Yes, you’ve likely heard that drinking soft drinks isn’t good for you, but do you know why? Beyond the obvious that soft drinks contain a lot of sugar, which means they are high in calories, soft drinks pose a laundry list of serious health risks. We’re going to break it down for you, so you may want to think twice before filling that Big Gulp!
The Beverage Industry Is Exploding — Along with Our Waistlines
The beverage industry is a multibillion-dollar mega-industry that spends billions each year on advertising and marketing, particularly to children, teens and communities of color. The industry has expanded exponentially over the past five or six decades, with the availability of soft drinks tripling between 1954 and 2015.
What started as an occasional treat at the local drugstore soda fountain has morphed into a daily drink for millions of people – and more than just one daily drink for most.
Now you can buy soft drinks in just about any type of store, gas station, vending machine, theater, event, festival, restaurant — even your local car wash has a fountain drink machine so you can fill a to-go cup while you watch your car go through the wash.
Historically, consumers in the 1950s had only one option — a standard soft drink bottle held 6.5 ounces. Twelve-ounce cans hit the scene in 1960, and then we saw 20-ounce bottles become the norm in the 1990s. Fountain drink cups have morphed from 7 ounces to behemoth-sized ones of 42, 64 and even 128 ounces!
The average American consumes about 40 gallons of soft drinks per year, which translates into almost 4,000 teaspoons of sugar per year. All this sugar consumption has led to a significant amount of weight gain and obesity rates for many of us.
#1 – High Fructose Corn Syrup > Chronic Disease
Not only do soft drinks contain a high amount of sugar, it’s in the worst form for our bodies — high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is a highly processed industrial product that is less expensive to make than sugar from sugar cane. The beverage industry and the also enormous corn industry have a symbiotic relationship. HFSC and regular sugar differ in their molecular makeup, so our bodies metabolize them differently.
Regular sugar is a type of sugar called sucrose, which is made of equal numbers of glucose and fructose molecules. Our bodies must break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose in our gastrointestinal tract before they can be absorbed.
High fructose corn syrup is a 55-45 ratio of glucose and fructose. Our bodies don’t need to break down HFCS, so it goes right into our bloodstream.
The rapidly absorbed HFCS triggers a variety of unhealthy metabolic reactions in our bodies such as insulin spikes and fat production.
HFCS is hard on our livers and can increase fatty liver disease risks and increase uric acid levels.
- HFCS robs energy from cells in our intestinal tract that maintain a healthy gut lining.
Food, toxins and bacteria can leak into our bodies once our gut lining is damaged, which leads to a whole host of chronic health problems such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and more.
#2 — Fructose > Weight Gain and Fat Retention
We’ve already noted that soft drinks contain a lot of calories. Nuts contain a lot of calories too — but you’re not likely to develop fatty liver disease or obesity from eating nuts! Countless studies have found direct correlations between soft drink consumption and obesity, due to several factors.
The fructose in soft drinks doesn’t stimulate fullness or lower the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin. We don’t feel full, so we’re far more likely to consume excessive calories.
Our bodies can metabolize glucose in any cell, but our liver is the only thing that can metabolize fructose.
When we overload our liver with fructose, it turns fructose into fat — which ends up being stored in our livers and around our bodies, especially our waistlines.
The excess liver fat can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, even in children.
#3 — Insulin Resistance > Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas that helps move glucose from your blood into your cells, where it can be converted to energy or stored for future use. When we continually load up our bloodstream with glucose from soft drinks, our cells begin to “ignore” the insulin — a condition called insulin resistance.
When we become insulin resistant, our cells aren’t removing glucose from the blood, which can be harmful or even deadly.
Our pancreas works harder to produce more insulin to try to bring our blood sugar levels down.
Eventually, our pancreas cells become damaged and cannot maintain the increased insulin production.
Now we have a double-whammy problem — too little insulin and cells not responding to the minimal insulin available.
Insulin resistance is the first step toward developing metabolic syndrome, which develops into Type 2 diabetes unless something stops the progression.
#4 — Leptin Resistance > Obesity
Leptin is a hormone in our bodies that tells our brain how much fat we have stored. If we need to gain weight, leptin tells our brain to eat more and conserve energy. If leptin tells our brain we have plenty of fat stored for energy and normal metabolic processes, then our brain tells us to eat less and burn more energy.
Our fat cells make leptin, so the more fat cells we have, the higher levels of leptin we have in our blood.
- Somewhat like what happens with cells ignoring insulin in insulin resistance, sometimes our brains “ignore” the signals leptin is trying to send when there is so much of it.
- Now we are considered leptin resistant and our brain thinks we need to increase our caloric intake and decrease the number of calories we burn.
- When we have too much stored fat, this is exactly the opposite of what our brain should be telling us to do. Now it’s even harder to resist gaining weight and overeating — we feel hungrier and we’re burning fewer calories, which leads to obesity.
#5 — Increased Levels of Uric Acid > Gout
Gout is an extremely painful type of inflammatory arthritis that affects our joints and surrounding soft tissue. Gout develops when too much uric acid accumulates in our blood. The excess uric acid forms needle-like, monosodium urate (MSU) crystals in our joint linings (synovial membrane or synovium).
The high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks is again the culprit here — metabolizing the fructose in HFCS increases the production of uric acid.
Normally, our kidneys remove excess uric acid from our blood, and we excrete it in urine. Metabolizing fructose interferes with our body’s ability to get rid of the excess uric acid.
An increase in uric acid production and a decrease in our ability to flush it out often leads to gout. Several studies have found significantly higher rates of gout in people who consume soft drinks.
If you suffer from gout or are concerned about high uric acid levels, in addition to eliminating soft drinks from your diet, consider taking a nutritional supplement such as Lifetones Uric Acid Support.
These are just a few of the more serious reasons you might want to reduce or even better, eliminate soft drinks from your diet. Soft drinks contain absolutely no nutritional elements. They wreak havoc on your teeth — not only from the sugar but from the acids they contain. Soft drink can linings can also contain BPA, a substance that has been banned from baby products due to its link to hormone disruption.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.