3 Surprising Reasons to Give Up Soda
You already know it’s not good for you, but these three facts could help you quit soda—cold turkey.
Soda—it’s actually grosser than you thought.
By now, it’s probably fair to say that most Americans know soda isn’t a health-promoting drink. Over the years, the carbonated beverage has been blamed for the obesity epidemic and rising healthcare costs. Some public health experts have even called for a soda tax to help deter people from drinking so much of it. While love handles and diabetes are obvious problems associated with soda, drinking the sweet carbonated beverages harbors hidden threats, too.
1. It causes invisible fat buildup around your organs.
In the latest bad news for the soda industry, Danish researchers discovered that drinking non-diet soda leads to dramatic increases in dangerous hidden fats. In the study, researchers asked participants to drink either soda sweetened with 50 percent glucose and 50 fructose (table sugar, the soda sweetener of choice in Denmark), milk containing the same amount of calories as the regular soda, diet cola, or water every day for six months.
While total fat mass remained the same across all beverage-consuming groups, researchers say dramatic increases in fats that are hard to detect with the naked eye occurred. Those who drank the regular cola experienced a 132 to 142 percent increase in liver fat, a 117 to 221 percent jump in skeletal fat, and about a 30 percent increase in both triglyceride blood fats and other organ fat. The regular soda-drinking group also experienced an 11 percent increase in cholesterol, compared to the people who drank beverages.
In America, many sodas are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup that has been shown to cause even worse fat buildup. Avoid turning to diet soda as a healthy alternative. Artificial sweeteners and food dyes have been linked to brain cell damage and hyperactivity; people who drink diet soda are also more prone to developing diabetes.
2. Some contain toxic flame retardants.
Some popular soda brands, including Mountain Dew, use a toxic flame retardant chemical ingredient to keep the artificial flavoring from separating from the rest of the liquid. Brominated vegetable oil, also sometimes listed as BVO on soda and sports drink, can cause bromide poisoning symptoms like skin lesions and memory loss, as well as nerve disorders.
3. You’re taking part in the biggest science experiment on the planet.
Many soda brands on the market in America today are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, a heart-harming man-made compound derived mainly from genetically engineered (GE) corn. GE technology was only introduced into our food chain in the 1990s. We don’t know the long-term health impacts of their use because the corporations that developed the crops never had to test to make sure it’s safe over the long term. Other independent scientists are finding that GE crops are linked to digestive tract damage, accelerated aging, and even infertility.
FACTS ABOUT SODA
9 Disturbing Side Effects of Soda
Need a reason to break your soda addiction? We’ve got 9, and they’re not pretty.
By Emily Main
Soda’s Bittersweet Side Effects
If you’ve been reading health magazines and websites for any length of time, you’ve read a litany of reasons why soda is bad for you. It’s nothing but sugar water. It’s devoid of any nutritional value. It leads to obesity and diabetes. But we’ve dug up nine other disturbing facts about what soda does to your body, besides packing on the pounds, that don’t get much attention in broader discussions about soda and its impact on your health.
Mountain Dew Mind
Dentists have a name for the condition they see in kids who drink too much Mountain Dew. They wind up with a “Mountain Dew Mouth,” full of cavities caused by the drink’s excessive sugar levels. “Mountain Dew Mind” may be the next medical condition that gets named after the stuff. An ingredient called brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, added to prevent the flavoring from separating from the drink, is an industrial chemical used as a flame retardant in plastics. Also found in other citrus-based soft drinks and sports drinks, the chemical has been known to cause memory loss and nerve disorders when consumed in large quantities. Researchers also suspect that, like brominated flame retardants used in furniture foam, the chemical builds up in body fat, possibly causing behavioral problems, infertility, and lesions on heart muscles over time.
Read More: Toxic Flame Retardant Detected in Popular Soda
Toxic Flame Retardant Detected in Popular Soda
The food industry uses a toxic flame retardant in some sports drinks, sodas, and juices for cosmetic purposes.
BY LEAH ZERBE
A toxic brominated flame retardant used in 10 percent of soda products is largely a North American problem, since the substance has already been banned in Europe and Japan, according to a recent report byEnvironmental Health News. Scientists originally created brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, for use as a flame retardant in plastics, but the food industry has been adding the compound to certain sodas, sports drinks, and juices for decades to keep the artificial flavoring from separating and floating to the top of the can, bottle, or glass.
