Derailing Your Health One Sip at a Time: Part Uno

What’s your poison!? Soda, ‘pop’, soda-pop, Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up, Mountain Dew, diet Coke? There’s a wide variety of other brands and flavors to choose from including the cheaper, generic, store brands all the way up to expensive name brands that are sweetened with 100% cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  And, guess what?  They’re all just as bad for your body. 

Let’s look at some of the detriments of drinking soda.

Due to the sugars, carbon dioxide, and acids used in the manufacturing of soda, drinking it can lead to tooth decay, fat gain, diseases such as Type II diabetes and cancer, bone loss/osteoporosis, digestion upsets, heartburn, and even addiction (come on you Coke addicts…we know you’re out there lurking in the shadows).

The first part of your body to come into contact with soda is your mouth…including your teeth.  According to the Journal of Zhejiang University Science (2009), “acids and sugars [in soda] have both acidogenic and cariogenic potential, resulting in dental caries and potential enamel erosion,…[and] excessive intake of soft drinks…causes complex dental consequences including dental erosion and caries... [it] is necessary to educate patients about the harmful effects of excessive soft drink consumption.”

Want a gleaming grill? Cut out that sugar bath you’re soaking your teeth in every time you consume soda!

In addition to leaving you with a few holes in your mouth, sugar—especially when it’s mainlined into the body via soda—can quickly help you gain a few extra pounds of fat. Because soda lacks any fiber, fat, or protein to slow the rush of sugar into the bloodstream, your body quickly works to remove the excess sugar from your blood so you don’t pass out or die.

 “[Sugar] is a source of fuel, however too much is toxic to the body…the body actually works very hard to get it out of the bloodstream quickly because of this very fact... [and] the bloodstream can only handle about 5 grams of [sugar] at any one time, which is equal to 1 teaspoon...,” (Divine Health from the Inside Out, 2012).

Please notice on the nutrition label to the left, that a 12-oz can of Coca-Cola Classic has 39 grams of sugar(!)…that’s almost 8 times the amount that can be swimming around in your blood stream before you get toxic and other things even worse than weight gain occur--namely, death.

In order to keep you from keeling over in front of your TV, the body quickly gets the excess sugar out of your blood stream.  And, if you’ve already had too many carbohydrates and sugars that haven’t been used up, guess where the body sends that excess sugar from the soda you just drank. Most likely, straight to your booty and thighs if you’re a female, and probably to your gut if you’re a male.

Now, not only are you potentially toothless, you’re gaining weight in the form of fat.

In addition, to causing fat gain, mainlining sugar into your system also makes you less likely to use that sugar via movement and exercise because of the fatigue and energy slumps that occur after your body has dealt with the bloodstream issue…this phenomenon is commonly referred to as the “crash” after the sugar high. 

So, now, you’re toothless, fat, and tired, and grasping for another can of soda in the hopes of gaining a shot of caffeine and a pop of energy to “pick you back up.” And, here we enter the vicious cycle of sugar highs and lows.

At least you’re disease-free, right?  Well, things could get a whole lot worse.

We already know that too much sugar can lead to Type II Diabetes, which eventually could lead to the loss of your feet, legs, and possibly your life.  But that’s not the worst of it.  According to Elissa Epel, PhD and professor of psychiatry at UCSF:

The length of telomeres within white blood cells…has previously been associated with human lifespan. Short telomeres…have been associated with the development of chronic diseases of aging, including heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence disease development, not only by straining the body’s metabolic control of sugars, but also through accelerated cellular aging of tissues.”

In short, there are several studies that associate drinking soda with the development of cancer.

Toothless, fat, tired, and now, suffering from disease…shall I proceed?

Your body needs adequate dietary calcium to build and maintain strong bones, and a harmful effect of soda pop with caffeine can be weaker bones. According to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, “caffeine {such as that found in many soft drinks) can reduce the amount of calcium that your body absorbs from food. Over time, this could lead to osteoporosis and a high risk for bone fractures.”

Creaking bones, cracking hips, no teeth, overweight, tired, and possibly suffering from a disease such as diabetes or cancer…man, that soda sure does taste good though, don’t it?

OK, ok, ok…let’s say, overall, you’re a healthy individual who eats sensibly and moves your body regularly.  Well, if you’re working hard in the gym to gain strength, to improve your athleticism, or to just generally to be a healthier person, soda can really stunt your progress. According to the Mayo Clinic, “added sugars do not add vitamins and minerals, and only provide calories.” In order to participate in high impact exercise and to make progress, we need adequate nutrition without excess calories.  If you are a woman, and you drink 3 sodas a day, you’ve just ingested 420 calories! That might be almost a third of your entire calorie allotment for a day, depending upon your size, goals, and exercise habits.

