How Bad is Soda for Your Health

by Margaret Stoklosa

A recent (April 2023) umbrella review published in the British Medical Journal examined 83 health outcomes linked to sugar-sweetened beverage (regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars) consumption and concluded that there were significant harmful outcomes linked to a variety of disease classifications (1). In particular (based on observational and randomized controlled trials), sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs):

  • Increase BMI by 0.07 points in children for every serving of SSB consumed per day
  • ​Increase the risk of Metabolic Syndrome by 14% for every 12oz SSB consumed per day
  • ​Increase the risk of obesity by 12% for every 8oz SSB consumed per day
  • ​Increase the risk of Type II Diabetes by 27% for every serving of SSB consumed per day
  • ​Increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 17% for every 8oz SSB consumed per day
  • ​Increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 8% for every serving of SSB consumed per day
  • ​Increase the risk of stroke by 7% for every 8oz SSB consumed per day
  • ​Increase the risk of hypertension by 11% for every 12oz SSB consumed per day
  • ​Increase the risk of hepatocellular (liver) carcinoma by 100% for the highest versus the lowest consumption of SSBs
  • ​Increase overall cancer risk by 4% for every serving of SSB consumed per day

The fructose in SSBs is particularly concerning given that most of it is in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which has been shown to carry a detrimental mercury load (2). Moreover, given that fructose bypasses the traditional sugar processing pathway, it is associated with less satiety, insulin resistance, smaller/denser LDL, higher uric acid (which is a risk factor for Type II Diabetes), and disruption in microbial communities in the large intestine (which can lead to inflammatory bowel disease or colorectal cancer) (1). The fructose in SSBs is also associated with a 22% increase in pancreatic cancer for every 25g of fructose consumed per day as well as loss of bone mass in the female population.

The dietary guidelines published by the US Department of Health and Human Services indicate a maximum consumption rate of 10% of calories from free or added sugars, which for someone with a 1500kcal diet would indicate no more than 37.5g or 9 teaspoons a day. One can of Coca-Cola has 39g or 10 teaspoons, which exceeds the recommended amount for the day just by itself.

While it may not be easy to step down or stop consumption, speaking with our in-office nutritionist can make a difference in your disease risk and future health.

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