In the 70s, the Food and Drug Administration set a “safe limit” for BVO in food products, although some critics say that decision was made on industry-supplied data that is now outdated. Decades ago, rodent studies suggested BVO caused heart damage.
Weird Fat in Weird Places
In the latest bad news for the soda industry, Danish researchers discovered that drinking non-diet soda leads to dramatic increases in fat buildup around your liver and your skeletal muscles, both of which can contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes. The study revealed that people who drank a regular soda every day for six months saw a 132 to 142 percent increase in liver fat, a 117 to 221 percent jump in skeletal fat, and about a 30 percent increase in both triglyceride blood fats and other organ fat. Their consumption also led to an 11 percent increase in cholesterol, compared with the people who drank other beverages such as water or milk.
It’s not surprising that drinking all the sugar in sodas would cause weight gain, but what is surprising is that even diet soda will pack on the pounds: Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center monitored 475 adults for 10 years, and found that those who drank diet soda had a 70 percent increase in waist circumference over the 10-year study, compared with those who didn’t drink any soda. Those who drank more than two diet sodas per day saw a 500 percent waist expansion! A separate study the same researchers conducted on mice suggested that it was the aspartame, which raised blood glucose levels, that caused the weight gain; when your liver encounters too much glucose, the excess is converted to body fat.
In 2011, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban the artificial caramel coloring used to make Coke, Pepsi, and other colas brown. The reason: Two contaminants in the coloring, 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, have been found to cause cancer in animals, a threat the group says is unnecessary, considering that the coloring is purely cosmetic. According to California’s strict Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, just 16 micrograms per person per day of 4-methylimidazole is enough to pose a cancer threat, and most popular brown colas, both diet and regular, contain 200 micrograms per 20-ounce bottle.
Diet or regular, all colas contain phosphates, or phosphoric acid, a weak acid that gives colas their tangy flavor and improves their shelf life. Although it exists in many whole foods, such as meat, dairy, and nuts, too much phosphoric acid can lead to heart and kidney problems, muscle loss, and osteoporosis, and one study suggests it could trigger accelerated aging. The study, published in a 2010 issue of the FASEB Journal, found that the excessive phosphate levels found in sodas caused lab rats to die a full five weeks earlier than the rats whose diets had more normal phosphate levels—a disturbing trend considering that soda manufacturers have been increasing the levels of phosphoric acid in their products over the past few decades.
The artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas don’t break down in our bodies, nor do wastewater-treatment plants catch them before they enter waterways, researchers have found. In 2009, Swiss scientists tested water samples from wastewater-treatment plants, rivers and lakes in Switzerland and detected levels of acesulfame K, sucralose, and saccharin, all of which are, or have been, used in diet sodas. A recent test of 19 municipal water supplies in the U.S. revealed the presence of sucralose in every one. It’s not clear yet what these low levels are doing to people, but past research has found that sucralose in rivers and lakes interferes with some organisms’ feeding habits.
It’s not just the soda that’s causing all the problems. Nearly all aluminum soda cans are lined with an epoxy resin called bisphenol A (BPA), used to keep the acids in soda from reacting with the metal. BPA is known to interfere with hormones, and has been linked to everything from infertility to obesity and diabetes and some forms of reproductive cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pegged soda cans, along with restaurant, school, and fast-food meals, as a major source of exposure to the chemical. And while Pepsi and Coke are currently locked in a battle to see which company can be the first to develop a 100 percent plant-based-plastic bottle—which they’re touting as “BPA free”—neither company is willing to switch to BPA-free aluminum cans.
Before you switch from cans to bottles, though, take a look at the photographs of Chris Jordan, an environmentalist and photographer who visited the Midway Atoll area in 2009. It’s close to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a mass of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean where things like soda caps (which often aren’t recycled) and plastic fish netting float just beneath the surface of the water. Birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife mistake the debris for food and eat large quantities of the plastic, which they are unable to digest. Ultimately, the plastic causes them to starve to death. It’s estimated that thousands of animals die this way every year.
Unknown Side Effects of GMOs
Take a look at the ingredients list for any soda and chances are most of those ingredients are derived from corn. As much as 88 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified to resist toxic pesticides or engineered to create pesticides within the plant itself. Thanks to lax government safety regulations, and tight corporate control over who gets to test these proprietary seeds, there are no human studies that can prove or disprove whether these crops are safe. Independent scientists have found that, in animals, genetically modified crops, or GMOs, are linked to digestive tract damage, accelerated aging, and even infertility. Most recently, scientists in France found that rats fed GMO corn for their entire two-year lifespan developed mammary tumors and died earlier than rats that ate non-GMO corn their entire lives.
BACTERIA IN SODA
Your Glass of Soda May Contain Fecal Matter Germs
Researchers find coliform bacteria in self-serve and restaurant-served fountain sodas, though not in canned or bottled versions. Also: Yuck.
BY LEAH ZERBE
RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—When you think fountain soda, you may imagine a cool, refreshing drink. Or maybe a caffeine boost or sugar rush. Perhaps hiccups from the carbonation. But a new study published this month in theInternational Journal of Food Biology found that coliform bacteria, a type associated with fecal matter, is an unexpected ingredient in an alarming number of tested fountain drinks.
THE DETAILS: Study author Amy White, MS, assistant professor of biology at Virginia Western Community College, and colleagues tested 20 self-service beverage stations and 10 at which workers pour drinks for customers, to come up with a total of 90 fountain-beverage samples. The tests including sugared and diet sodas, as well as water from the fountain. While none of the ice, which was also tested, exceeded U.S. drinking-water standards, 48 percent of the fountain drinks tested contained coliform bacteria, with 20 percent containing amounts higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows in drinking water. More than 11 percent of the analyzed drinks contained E. coli bacteria, a type of coliform that the EPA does not allow in any amount in drinking water. Researchers also detected other microorganisms that can make people sick, particularly people with compromised immune systems. Most of the bacteria was resistant to at least one of 11 antibiotics tested. “In our study, we tested sodas and water from bottles as controls, and none contained any microbial growth,” White adds.
Read on to find out how to avoid germy soda.
WHAT IT MEANS: So why are these microorganisms flourishing in fountain soda? Germ expert Donna Duberg, MA, MS, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University in Missouri, says the soda machines provide the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish—lots of sugar and consistent moisture. While White and colleagues did not test how the bacteria wound up in the machines in the first place, she and Duberg say it likely has to do with how people touch the dispensing nozzles, and a lack of proper cleaning to disinfect them. Since E. coli multiplies every 10 to 15 minutes, unless you take the machine apart and wash its parts in hot, soapy water or a disinfecting solution, it doesn’t take long for a real problem to develop.
This isn’t the first time soda fountains have been under fire. In fact, high levels of bacteria in German hospital fountain dispensers prompted officials to remove the machines from wards with immuno-compromised patients.
Here’s how to lower your risk of getting sick from soda:
• Reach for a bottle. This study suggests that if you do want to drink soda (which, by the way, we don’t recommend you do often for other health andenvironmental reasons, including excess calories and a high carbon footprint) you may want to select bottled over fountain to avoid a case of the skeeves. While a normal, healthy adult may be able to tolerate small amounts of even drug-resistant E. coli (or suffer relatively mild digestive upset), the young, old or people with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, organ transplant recipients, and people going through chemotherapy or taking immune-suppressing drugs for other conditions could become extremely sick—or possibly die—if they drink or eat harmful bacteria. Be sure to recycle the container when you’re done.
• Eye the ice bucket. In restaurants, ice buckets are commonly used to transport ice from an icemaker to an ice storage bin at the servers’ beverage station. By law, those buckets aren’t allowed to touch the floor, and they must be placed on clean surfaces, explains Duberg. Ice scoops should not rest in the ice or on a countertop, but should be placed in a separate container to avoid bacteria on the handle contaminating the ice. If you see ice buckets on the floor or scoops in the ice at your favorite eating spot or watering hole, it might be a tip-off that management and workers don’t put a lot of stock in other health-code regulations, either.
If you’re at a fair or picnic, avoid using ice from coolers housing cans or bottles of soda. While their contents may be sterile, the outside of those cans and bottles could be contaminated with rat and mouse feces, dust, and other harmful substances found in storage facilities.
• Don’t blame the container. While it certainly would be more ecofriendly to bring your own reusable container when you have an itch for fountain soda, that isn’t going to protect you from the harmful germs. “Unfortunately, bringing your own container would not help. We collected samples in sterile containers, meaning that the beverages themselves contained the microorganisms,” explains White. “So, it would not matter what container was used.”