So, even if you weren’t toothless, fat, brittle-boned, and tired before, you now have a more difficult time sustaining your healthy lifestyle due to a lack of proper nutrients, which can lead to malnourishment and excess stress on your body. Excess stress is also linked with weight gain, fatigue, digestive upsets, and disease…but, at least you still got your teeth, right?  Or…should I say…tooth?

In addition to the harm that drinking soda does to our bodies, supporting the soda industry via purchasing and consuming their products is harmful to the environment.  According to the Wall Street Journal, it takes “as much as 132 gallons of water to make a 2-liter bottle of soda.”  That’s a LOT of water for 8 servings of soda.  Furthermore, soda is full of chemicals that are hurtful to both our bodies and this earth.  According to Dr. Josh Axe, the following are some of the most common (and most dangerous) food additives used today in the manufacturing of soda.

Acesulfame K

This brand-new artificial sweetener is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Little research has been done yet but early studies have linked it with certain cancers and thyroid conditions.

 Artificial Flavoring

Artificial flavoring can mean that a food or beverage contains any one of 3,000 allowable chemicals, many of which have negative health effects.

Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet)

Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar. The FDA file of complaints concerning aspartame ingestion includes reports of dizziness, headaches and memory loss. Some studies suggest it is a carcinogen.


Benzene is produced by the bottling process of many beverages. It is a noted carcinogen that has been linked to heart rate issues, infertility and seizures.


Cyclamates are among the first artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks. They were once banned by the FDA because of suspicion of their link to cancer but they are once again up for FDA approval.

Food Coloring

Many food colorings are linked to ADD/ADHD, asthma and cancer. Although several of these are banned in other countries, the US commonly makes use of Blue #1 and #2, FD &C colors, Ponceau, Red 2 (Amaranth), Red #3 (Erythrosine), Red #40 (Allura Red), Tartrazine, Yellow #2G, Yellow #6 (Sunset Yellow), Yellow#23 (Acid Yellow).

 Saccharin (Sweet n’ Low)

Saccharin is 300 times sweeter than sugar. The public stopped purchasing products made with the sweetener when they learned of its possible link to cancer. Studies didn’t ‘prove’ this link, so it is once again common in many artificially-sweetened foods. Saccharin is linked, however, to addiction to sweetness, obesity and overeating.

 Sucralose (Splenda)

Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than table sugar. Sucralose was an accidental discovery: it was originally part of a new insecticide compound.

Chlorinated compounds such as sucralose were thought to pass through the body undigested. Recent research has found that up to 40% of chlorinated compounds become stockpiled in the intestinal tract, kidneys and liver. Chlorine has been classified as a carcinogen.

Many of the compounds listed above cause excess acid in the stomach which can lead to ulcers and other digestive issues. “Soda is…associated with symptoms of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, when the contents of the stomach leak back up and cause a burning sensation in the esophagus,” (

If all of the above information hasn’t given you enough reason to try to cut the soda out of your diet, check this out:

According to study mentioned by Dr. Mercola, “an astonishing 94 percent of rats who were allowed to choose…between sugar water and cocaine, chose sugar. Even rats who were addicted to cocaine quickly switched their preference to sugar, once it was offered as a choice. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than for cocaine."

If you want to live an addiction-free lifestyle, limit your consumption of processed sugars, starting with soda, if you currently indulge. 

One last thought regarding soda is simply about making life choices. If I’m making a food choice that I know isn’t very healthy for me, but I just want it and am willing to accept the consequences, I can surely think of better ways to spend my calories than on a beverage that’s full of chemicals, colors, sugar, and caffeine.  A 12 oz can of non-diet soda sweetened with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or corn syrup has about 130 calories and 8 teaspoons of added sugar, which is about the total amount of added sugars that you should have each day, according to the USDA.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m trying to limit my overall calories, and especially my sugars, I’m sure not going to blow it on a soda. That same 130 calories could be a 3-4 oz piece of meat, 1 roasted sweet potato with a bit of butter, some oatmeal, rice, even a few tortillas, or a hefty slice or two of bread.  Heck, I could even eat a small, house-made scoop of gelato or ice cream! On average, a 3.5-ounce serving of vanilla gelato contains 90 calories, 3 grams of fat and 10 grams of sugar. A typical 3.5-ounce serving of vanilla ice cream contains 125 calories, 7 grams of fat and 14 grams of sugar.

In terms of sugar grams, for the caloric price of a single soda, I could have 4 scoops of gelato or 2-3 servings of ice cream! At least, I’d get some calcium, bit of protein, and a tad bit of fat to slow that sugar rush down.

In the next few blog posts, I will reveal to you why drinking diet soda is pretty much as hurtful to your body as is drinking “leaded” soda; and I will discuss some strategies to kick your soda habit…because we want you walking around happy, healthy, strong, disease- and addiction-free with a mouthful of pearly-whites!

Cheers! - Amber St. Claire © Divine Health

Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: Coffee

Mayo Clinic: Added Sugar: Don’t Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005