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Soda has become as American as apple pie. The US ranks first in the world in soda consumption. In recent years our consumption has increased dramatically and so has our awareness of some of the health risks related to drinking it.
Soda first appeared in the early 19th century mainly in the form of soda water and mineral water. It wasn’t until in 1886 when Dr. John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola, and in 1898 when Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi-Cola, that soda-pop became popular with the masses.
Since then we have basically become addicted to soda with over half of Americans drinking at least one every day. It’s no wonder that the American soda industry has ballooned into a $66 billion a year business.
Soda is mostly water with added sugar, flavor and coloring. A 12oz serving of soda contains between 125-190 calories and about 10 teaspoons of sugar, mostly in the form of High Frutose Corn Syrup. Frustose is metabolized in the liver and is usually converted into fat and stored. Soda and it’s empty calories is a major reason for the recent dramatic increase in obesity rates, particularly among children.
People who drink 24oz of soda a day can add up to 1lb of bodyweight per week. That adds up to 52lbs per year. It also does not appear that people who drink soda compensate by cutting calories somewhere else in their diet. So these are just added empty calories.
For those who think diet sodas are any better, the findings show they might actually be worse. They have not been shown to reduce the risk of obesity and have actually been directly linked to it, not to mention they contain artificial sweeteners which are possible carcinogens.
The obesity statistics linked to soda are bad enough, but the health risks don’t stop there. Numerous studies have indicated a link between excess sugar consumption and increased rates of cancer. Soda drinking is also directly linked to diabetes, tooth decay and caffeine dependance which can lead to higher blood pressure and heart rates.
It’s not just the sugar and caffeine that are an issue. Some of the other ingredients in soda can have detrimental consequences. Phosphoric acid can deplete calcium in bones, artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, which is a derivative of petroleum, and aspartame have both been labeled as carcinogens. Sodium benzoate, a preservative, is thought to not only only be a carcinogen but to cause hyperactivity in kids.
These harmful effects are not limited to sodas such as Coke, Pepsi and 7-Up. In recent years there have been a flood of “energy” drinks like Red Bull, Monster and the now infamous Four Loko. These drinks are not only loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners and caffeine, but many contain other stimulants like taurine, guarana, ginseng and even alcohol. By themselves these ingredients in low doses are relatively harmless, but in large doses and mixed together they can create a lethal cocktail.
As with a lot of things, moderation is key. A soda every now and then is perfectly fine and has no real long term effect on health. Cutting your soda consumption can be a major step to a healthier lifestyle. Here are some basic tips on how to limit or stop drinking soda:
• Substitute soda for carbonated or mineral water like seltzer or club soda with a splash of fruit juice.
• Be prepared and avoid being trapped where soda may be the only beverage option such as fast food joints and movie theaters.
• Cut down your consumption gradually if you are a heavy soda drinker, as there can be withdrawal symptoms.
• Track your weekly consumption and calculate the extra calories you are consuming. This can be motivation enough to help you reduce or quit.
• Best of all, replace soda with good old fashioned water.