Whether you call it soda or pop, there are two things we all know about this popular carbonated beverage:
- It’s not very good for us.
- A major percentage of Americans consume it.
While you certainly can’t find anything negative about eliminating soda from your diet, there’s also a case to be made for being balanced and consuming it in moderation, just as you should for any kind of food that’s not great for us.
Really, the biggest impact that soda has on our health as Americans is the sheer volume of it we consume on average over the course of our lives. While the per capita consumption of full-calorie soda has actually dropped significantly from its highest point in the late 1990’s, it’s still averaging a staggering 29 gallons per person annually.
That’s about 43,260 calories, or the equivalent of about three weeks’ worth of the USDA’s recommended 2000-calorie daily diet!
With serious health conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and obesity being linked directly to excessive soda consumption, it’s worth looking into how this beverage can impact your health. By doing so, maybe we can consider whether we need to put the brakes on our own soda intake.
The impact of one serving of soda
A powerful step-by-step report about what occurs inside your body upon consuming one 12-ounce serving of Coca-Cola® provides some interesting and sobering food for thought. Here are some brief highlights:
- If not for the phosphoric acid contained in the drink, the whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar (your recommended allowance for an entire day) in one serving would probably make you sick.
- Within 20 minutes of consumption, your blood sugar spikes causing the liver to work extra hard to convert all the excess sugar into fat so it can be safely stored.
- Within 40 minutes, the full effects of the caffeine can be felt, and this causes the liver to dump more sugar into your bloodstream.
- Within 45 minutes, your brain receives a pleasure-inducing dopamine fix.
- Around the one-hour mark, the phosphoric acid in the soda binds with vital nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and zinc, carrying them out of the bloodstream and into the urine where they are lost, rather than helping build up and repair your body.
- A little after 60 minutes has passed, your blood sugar plummets in response to all the systems that were working overtime to balance out the spike earlier. You may feel sluggish, irritable, and like you need a pick-me-up.
So, from the initial sugar spike to the final sugar crash, soda puts your body systems through an extreme roller coaster of effects.
The impact of soda on your mouth
"While the per capita consumption of full-calorie soda has actually dropped significantly from its highest point in the late 1990’s, it’s still averaging a staggering 29 gallons per person annually."
Even before all of the above effects start to occur, however, soda has already started doing damage. As it passes through your mouth on the way to your throat, soda coats your teeth and gums with sugar. That’s part of why it tastes so good. But you’re not the only one who loves the taste of sugar.
Your mouth is home to approximately 20 billion microscopic bacteria, many of which feed on sugar as a main source of nutrition. When they do so, they excrete an acidic waste product that is strong enough to weaken tooth enamel. Weak enamel means a higher risk for cavities and a better chance of serious, chronic tooth decay.
Under normal conditions, the amount of sugar in a meal is relatively low and the potential danger to your enamel is minimal. But when you drink soda, you’re ringing the dinner bell for these microbes to do damage.
To reduce this threat significantly, apply the following tips:
- Limit or eliminate soda consumption.
- When you do drink soda or eat other sugary foods, don’t brush your teeth immediately afterward. That seems counterintuitive, but that’s when your enamel is at its weakest and brushing can actually do more harm than good. The same applies after eating acidic foods like orange juice or tomato sauce.
- Immediately after consuming soda, rinse your mouth out thoroughly with clean water to remove as much of the sugar and acid as possible.
- Then, after waiting at least 30 minutes, brush your teeth.
If you think you may already have cavities or some other form of tooth decay, it’s definitely best for you to avoid sugary food (like soda) and find a dentist who can examine your teeth and make recommendations for treatment before they get any worse. While you’re at it, why not look into affordable discount dental plans to save up to 50% off the cost of your dental visit.
The long-term impact of soda on your lifespan
So far we’ve looked at some short-term effects of soda consumption. And while it makes sense that consuming it over and over again can cause even more damage, it’s eye-opening to find out what the real long-term impact is.
The following serious health conditions have been linked to the consumption of soda or its ingredients:
- Asthma, due to the sodium benzoate used as a preservative in many sodas.
- Heart disease and diabetes, due largely to the use of high fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome. Roughly ¼ of all the deaths in the United States each year (some 610,000) are caused by heart disease, and approximately half of those individuals have diabetes.
- Kidney problems, due primarily to the phosphoric acid in most sodas, which can cause kidney stones as well as leaching vital nutrients like calcium and magnesium out of the body.
- Obesity, simply because soda provides an incredible amount of calories but zero nutrition. Obesity is related to 70% of all cardiovascular disease, 42% of breast and colon cancer diagnoses, and 30% of gall bladder surgery, just to name a few.
Studying the correlation of multiple chronic health problems and mortality rates, Johns Hopkins University researchers noted, “On average, life expectancy is reduced by 1.8 years for each additional chronic condition. But in reality, the arithmetic is not that neat and simple: The first disease shaves just a fraction of a year off life expectancy for older people, but the impact grows as the number of diseases adds up.”
Of course, enjoying the occasional serving of soda shouldn’t scare you. When consumed in moderation, and when following the tips outlined above, soda can be a tasty treat.