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It tastes really good and is an essential part of the diet of many of us, but could they put our health at risk? Drinking soda has been linked to weight gain and several chronic diseases. Here are some facts on why soda is not the healthiest of drinks.

The sweet modern diet 

Our society has dramatically changed over time, for good and for bad. We certainly have developed amazing technology, we have surpassed boundaries that years ago were thought to be hard to reach, but we have also promoted environmental changes and the appearance of new diseases that are currently putting at stake not only the health of the population but also the economy and development of many countries worldwide.

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Some of these diseases are strongly related with our life style, which is nowadays characterized by the consumption of highly processed foods, sugary drinks and a lack of physical exercise. Who would have thought that in just a few years more than 60% of adults in the U.S. and Europe would be considered to be obese? As a consequence of this, people are suffering from chronic diseases that are both expensive and detrimental, such as diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases.

Diet is extremely important in these cases and it seems that soda and other soft beverages play a major role in the problem.

What are soft beverages made of?

Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas, energetic beverages, teas and juices, are mainly sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)and glucose. Fructose is the natural sugar that is found in fruits and because it tastes sweeter than glucose, HFCS was developed to be used as a sweetener in the 1960’s.

HFCS is made of regular corn syrup that goes through a special process in order to turn some of the glucose present in it into fructose.

Depending on the fructose content, HFCS can be 55% fructose/45% glucose, which is mainly used to sweeten sugary drinks and ice cream; or it can be 42% fructose/58% glucose, mainly present in baked food, canned fruit and dairy products. 

Since its invention, the amount of HFCS present in soft drinks has increased significantly up to the point that more than 300 calories of the daily intake of a person come from HCSF, mainly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages. 

Empty calories

The calories that you get from HFCS are considered to be “empty calories”

If you think about it, food that has added sugars, just as sodas and energetic beverages, have no nutritional value. They taste good, but they don´t provide you with any essential component that could enrich your diet.
On the contrary, sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages only promote the transformation of all that sugar into triglycerides, which are the main form of fat storage.

Unfortunately, according to a study performed in several brands of soft beverages, labels don´t always say the actual content of added sweeteners that the drink contains. The study showed that, for example, 12 ounces of Coke contained 38 grams of sugar, instead of the 30 grams that the company indicates in the label.  

This is a very concerning situation, since we are actually consuming more sugar than we think, increasing our risk to develop diseases associated to a high intake of added sweeteners in soft drinks and other beverages.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • LAKHAN, S. E. & KIRCHGESSNER, A. 2013. The emerging role of dietary fructose in obesity and cognitive decline. Nutr J, 12, 114
  • Quanhe Yang, Zefeng Zhang, Edward W. Gregg, W. Dana Flanders, Robert Merritt, Frank B. Hu. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014
  • Sara N. Bleich, Julia A. Wolfson, Sienna Vine and Y. Claire Wang. Diet Beverage Consumption and Caloric Intake Among US Adults Overall and by Body Weight. American Journal of Public Health, January 2014
  • Shakira F. Suglia, Sara Solnick, and David Hemenway. Soft Drinks Consumption Is Associated with Behavior Problems in 5-Year-Olds. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2013
  • VENTURA, E. E., DAVIS, J. N. & GORAN, M. I. 2011. Sugar content of popular sweetened beverages based on objective laboratory analysis: focus on fructose content. Obesity (Silver Spring), 19, 868-74.
  • Photo courtesy of Tom Page by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/tompagenet/2486455101
  • Photo courtesy of Soumyadeep Paul by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/soumya_p/7175740569