Is there a link between soda pop consumption and obesity? Sure there is, but that’s just the beginning of the story. If the threat of obesity isn’t enough to make you put down that Coke or Pepsi, here are 6 other health threats you might want to consider.
1. The Chemical Used to Create the Caramel Color of Colas is Carcinogenic
Cola makers would like you to believe their caramel color comes from real burnt sugar, the way it did several decades ago. But in fact the color comes from 4-methylimidazole (4–MEI), a chemical produced by reacting sugar with ammonia and sulfites at high temperatures. 4-MEI has been documented to cause cancer in animals.
One study led by Johns Hopkins University published last month in PLoS One analyzed soda consumption data in order to characterize people’s exposure to 4-MEI. Their results showed that about half of the people over age 6 typically have at least one soda per day, exposing themselves to the carcinogenic affects of 4-MEI.
“Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes,” said Keeve Nachman, PhD, senior author of the study. “This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in sodas.”
This analysis hit home with the executive director for Consumer Report’s Food Safety and Sustainability Center, Urvashi Rangan, PhD, who said “We believe beverage makers and the government should take the steps needed to protect public health.”
In 2013, both Coke and Pepsi reformulated the caramel coloring used in colas sold in California, under threat of having to label their products as carcinogenic to meet the criteria of Proposition 65, an effort to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. But in all the other U.S. states, 4-MEI is still a ruler.
2. Drinking Soda Leads to Loss of Kidney Function
Kidneys are important because they maintain the water and electrolyte balance, regulate acid/alkaline concentrations, and filter the blood to remove metabolic waste products. A decrease in kidney function affects each of these.
Related: Is Diet Soda Bad for You…?
A recent meta-analysis from the Mayo Clinic evaluated the associations between consumption of sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened soda, and chronic kidney disease (CKD). They found that drinking sugar-sweetened soda significantly increased risks of CKD, and may impact clinical management and primary prevention of CKD in high-risk patients.
Similarly, a study from Harvard Medical School found that drinking 2 or more servings of artificially-sweetened soda daily increased chances for a decline in kidney function by an astounding 100%.
Another study from Loyola University concluded that women drinking two or more cans of soda a day were almost twice as likely to display signs of kidney disease as those drinking less. Their kidneys could not filter out large molecules such as albumin.
The risk for production of kidney stones is elevated in those drinking soda as well because of the high levels of minerals passing through the kidneys and leaving mineral deposits.
3. Soda Drinking Leaches Minerals from Bones and Promotes Osteoporosis
Why are we seeing so many women and even some men bent over with osteoporosis? It’s the result of the extreme levels of acidity that result from consuming so much high fructose corn syrup or sugar in soda (as well as other foods). This signals the body to take minerals from bone and dump them into the blood in an effort to stabilize blood acidity levels. Over time, this loss of minerals creates bones that are brittle and porous, the opening salvo for osteoporosis.
Consumption of cola drinks is associated with lowered bone mineral density at all three measurement points in the hip typically used for assessment. This was a finding from Tufts University.
Colas get their zing from phosphoric acid, a substance so caustic that it is used to dissolve rust from heavy equipment. If you consume the high levels of phosphorus found in colas on a regular basis, your skeleton will begin to dissolve, with the pelvis, femur, and jawbone being the first to go.
4. All that Phosphorus is Devastating to Your Teeth
While your skeleton is dissolving from the astronomical level of phosphorus in colas, your tooth enamel will be too. Researchers from the University of Iowa quantified the enamel lesion depths from various high-acid beverages. The highest level of enamel erosion occurred with sports drinks such as Gatorade, followed as a close second by sugar-sweetened and diet sodas.
5. Just One Can of Cola a Day Can Drop Your Fertility by 50%
A study at Boston University found that both sweetened and diet soda consumption was associated with reduced fertility, cutting chances for achieving pregnancy by as half. Tea drinking was associated with a slight increase in fertility.
Men who drank a quart or more of soda daily had sperm counts almost 30% lower than men who didn’t drink soda, according to a DailyMail article. This increases their chances of becoming infertile.
6. Serving Soda to Your Kids Places Them in Jeopardy
While osteoporosis risk in adults is rising from the soaring levels of acid in sodas, kids will be losing bone too – at a time when they should be building bone for their future growth and development.
Researchers have found that almost 67% of children with low blood calcium levels drank more than four bottles of soda each week, compared with 28% of children with normal calcium levels. These results document the contention that soda consumption leads to lower calcium levels in children. The result is poor bone mineralization, explaining the greater incidence of broken bones seen in children who drink soda. This is a very unfortunate outcome as it sets them up for a life of poor health.
But it may not be just bone that is affected by soda consumption. Teenagers drinking soda have a greater incidence of mental health problems such as hyperactivity, depression, feelings of hopelessness, sleeplessness, and unhappiness than seen in children who do not drink soda. This doesn’t prove soda is the culprit, but if your child is a soda drinker and developing any of these or other mental health issues, cutting out the soda would be a good place to start overall.