Soda is as American as baseball or apple pie. We love it, and we can't get enough of it. Brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi position themselves as being an essential part of everyday life.
If you want to know how much people love soda, just look back to 1985 when Coca-Cola changed their classic formula. Consumers were so upset that they formed grassroots campaigns to change it again. One group called The Old Coke Drinkers of America created petitions, gave out pins, and even spoke to the media.
The company's Atlanta headquarters reportedly received over 40,000 phone calls and letters from angry Coca-Cola drinkers who wanted their soda back. The company's hotline received about 1,500 calls per day, an increase from the usual 400.
Such brand loyalty remains persistent to this day.
Consider these statistics:
The average American drinks 44 gallons of soda each year, according to a 2011 Associated Press report. That number equates to roughly 470 cans of soda and 20 pounds of sugar annually.
A 2012 Gallup poll found that 48% of Americans drink at least one glass of soda a day.
In 2016, a CDC report said that about 1/3 of adults drink soda or other sugary beverages daily.
According to Healthy Food America, 1/3 toddlers, ½ of adults, and 2/3 of children consume at least one sugary drink a day.
However, many people overlook the grave health consequences of drinking too much soda.
Soda causes obesity.
Let's get this out of the way first. One can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar, which well surpasses the American Heart Association's recommendations for daily intake.
One meta-analysis of thirty different studies found a definite correlation between sugary drinks and weight gain. Plus, reducing soft drink intake led to a decrease in body weight.
In one study, children who drank sugary drinks every day were 60% more likely to become obese.
Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup consist of both glucose and fructose. Every cell in your body can metabolize glucose, but only your liver can metabolize fructose. When you drink too much sugar, your liver gets overloaded and turns into fat. Most fat leaves the liver as blood triglycerides, but some stay and can cause fatty liver disease.
Fructose also contributes to the more obvious kind of fat – the one around your stomach.
Even diet soda isn't a solution. One study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that drinking diet soda contributes to a larger waistline. The researchers gathered 749 senior citizens and measured how often each one drank diet soda. The study, carried out over nine years, controlled for factors such as smoking and exercise.
At the end of the study, those who drank diet soda daily gained 3.86 inches on their waist while occasional drinkers only gained 1.83 inches. Those who drank no diet soda only gained 0.80 inches. Surprisingly, the study found no correlation between weight gain and drinking non-diet soda though there are plenty of other studies that do.
Soda causes diseases.
There are many links between obesity, junk food, and life-threatening diseases.
One study examined how soda drinking affected the lives and health of over 60,000 Chinese citizens. The researchers concluded that adults who drank two or more sugary drinks a day were 87% more likely to get pancreatic cancer.
A 2012 study published in Circulation of 40,000 men discovered that those who consumed at least one sugary drink a day were 20% more likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-soda drinkers.
Soda won't just affect you physically but also mentally.
For example, a 2014 study involving rats found that eating sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup led to memory problems. Rats who ate high-fructose corn syrup saw "impaired hippocampal‐dependent spatial learning and memory in a Barne's maze" while those who ate sucrose saw a "moderate learning impairment."
The effect is very similar in humans. In one study, those who drank diet soda every day were three times more likely to develop a stroke or dementia than those who didn't drink soda. In another, researchers found that drinking diet soda each day shrank their brain volumes and impacted their memory.
Soda ruins your bones.
You should always brush your teeth or wash out your mouth after drinking soda. The citric acid in both diet and regular soda wears away the teeth's protective enamel. Without enamel, your teeth are far more likely to rot, crack, or discolor. A study from the Academy of General Dentistry found that regularly drinking soda can be as bad for your teeth as meth or cocaine.
On average, soda has a PH of 2.5, meaning it's nearly as acidic as lemon juice.
Soda can also weaken your bones, leading to fractures and lower bone density. For example, a study published over 20 years ago in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that rats who drank cola had less calcium and vitamin D and weaker hips compared to their water-drinking counterparts.
More recently, a 2014 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who drank five to ten sodas a week had a 16% greater risk of hip fractures. Women who drank at least ten sodas a week had a 42% risk increase.
Soda can be addictive.
There's a reason people can't stop drinking soda: it's addictive.
I've heard many stories about how people turn to soda as a "pick-me-up" whenever they feel stressed. Sugar gives your brain a rush of the "feel-good" chemical called dopamine. Your mind rewards you whenever you take a sip of your favorite sugary drink and encourage you to seek it more often.
Food addiction is not unlike drug addiction, except that one is perfectly legal.
Soda shortens your lifespan.
If there's any reason to stop drinking soda, it's because abstinence can save your life.
According to the American Heart Association, sugary drinks may account for at least 180,000 deaths worldwide each year. The research shows that sugary drinks played a role in 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 cardiovascular-related deaths, and 6,000 cancer deaths.
Drinking soda can be just as deadly as alcohol or cigarettes. However, there's no age restriction on soda. Schools and soda companies have no problem selling this sugary and addictive drink to children.
Quitting soda cold turkey might be difficult for some. The best way to wane yourself off soda addiction is to replace it with a healthier alternative. (I personally recommend Zevia.) As America slowly becomes more health-conscious, companies are searching for new ways to improve consumer diets.
Much like alcohol or junk food, soda is okay every once in a while. Save it for parties or special events, but avoid making it a daily drink. Your future self will thank you immensely.