I interrupt my recent blogs on understanding good carbs vs. bad carbs, which is still "Public Enemy #2" – and you haven’t heard the last from me and my new campaign for better health – to revisit my initial war on added sugars and focus on what is perhaps the biggest threat to consumer health: too much soda!
The human body only needs about 24-28 grams of sugar per day to function normally. A 12 ounce can of soda has about 40 grams of sugar! Unfortunately most Americans don’t just consume one can of any of these beverages. They purchase a fountain drink that comes in 20, 30, 40 or even 50 ounce sizes.
I recently read this article on MSN Lifestyle called “This is What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Soda” and I encourage everyone to read it.
I won’t belabor the point about the addictive power of the added sugars and caffeine in soda, and the extremely negative impacts of soda on your health (like tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, early Alzheimer’s, etc.). Instead, using this article as my guide, I will focus on how your health will “drastically improve” if you replace your daily consumption of soda with water.
- “First and foremost, you’ll be taking better care of your heart the moment you put down that soda.” This portion of the article sites a couple of key studies (one conducted by Harvard University) which proved that regular soda consumption increased blood pressure and the risk of chronic heart disease.
- And then there’s your brain. Cutting out sodas and other sugary drinks can protect your brain from impaired learning, memory and negative behavioral functions associated with long-term consumption of these products. Your brain has an important chemical called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) that plays an active role in areas that are vital to your learning, memory and higher thinking. Drinking soda regularly can reduce the amounts of BDNF, which may likely explain the link between soda consumption and the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
- Reducing or eliminating soda consumption will keep your bladder clean. Soda has been proven to aggravate bladder infections as well as urinary tract infections. It is essentially a diuretic that makes you urinate more urgently and frequently.
- Eliminating soda from your diet will greatly reduce your risk of kidney damage or kidney failure. The article sites a Nurse’s Health Study which discovered that women who drank a lot of diet soda had decreased liver function compared to women who didn’t.
- We are not just beating a dead horse about the added sugar components of soda. Saying no to soda also lowers your exposure to BPA, a chemical in soda cans that can impair reproductive organs and increase your risk for breast cancer, prostate cancer, metabolic disorders and yes, type 2 diabetes.
- Anyone trying to lose weight or overcome obesity? Cutting out a daily large soda (if you drink one per day) would reduce your calorific intake by over 200,000 calories – approximately 60 pounds – in one year. Losing the weight and reversing obese factors also means lowering your risk for diabetes and other chronic disorders like cancer or heart disease.
- Saying No to Soda helps you live longer because you are protecting the telomeres in your immune cells. Telomeres are protective DNA that have been proven to be shortened by heavy soda consumption. The shorter the telomeres get, the more a person ages and is at risk for disease and death.
There is such an upside to cutting out soda from our lives. It would seem like a no-brainer for all of us to say no, but I know that eliminating soda or reversing consumer trends is an uphill battle. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 5 in 10 adults and 6 in 10 children are drinking at least one sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) on a given day. The average youth is consuming 143 calories per day and the average adult is consuming 145 calories per day from soda and other SSBs.[i]
There is the addictive power from the added sugars in soda, as well as the prevalence of soda in just about every aspect of our lives – at home, at work, and anywhere we go to eat. I am encouraged by what many cities and local governments are doing to discourage soda consumption through the enactment of "sin taxes," but we need to continue to raise awareness and educate people on what the quality of their lives could be like without the prevalence of soda in the American diet. Be mindful of our health alert and stop drinking soda!