I think the general consensus on soda is that it is most definitely bad for the body. Caffeine, fructose corn syrup, and many other ingredients the average person (well, me) can’t pronounce are just a few reasons that soda has been declared unhealthy. Many people have listened to the warnings about the high sugar content of regular soda. The general public seems to be listening to their doctors and dentists touting the potential damage that sugar can cause to the body’s organs, mouth and teeth, and fat content, So diet soda is the new choice. As a matter of fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one fifth of all Americans are consuming diet soda every day. That’s a lot of artificial sweetener in a lot of people! How about diet soda? Are there potential health risks associated with drinking diet soda?
Any adult with internet access has probably seen something somewhere declaring artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, deadly. The last such post I read on Facebook equated aspartame to embalming fluid, stating that every diet soda drinker was slowly preserving/pickling every cell in the body. I have read other suppositions blaming diet soda for constipation, heartburn, obesity, diabetes, as well as many more much more outrageous claims. I’m inclined to agree that artificial sweetener isn’t natural. It even says it in the name, artificial. I’m not sure how much I believe when it comes to radical claims such as aspartame pickled so-and-so’s mother’s brain, or paralyzed Billy’s cousin, or gave Juanita cancer. Time to consult the experts I suppose.
An article from Medical Daily was recently released, outlining whether diet soda is worse or better for you than regular soda. You can read the full article here. In this article, a certified dietitian weighs in on diet soda, stating that diet soda has been shown to actually cause an increase in weight gain. While this is indeed true, I would like to say whoa, don’t jump to conclusions! There has been very limited studies completed concerning diet soda. According to WebMD, there have only been four studies completed, and only a couple studies have been performed on humans. So while there has truly been a study linking diet soda to weight gain, one study isn’t enough to call it conclusive evidence that diet soda is going to make you fat. There have been many studies completed linking soda in general to obesity, period. The bottom line for many Americans is that soda is just no good, in any form. That bottom line decision is affecting the soda industry’s bottom line, too.
Bloomberg Business Week spoke with Coca-Cola’s president in July about declining sales. Coca-Cola has been the nation’s number one in soda sales since Coca-Cola’s inception. In 1998, Americans were drinking, on average, 56 gallons of soda yearly. Now, however, soda purchasing levels have dropped drastically, to only an average of 5,400 ounces of soda a year, or 42 gallons. The decrease in sales translates to about a $1.2 billion loss for Coca-Cola. I wonder if that translated to an increase in health for Americans?
While the overall decline in soda consumption should mean that Americans are taking their health more seriously, I somehow doubt that a reduction in soda intake really speaks of a reduction in sugar and caffeine intake. When talking to a co-worker about diet and exercise, she proudly declared she had quit drinking soda. She then turned and took a swig on a zero-calorie energy drink. I wonder what the long-term health ramifications of energy drinks will be? Is caffeine in any form something to be avoided?
Caffeine is the only legal, non-prescribed, form of stimulant not exclusively found in medication in American. The word stimulant makes me nervous. A stimulant surely can’t be a healthy choice, right? Well, the Mayo Clinic says that the amount of caffeine found in about 10 cans of average cola is safe. That is approximately four cups of coffee. So, if even the Mayo Clinic says caffeine is okay, who am I to argue?
There may not be an answer to the soda dilemma. There aren’t enough scientific studies to make a positive declaration either for or against all forms of soda. But, we may not need a study to use our common sense. It can’t be healthy to replace all the intake that should be water with carbonated beverages. The body needs quite a bit of water to function properly. If I’m getting most of my fluids in the form of soda, diet or otherwise, I know I won’t be as interested in drinking the same amount of water as I would if I weren’t drinking soda. So, just because there isn’t a definitive answer either for or against soda yet, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t stop and think. Listen to our bodies. That’s what I plan to do.