Why Juices and Soda are a Major Problem:
Weight Gain, Diabetes, Hyperactivity, Gout and More
© 2015 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
Depending on what part of the United States you're from you may call it soda, pop or a soft drink, but universally it can be referred to as the worst beverage choice you can make. You won't get any nutritional value from this fizzy drink, but what you will get are caffeine, carbonation, simple sugars, fructose or, even worse, sugar substitutes along with food additives such as artificial coloring, flavoring and preservatives.
Yet, the soft drink industry is booming. This once considered occasional treat is now being consumed by Americans as the staple beverage with lunch or dinner every day, or for a snack or pick-me-up in between. An abundance of research is attributing this increase in soft drink consumption to numerous health problems including nutritional depletion, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, the formation of kidney stones and more.
Further, if you've switched to fruit juice thinking it's a healthier option, think again. Fruit juice is also being implicated in weight gain and other health issues, and some believe it should be eliminated from your diet right along with soda.
The Ingredients in Soda are Not so Sweet
Leading the list of harmful ingredients in soft drinks is sugar, and a lot of it. To give you an idea of how much, consider this: the recommendation from the USDA for sugar consumption for a 2,000-calorie diet is 10 teaspoons of added sugars a day. Many 12-ounce soft drinks contain nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar alone, which is the maximum allotment for your entire day in just one can!
It's important to look at how sugar is broken down in your body to understand its dangerous impact on your body. After your body receives a large amount of sugar at once, your pancreas goes to work producing and releasing insulin. In time, however, your body may be unable to keep up with the demands for excess insulin, and your cells can also become increasingly resistant to it, putting you at risk of diabetes.
This sugar overindulgence can also end up being stored as fat in your body, resulting in increased risk for obesity, heart disease and cancer.
If you drink soda on a regular basis you may be also putting your bones at risk of osteoporosis. A study found that women who drank three or more regular cola-based drinks a day experienced almost four percent loss of mineral bone density in the hip, compared to women who drank non-cola drinks that didn't show any bone density loss.
It just so happens that those harmless looking, tingly bubbles on the surface of soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, the culprit to severely depleting blood calcium levels, the essential component that makes up the bone structure. As these calcium levels become depleted over the years they can eventually drop to the point of irreversible damage to your overall bone mass and density.
Soda May be a Prime Culprit in Obesity, Diabetes and Hyperactivity Too
If you think you're safe by drinking just one can of soda a day, think again.
According to a major study of 51,603 women over a four-year period, those who drank one serving of soda or fruit punch a day tended to gain much more weight and had an over 80 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who drank less than one serving of soda a month.
The average weight gain of women who drank a sweet drink a day was over 10 pounds compared to those who consumed less than one a month that gained under three pounds.
The health effects of soft drinks don't discriminate based on age or gender, and impact all age groups, but one in particular that is raising concerns are teenagers. Not only is drinking an excess of soft drinks associated with childhood obesity and diabetes, but a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that teenagers who drank an average of four or more glasses of soda a day suffered from more mental distress, behavioral difficulties and hyperactivity.
Juice: Don't be Fooled by its "Healthy" Image
According to research, grabbing that gallon of juice to fill your child's sippy cup may not be much healthier than giving them a cup of soda. Thanks to the advertising of the $10-billion juice industry, the media's portrayal of juice as the healthy and vitamin-packed choice has misled parents into encouraging their children to drink these sugar-packed beverages.
"All of these beverages are largely the same. They are 100 percent sugar," Dr. David Ludwig, an expert on pediatric obesity at Children's Hospital Boston, told CBS News. "Juice is only minimally better than soda," he added.
One of the dangers of drinking too much juice is that it could throw off the balance of calories and nutrients children require and potentially add hundreds of excess empty calories. Fruit juice also elevates your blood sugar level faster than whole fruit, which may contribute to insulin resistance and even diabetes.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism even found that fructose, a sugar in fruit juice, may promote weight gain (see below).
As the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, health officials see little need to give young children these high-calorie, sugar-rich beverages as part of their daily diet. Instead they recommend giving kids water and milk, and whole fruit to snack on instead of fruit juice.
Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines stating that fruit juice shouldn't be given to children under six months of age and to limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day for children up to 6 years old, the USDA revealed that 60 percent of 1-year-olds are way past that limit and are drinking 11.5 ounces of juice as part of their daily diet.
What You Need to Know About Fructose
Most sugary drinks are made with either sucrose or fructose, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Research is emerging that now shows fructose, the sugar found naturally in fruits and fruit juice and widely used in high-fructose corn syrup, may be worse for you than other sugars like sucrose or glucose.
For instance, researchers from the University of California, Davis compared glucose and fructose consumption among 32 overweight or obese people and found they resulted in very different health changes.
