Diet and Nutrition Healthy Eating Tips

Sugar Addicting Soft Drinks Hit Health Hard

Funny how the adjective “soft” describes non-alcoholic beverages in relation to “hard” alcoholic drinks. There is nothing soft about the gluttonous amounts of sugar added to any soft drink in today’s world.


Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) History

The original soda dating back to the 13th century was consumed to improve health. The original ingredients were much different than today. Soda was derived from mineral water sourced from natural springs, it did not contain sugar.

It was not until the 1800’s that ingredients to soda changed. Soda “water” was now created from imitation mineral water consisting of a mixture of sodium bicarbonate mixed with acid. Then, it was marketed by pharmacies as “medicinal”.

SSB Boom

In the mid-late 1800’s, fruit-flavored sugar syrups (pineapple, orange, lemon, apple, pear, plum, peach, apricot, grape, cherry, black cherry, strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry, pear, and melon) and a cocaine and kola sugar cocktail, also known as coca-cola, were added to soda water. Consecutively, Ginger Ale, Root Beer, Dr. Pepper, and Cocoa-Cola were all born.  It wasn’t until the 1900s that lemon-lime 7-Up hit the market.

Annually 10.8 gallons of soda were being consumed in 1950. Despite the realization that drinking soda led to tooth decay and weight gain; and recommendations from the American Medical Association to limit soda intake,  soda use skyrocketed to 53 gallons a year for the next 50 years.  However, these concerns paved the way for the development of “No-Cal Beverages”.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup Hits The Market

To make matters worse, in 1984 sugar-sweetened beverage companies changed the recipe for soda. In order to lower ingredient costs, sugar was replaced high fructose corn syrup.

Interestingly, obesity rates doubled by 50% over the next 25 years.  Of course, we cannot blame the sugar-sweetened beverage industry entirely. As industrialization and society trends towards fast food, microwave ovens, and convenience items are contributing factors as well.

By 2004 soda was linked with type 2 diabetes and 5 years later confirmed as an aid to the obesity epidemic for both children and adults. Luckily, soft drink consumption has declined by 25% over the past 13 years.

The Cold Hard Sugar Label Facts

When considering a refreshingly cool and satisfying drink, read labels and understand what you are actually putting into your body.  With soda,  carbonated water is the main ingredient and about 90% of the recipe. With carbonated water being benign (well it might give you a little gas), and soda’s deep association to poor health,  it proves two points.

One, sugar/corn syrup are powerful additives.

Two, portions are extremely important to consider because many of these effects on health and weight are due to excess quantities of beverages & foods. Products may contain a small percent of sugar as an ingredient but eating more can add up and contribute to ingesting more added sugar than you think.

Sugar and Syrup Compromise Health

High fructose corn syrup and sugar are typically the first choices for adding sweetness to drinks. And, this leads to a slew of health hazards. Aside from excess calories, increased weight and blood sugar problems. Research links sugar use with:

Moreover, sugar intake is not just a catalyst for breast and colon cancer. It is associated with pancreatic cancer too. Conclusions from a study conducted at the University of Minnesota found that individuals who drank two regular sodas/day had an 87% higher chance of having cancer than those who drank beverages without sugar/corn syrup.

Surprisingly, or not,  the journal Epidemiology reports a twofold risk of developing kidney disease with diet or regular soda consumption.

And, the Immune system is not immune to the effects of sugar as sugar damages white blood cells.

However, sugar-free diet soda is just as bad.

Sugar-Free Diet Drinks

Are you drinking diet calorie-free drinks thinking they are a better choice because there are no calories from sugar? Well, I am going to give you a rude awakening.

Non-calorie artificial sweeteners are equally as detrimental as sugar and sugar additives. Studies link diet soda, like regular soda, to a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of risk factors including excessive fat around the waist, low levels of “good” cholesterol, high blood pressure and high triglycerides).

Additional research shows both artificial sweeteners (AS) and sugar-laden foods act like cocaine. One of the reasons for this is that AS are hundreds of times sweeter than natural sugar. So, they are just as dangerous.

Artificial sweeteners:

  • numb taste buds on the tongue. Raising the threshold for the toleration to sweetness by over stimulating sugar receptors. For example, when you taste sweet food it will not taste as sweet. It will also not be as satisfying unless the food or drink is made sweeter.


  • do not provide calories when the body needs them. Therefore lessening feelings of fullness. Thus your body is hungry after eating or drinking because it’s not being fed adequate calories. In addition, the lack of calories can increase the potential for sweet cravings.


  • have a negative effect on our brain and gut, immune and nervous system. Common symptoms include headaches/migraines, nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue with an inability to fall asleep. Uncommon experiences are vision problems, anxiety attacks, depression, asthma, and chest tightness.

Beyond Sugar: 4 More Ingredients in Soda

None of the ingredients in soda provide any health benefits in any way. The rest of the ingredients are insignificant.

  1. Caffeine in small amounts is harmless. However, larger doses mean a greater diuretic effect that can facilitate vitamin/mineral depletion and contribute to dehydration, sleep problems, anxiety, irritability, and depression.

Caffeine is a stimulant. Children are less able to handle mega doses of caffeinated beverages. They are affected by hyperactivity, poor sleep patterns, headaches, anxious, jittery, or feelings of dizziness.

  1. Sodium Benzoate is a preservative.  In addition, it adds more sodium making you more thirsty and possibly creating an electrolyte imbalance.
  2. Citric Acid and phosphoric acid add a tart taste to soda and act as preservatives. They may affect blood acidity and natural stomach acid secretions. This increases the risk for issues with digestion, increase the risk of kidney stones, yeast overgrowth, and bowel disease.

Benzene is a toxic cancer-causing (in animal studies) by-product of sodium benzoate and citric acid. The combination of these additives may decrease red blood cells, leading to anemia. More importantly, benzene can damage DNA. Damage to DNA contributes to aging quickly and nerve diseases like Parkinson’s.

  1. Caramel Color may suppress the immune system and has been linked to increased blood pressure.

Naturally Sugar-Free Beverages

Healthy non-addictive natural beverages taste good quench thirst and can be fun to drink. If you are thirsty stick with water and flavor it yourself. Try an herbal flavored tea (hot or iced), V-8 or homemade lemonade.

After years of consuming excess sugar, consider repleting depleted nutrients with an electrolyte supplement such as Ultima Replenisher.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Wrap up

To drink or not to drink sweetened beverages? That is the question. Americans have been unknowingly consuming excess sweet through added sugar and diet products. Regardless of the type of sweet, sugar or sugar-free products are addictive.  Be aware of the physical, emotional and mental symptoms of excess sugar intake. Compare the health consequences of added sugar with the health benefits of natural unsweetened foods.

Any questions about what ingredients are lurking in foods and beverages, let me know and we can decipher it together.

About the author

Valerie Goldstein

Valerie raises the bar for health and nutrition know how with unconventional expertise and unconditional support for wellness.