It’s a good news/bad news sort of thing. On the one hand, Americans are drinking a lot less soda than we used to. On the other, we still drink a whole of the stuff.
According to data from Adams Business Media Research, over half of all 8 year olds drink at least one can of soda a day; the average teenage boy, nearly two and a half cans. The typical American drinks 44 gallons each year.
That is a lot of soda. And it doesn’t even include all the energy drinks, sweetened teas, juice-based drinks, and other sugary beverages available – all of which play a role in the ever skyrocketing costs of health care. Forbes reports that $1 trillion of American health care spending is due to eating (and drinking) way too much sugar.
As research out of UC San Francisco recently demonstrated, sugary sodas are a major drag on your health. The study, published in the
American Journal of Public Health
found that regular soda drinkers tend to have shorter telomeres. These bits of DNA at the end of each chromosome protect your genetic information and get shorter as cells divide. When they get too short, the cells die.
Because of this, telomere length is considered an excellent marker of cellular aging.
The researchers found that the amount of sugar-sweetened soda the participants consumed was associated with the length of their telomeres. They calculated that consuming 20 ounces of soda every day was associated with around 4.6 years of additional biological aging, based on how telomere length shortens with chronological aging.
More than four and a half years of life seems a high price to pay for the short term refreshment a soda may offer.
And it’s far from the only reason to steer clear – or at least limit your consumption – of soda and other sugary beverages you may drink.
Here are 6 more:
- Soda wrecks tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in your body, yet he acids in soda destroy it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and your teeth become more vulnerable to decay. Research out of the University of Adelaide recently showed that the damage begins within the first 30 seconds of exposure.
- Sugary soft drinks mean more dental visits. Sugar is the preferred food of the bacteria that lead to caries (cavities). But unlike sugary foods, soda washes freely between the teeth and over the gums. This tends to lead to more interproximal and root caries in particular (cavities between the teeth and on the roots).
- Sugary drinks add fuel to the fire. That fire is chronic inflammation – an immune response that never really stops. Your body persistently acts as though under assault, and sugar is a great way to make sure it keeps on doing so. It’s one reason why sugary drinks have been found to be a culprit in inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and stroke – not to mention periodontal (gum) disease.
- Soft drinks add fat and raises your risk of diabetes. The average can of soda contains about 40 grams of sugar – about 10 teaspoons’ worth. A 20 ounce bottles delivers 65 grams, or more than 16 teaspoons! (Can you imagine eating 16 teaspoons of sugar?) Most of that goes to fat. All of it helps elevate your blood sugar, blood pressure and other risk factors for diabetes.
- Diet soda is no solution. The most common artificial sweeteners tend to do their own damage to your body. And despite their being calorie-free, there’s evidence that diet sodas may still contribute to weight gain. Earlier this year, research out of the University of Iowa found that older women who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a higher risk of heart disease.
- Caffeinated soft drinks sap your energy. Though caffeine is a stimulant, regular consumption of it over time can lead to adrenal overload, which ultimately leaves you feeling more tired and even irritable. Caffeine is also a diuretic. It makes you have to urinate. A lot. Losing so much water – in addition to that our bodies need each day to work properly – can leave you chronically dehydrated. This, too, can make you feel tired (not to mention headachy, constipated and more). Drinking water instead of a soft drink is a much better – and more sensible – way to replenish our bodies’ stores.