Soda Shock

It's no secret: Soda is bad for your health. 

Richard Thomas/iStockPhoto.com

Thirsty? Think twice before you drink. You won’t believe what it’s doing to you once it’s in your mouth—and body.

No doubt about it: Soda’s horrible for you. You already know it’s packed with sugar and has zero nutritional value. If it’s not already banned from your school cafeteria and vending machines, the full-sugar kind will be kicked to the curb by most elementary and middle schools soon—by law. But do you know what soda does to your body after you guzzle it down—or just how much time and money soda companies spend to make you think good thoughts about something so bad for you? Get ready—you’ll never look at this fizzy drink the same way again!

The Not-So-Sweet Truth

Some foods are fine in moderation, but soda isn’t one of them. “You may not think a soda every day is an issue,” says Frances Fleming Milici, a research associate from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, “but just one eight-ounce sugary drink every day increases your odds of becoming obese by 60 percent.” To put that in perspective: A can holds 12 ounces, and today’s typical bottle is a whopping 20 ounces— that’s enough to pack in over 17 teaspoons of straight-up sugar! Another problem with high-cal beverages is that they don’t make you feel as full as you’d be after eating the same number of calories, says Harvard researcher Vasanti Malik.

So you end up taking in more calories than your body needs, which leads to extra pounds. No wonder soda is reportedly the #1 source of calories in a teenager’s diet.

Soda’s Side of the Story

Beverage companies deny that their drinks are to blame for obesity. They say soda can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Coca-Cola has even launched an anti-obesity campaign called “Coming Together.” “Our goal is to provide education and awareness about nutrition,” says Ben Sheidler, a spokesman for Coca-Cola. “Coca-Cola is committed to helping tackle the obesity problem . . . [by] offering more choices, no- and low-calorie beverage options, clearly communicating the calorie content of our products, and supporting physical activity and nutrition education programs.”

Experts Don’t Buy It

Public health experts aren’t impressed. “Coca-Cola can’t afford to ignore the problem of obesity; it would make them look bad,” says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “But they can’t afford to go out of business either. They’re looking for a way to take credit for doing good while staying focused on making money.” And what about soda companies claiming that the real culprit behind obesity is inactivity? Can you counteract soda’s calories with activity? So far, research hasn’t shown that exercise alone can prevent or reverse weight problems. The number of calories you’re eating is just as important as the calories you burn off through exercise—maybe even more important. “Soda can pour literally hundreds of calories down the hatch in a matter of seconds,” says Katz. “It’s far easier to out-eat exercise than to out-run all those extra calories.” In fact, you’d need to walk briskly for 60 minutes to work off just one 20-ounce bottle of soda.

A Smarter Move

These widespread health concerns have had a real impact: Sales of soda in the U.S. have gone flat among both kids and grown-ups. A recent study found that the number of kids drinking no soda at all is now more than 30 percent. (That’s the highest percentage of kids ditching soda in 10 years!) If you decide to join your peers in opting out of soda, keep in mind that other sugary drinks—such as energy drinks, sports drinks, punches, and sweetened teas—are often just as bad for your health.

 

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