One of the most common nutrition questions I am asked is, “Dr. Tague, what do you think about sodas?” As a recovering diet cola addict myself, I sympathize with “users”. But the facts are accumulating. Be very afraid of sodas, including the diet versions. Let me explain…
Coca Cola was invented in 1886. The formula included cocaine, caffeine from the kola nut, flavorings, and sugar syrup. “Coke” truly was “the real thing”. It was not only real, it was addictive. So much so, syrup sales increased 4,000% between 1890 and 1900. Although Coca Cola no longer contains cocaine, sales continue to be astronomical and many would freely confess a sense of addiction to Coke and Diet Coke. I hear it regularly from my patients.
To be fair, however, the brand does not matter. Other sodas are just as “addictive”. And I have reasons to believe that the addictive qualities of sodas are intentional, harmful, and put our nation and future generations at much greater risk of disease and early death!
First, what is a soda addiction? A true soda addiction exists if there is a persistent desire for the soda when any one of the following is true:
- Soda has harmed your health or increased your risk of disease.
- Soda has impacted your social life or recreational activities through unwanted weight gain.
- You have tried unsuccessfully to stop drinking soda.
- You keep drinking soda even though you are aware of negative consequences.
The beverage industry in America is a multi-billion dollar industry. Their goals include making sodas cheap to produce, tasty, and addictive… If they fail, they will go out of business, plain and simple. How are we to respond?
We must not participate in profiting the beverage industry at the expense of our health!
Does it really matter if we drink sodas? Are regular and/or diet sodas equally harmful to health? Let’s look at some realities from research:
Reality # 1: Sodas are addictive!
- Lab rats are willing to run 16 minutes in 5-degree temperature to drink cola when rat food and water are right in front of them!
- We all know people who are “addicted” to regular and/or diet sodas and they admit it readily!
- On average, each American drinks 12 oz of soda every day. Why would this costly behavior continue if sodas were not addictive?
Reality # 2: Sugar-sweetened sodas contribute to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and DEATH.
Typical sodas contain 10-12 teaspoons of deadly sugar as high fructose corn syrup, allowing sodas to make up over 9% of all calories consumed in the U.S. Here are three very disturbing health consequences:
- People who consume more than 1 can per day double their risk of death from heart disease.
- For unclear reasons, those who consume sodas have decreased physical activity!
- You have a 235% increased risk of obesity if you consume 1 or more sugar-sweetened sodas per day and have a family tendency for obesity. Do I have your attention yet?
- A 41% increased risk of symptomatic prostate cancer has been found in men drinking soft drinks.
- An 83% greater risk of ischemic stroke was found in Japanese women drinking soft drinks daily.
Is it worth it?
Reality # 3: Diet sodas, along with regular sodas, are increasingly suspicious as a cause of death and disease.
Although some of the research is still being analyzed, it is not looking good for diet sodas. There are problems associated with diet AND regular sodas:
Dark colored sodas contain dangerous phosphoric acid, causing mineral loss from bones and teeth.
Have you ever seen someone pour a can of soda on battery terminals and watch as the acid “eats” away at the corrosion? It is impressive. Acid serves some helpful purposes in the world of industry. But, drinking it…. well, let’s just say plain water has advantages.
Our body fluids need to maintain a pH around 7.4 for great health. When we drink sodas with a pH of around 2.5, our body is forced to respond by “buffering” or neutralizing the acid. One of the main ways the body does this is through dissolving mineral compounds from our bones.
Calcium is one of the important minerals lost in this process. The result is a significant decrease in bone strength with regular or diet sodas as calcium leaves the bones and is lost in the urine. Here’s the research:
- A 5.4% lower bone density of the hip is present in those consuming regular or diet cola daily, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
- Boys and girls have less bone strength if they consume sodas.
- A 23% increased risk of kidney stones occurs if 1 or more sodas daily.
- Diet and regular soda are as harmful to the teeth as crack cocaine and methamphetamine!
These risks are well documented, especially for dark colored sodas that contain phosphoric acid. Read labels on soda. If it contains phosphoric acid, consider yourself warned! Sodas that are clear in color typically contain citric acid, which appears to be less destructive to the bones, but have other associated concerns. Read on…
Reality #4: Diet sodas are specifically associated with multiple health risks.
- Drinking a daily diet soda is associated with a 48% greater risk for stroke or heart attack compared to no soda.
- A 31% increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma was found in men if 1 or more diet sodas per day.
- A 42% increased risk of leukemia was found in those consuming the most diet soft drinks.
- A 67% greater risk of diabetes is present in those consuming at least one diet soda daily compared to no sodas.
Let me assure you that there is hope for a life after soda! My daily diet cola is long behind me. After abstaining for just a few weeks, now many years ago, I noticed my preferences changing. Tea, coffee, and ice water are now my daily preferences and are “guilt-free” as I know they are each health promoting! If you are challenged by cravings for health-robbing sodas or foods that are designed for addiction, make a plan for freedom. If needed, get some help… If you are going to consume sodas, let them be reserved for special occasions. Your health is precious! You can do it!
Remember, experiencing Optimum Weight and Optimum Health is always worth the effort.
For Optimum Health,
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.