Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Killing Us Softly: Soda & The Body

Healthy Living San Francisco

On the hottest days of an early October Indian Summer it’s sweaty, sticky and just plain yucky. People across the nation are cooling off in various ways, but for many of us it’s not reasonable to dive headfirst into a glacial lake or chill out in a walk-in freezer midday. In urban areas what most of us do is head for a tasty, iced beverage to gulp down. Ahh, instant refreshment!

Before reaching for that favorite default soda of yours, let’s dig into why soda is nothing more than a bubbly, fizzy demon intent on wreaking havoc on your health. As refreshing as it is in the moment, it does not come without consequences.

With the understanding that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is warfare to our health, let’s move on to less divulged dangers. Besides, several of the negative health aspects of soda don’t have anything to do with the HFCS it contains. Commercial sodas are pumped with ingredients that make human body systems struggle and eventually fail. It’s scary stuff.

Acid trip: You know that slightly citrusy taste you love so much in some sodas? Thank citric acid. It can ruin your tooth enamel and lead to decay.

Buzzin’: Within 40 minutes caffeine absorbs into the body causing dilated pupils and elevated blood pressure. Caffeine also increases the incidence of ulcers in some people- it ups the production of stomach acid.

Chemical snowflakes: Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used to replace the highly publicized “disastrous” HFCS found in regular soda, but is totally bad for you in its own way. Years of research links aspartame to cancer, yet some parties remain unconvinced. In 1995, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a list of aspartame side effects to the FDA, among which included headaches, seizures, neurological problems, abdominal pain, and nausea. After ingestion, aspartame breaks down into a variety of loose cannon chemicals including formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, capable of causing abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and damage organs and the central nervous system.

Embellished appearance: According to the Journal of American Medical Association, there’s some evidence that caramel coloring could increase insulin resistance, increasing the risk for developing diabetes.

Fresh!: Potassium Benzoate is a preservative added to keep diet soda fresh. Coincidentally, it also gives fireworks that unmistakable whistle.

Tangy taste: Phosphoric acid removes rust on surfaces. Does that seriously sound like something you want to be putting in your body? Besides that, it has been linked to mineral depletion compromising bone density, and increases the likelihood of kidney stones. Phosphoric acid binds with zinc, calcium, and magnesium in your colon. These minerals are originally headed for your bones, but the caffeine in soda makes you pee them all out before these minerals can reach their destination.

The bubbly: Carbonated water can potentially irritate your digestive system triggering Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Those ingredients are bad enough by themselves, but major beverage corporations have rolled them all together into a poisonous cocktail- available to you at nearly every corner in the good ol’ US of A.

So what exactly happens once you pop the top and throw back a swig? Let’s explore how a bottled liquid soda becomes a part of your body.

  • 10 minutes: 100% of your recommended daily sugar intake (10 teaspoons) slam your system, but instead of immediately purging your stomach contents from this ludicrous sugar bomb, you’re able to keep it down because it’s neutralized by phosphoric acid.
  • 20 minutes: Steeply spiking blood sugar causes an insulin eruption. Your liver responds by rapidly turning any available sugar into fat. (At this particular moment there is NO sugar shortage.)
  • 40 minutes: Mission caffeine absorption= complete! Responding to dilated pupils and elevated blood pressure, your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream rendering drowsiness a very temporary impossibility.
  • 45 minutes: Dopamine production increases, stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. Physically the same as heroin- who knew? Oh, wait, “Corporation Soda” did.
  • 60+ minutes: Binding time! Calcium, magnesium, and zinc attach to phosphoric acid in the colon, again boosting metabolism. Immense doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners compound excretion of calcium through the urine.
  • 60+ minutes: The diuretic properties of caffeine finally come into play and you scamper off the the bathroom to pee. Big loss in calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, electrolytes, and water. Bummer.
  • 60+ minutes: As the rave inside you dies down, the sugar crash commences. You may become irritable or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the soda to begin with, but not before fortifying it with valuable nutrients your body could have otherwise used.

All this is devastating enough but even more worrisome about a soda-slurping habit is what happens over the long haul. Here’s a little glimpse of the future:

America’s #1 Killer- Heart Disease: According to a study published in 2007 in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, subjects who drank a soda every day over a four-year period had a 25% chance of developing blood sugar levels in the high range and a 32% greater chance of developing lower “good” cholesterol levels. The Nurses’ Health Study found that women who drank more than two sugary beverages per day had a 40% higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease compared to women who rarely did.

Declining Overall Health: Several studies, including the 2007 study published in Circulation, suggest that diet sodas have some of the same effects on health as regular sodas despite having none or very little of the sugar. Why? Drinking soda is typically part of an overall lifestyle that’s not very healthful. Drinking caffeine and sugar is akin to substance abuse. Like it or not, it’s true.

Diabetes Ahoy: In this Nurses’ Health Study, women who reported drinking one or more servings a day of a sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch were twice as likely to have developed type 2 diabetes while the study ran than those who rarely consumed similar potables.

Hello, Spare Tire:  More than several studies have shown an association between sugary drinks and obesity. According to research in the Nurse’s Health Study, which monitored the health of 90,000 women for eight years, drinking just one soda daily added 10 pounds over a four-year period.
It’s curious why soda is so widely available after all these affirmations of it causing or contributing to serious health problems. Until the worldly governing bodies recognize soda as a cornerstone contributing agent to our overall health decline we just gotta take some personal responsibility. And you know what? We might end up a little healthier (and possibly slimmer) for it.

When you find yourself thirsty on a sweltering day, consider your options. Water is arguably the best hydrator (after all, human bodies are approximately 60% water, considering age, gender and environment), but there are many suitable soda substitutes out there as well. Coconut water, iced green or herbal teas, and water infused with any combination of lemon, lime, berries, apple, pear, cucumber, mint (…use your imagination) lend a little pizazz to a glass of fresh, clean, H2O.

Cheers to your health!





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