is high fructose corn syrup and caffeine, two of soda’s main ingredients, which are diuretics that flush potassium, a mineral that helps your heart beat regularly, from your body. Low potassium levels can grind your muscles, and the shredded tissues then clog your bloodstream and make your electrolyte balance go haywire, which leads to further heart problems.

Your lungs

According to a 2012 study published in the journal of Respirology, heavy-soda drinkers are 80% more likely to get COPD.  They also have a 30% increased risk of asthma. This is because the ingredients in soda can swell your trachea and obstruct your bronchial tubes.

Your skin

Sugar-packed sodas are like Pac-Man: they gobble away healthy tissue. This causes inflammation that results in dull, dry, sagging skin and worsens eczema and cystic acne. Sick of your deep wrinkles? Ditch darker colas. They accelerate aging because they contain advanced glycation end products that bond with your body’s proteins, fats, and DNA.

red hair woman skin

Your hormones

Holy Hormones! A 2013 study found that soda-lovers had a 16% higher estrogen level. Produced in the ovaries, the adrenal gland, and the placenta during pregnancy, sky-high estrogen levels activate cancer causing genes, called oncogenes, that can raise the risk of uterine fibroids, uterine bleeding, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer.