Is Drinking Soda Really That Bad for You?

April 2, 2012

Over the years, soda has been linked to the obesity epidemic and other chronic diseases like diabetes. While obesity and diabetes are obvious problems associated with soda, drinking soda has other long term health risks. Here are some eye-opening facts about soda.

1. It causes 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 percent 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 organic 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.  

2. The main ingredient of soda in America was not tested for long-term potential side effects.
Many soda brands on the market in America today are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, a heart-harming manmade 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.

3. Many ingredients in soda are not only unhealthy, but harmful.

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. Mountain Dew is also notoriously famous for the devastating harm it does to teeth (elevated decay and tooth loss,) called  "Dew Mouth". Please Google it if you or your children drink it.

The best beverage for your health? Plain water! Please set an example for your children, and help yourself in the process. Happy hydration!

By Eileen Jekot, MD, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Neenah.