After drinking either a fructose- or glucose-sweetened beverage that made up 25 percent of their daily calories for 12 weeks, both groups gained a similar amount of weight. However, those drinking the fructose-sweetened beverage experienced an array of other unhealthy effects, including:
- An increase in visceral fat, the kind that embeds itself between tissues in organs
- Less sensitivity to insulin, one of the first signs of diabetes
- Increased fat production in the liver
- Elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Increased levels of triglycerides
People who drank the glucose-sweetened beverage, meanwhile, experienced no such changes.
When glucose is consumed, a set of reactions occur in the body allowing it to be used as energy, and production of leptin, a hormone that helps control appetite and fat storage, is increased. Meanwhile, ghrelin, a stomach hormone, is reduced, which is thought to help hunger go away.
When fructose is consumed, however, it "appears to behave more like fat with respect to the hormones involved in body weight regulation," explains Peter Havel, associate professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis and lead author of the study, in TIME magazine. "Fructose doesn't stimulate insulin secretion. It doesn't increase leptin production or suppress production of ghrelin. That suggests that consuming a lot of fructose, like consuming too much fat, could contribute to weight gain."
Further, according to Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, long-term consumption of sugared drinks may double your risk of obesity. Part of the risk is simply from the extra calories, but part is also due to the high fructose content in the drinks.
And a review of multiple studies by Havel and colleagues, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that, in animals, consuming large amounts of HFCS led to several early warning signs of diabetes, including:
- Induced insulin resistance
- Impaired glucose tolerance
- Produced high levels of insulin
Ideally to help protect your health you should minimize your intake of sugars, especially HFCS and fructose, by limiting your consumption of soda and other sugary, fructose-rich drinks like fruit juice.
Sugary Drinks Increase Gout Risk
Research has also linked fructose-rich beverages like soda and orange juice to an increased risk of gout (a common and very painful inflammatory arthritis). The study examined the relationship between the consumption of these fructose-rich beverages and incidences of gout among nearly 79,000 women.
After 22 years of follow-up with the women they found:
- Increasing intake of sugar-sweetened soda was associated with increasing risk of gout
- Compared with consumption of less than one serving per month, women who consumed one serving per day had a 74 percent increased risk of gout, and those with two or more servings per day had a 2.4 times higher risk
- Compared with women who consumed less than a glass (6 oz.) of orange juice per month, women who consumed one serving per day had a 41 percent higher risk of gout, and there was a 2.4 times higher risk with two or more servings per day
Why Diet Soda is Not a Wise Alternative
Justifying drinking soda by opting for diet or sugar-free versions as the better alternative is not the answer, as one study showed that drinking any kind of soda, whether it was diet or regular, resulted in a 30 percent increased likelihood of gaining weight around the midsection.
In both drinks, caffeine is also a troubling culprit because of its ability to deplete your body of calcium and act as a stimulant to the central nervous system increasing stress levels and cases of insomnia. As mentioned earlier, there is also a risk of osteoporosis due to the bubbles containing phosphoric acid that severely decrease blood calcium levels, a structural component of bones and teeth.
And before you reach for your next can of diet soda consider this:
- Studies found that drinking diet soda stimulates the brain, increases sugar cravings and encourages poor food choices
- Diet soda is filled with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose or saccharin that have been linked to harmful side effects and actually activate sugar cravings by disrupting your body's ability to accurately assess the amount of calories being consumed -- thus putting cravings into overdrive
Pass on the Soda and Juice and Turn to Healthy, Satisfying Beverages Instead
If you find that you are addicted to soda or juice you can start weaning yourself off with baby steps. Start by downsizing to miniature cans of soda or by pouring only a half glass at a time and slowly continue eliminating soda altogether from your life.
You will eventually need drinks to replace the soda so instead of reaching for your next can of carbonation to go with your next meal consider the healthy alternatives below. You can also give these to your children in lieu of high-sugar juices.
Three Tasty and Healthy Beverages
Refreshing and replenishing water: It contains no calories, fat or artificial sweeteners, makes up 60 percent of your body weight, and comes second under oxygen as needed for human survival and necessity to good health. Every cell in your body depends on it to perform essential functions so start drinking the recommended eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to give your body what it craves and needs.
Tea: Preparing yourself a steamy cup of tea not only provides you with a sense of calm and relaxation but also numerous health benefits from its rich antioxidant properties similar to those from plant-based foods. Research has shown that drinking two cups of green tea a day inhibits cancer growth, so there's an added incentive.
Fun water concoctions: Have some fun with your water by adding sliced apple or cucumbers for a fresh taste for your palette. All you have to do is add some sliced apple or cucumbers to a pitcher of water and let it chill for 30 minutes. Other fun alternatives to try are basil, mint leaves or a drop of honey.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 89, No. 6 2963-2972
Journal of Clinical Investigation
The Journal of the American Medical Association
American Journal of Public Health
Medical News Today
WebMd Soda and Osteoporosis: Is There a Connection?
Mayo Clinic High-fructose corn syrup: What are the health concerns?
Organic Consumers Association
The Washington Post