I have been a soda drinker for as long as I can remember. I never liked coffee much, so for me, soda was like my morning cup of Java; I drank it every morning to start my day.
About ten years ago, I decided that regular soda had too many calories and sugar. I was trying to lose weight and get healthier, so I decided to switch to diet soda, since it had no calories or sugar. Since then, diet soda has been a staple of my daily eating habits.
Back in June, I broke my leg and was forced to endure a cast for the entire summer in Arizona. The way my leg broke was so random and unexplainable that my doctor suggested that I have a bone density scan to determine if I had any bone density issues. I completed the scan and was surprised to find out that while I didn’t have any issues with bone density in my legs, I have osteopenia in my hips and back, which essentially can be a pre-cursor to osteoporosis. Considering that I’m not near the age to be at risk for developing osteoporosis, I was concerned. My doctor assured me that it wasn’t something to worry too much about at this point, but suggested that I increase my vitamin D and calcium intake. Then he asked me what I thought was an unusual question: “Do you drink soda?”.
While I was unsure why drinking soda would have anything to do with the issue at hand, I responded that I drink diet soda on a daily basis, but usually not more than one. My doctor then told me that drinking soda can contribute to reduced bone density and that I should consider removing it from my diet.
I’ve always known that soda isn’t a healthy drink choice, but I was unaware that soda could have this type of effect on my body, so I decided to do some research. Here are a few interesting things I discovered about the effects of soda:
Obesity: Soda beverages have been found to be a contributer to obesity amongst children and adults. Granted, there are other factors contributing to obesity and soda is not the only culprit, but according to the USDA, 16% of calories in the typical American’s diet come from refined sugars and half of those calories come from beverages with added sugar. And diet soda is not necessarily a better option. I switched to diet soda because I thought the no calorie option would help with weight loss since I was consuming less calories, but many studies have shown that diet soda can actually cause increased appetite, because the body doesn’t know how to regulate artificial sugars.
Bone Density: Soda contains high phosphate, which can deplete bones of nutrients needed for bone density, such as calcium and vitamin D. Reduced bone density can increase risk of broken bones as well as lead to conditions such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Disease: Studies have shown that those who drank one soda per day or more had a higher likelihood of having such chronic diseases as heart disease and diabetes ( see Harvard School of Public Health for more information).
While there is much debate about the validity of studies that link aspartame to certain types of cancers (see this article from the American Cancer Society for more information), as well as the validity that regular soda causes health problems, the facto of the matter is that there is no nutritional value in soda, just sugar and calories. And while diet soda provides a lower calorie option, there are still potential health concerns with the additives in diet soda, and just like regular soda, it has no nutritional value. For someone looking to improveoverall health, and/or reduce risks of chronic diseases, it might be worth considering alternatives to drinking soda.
After doing my research, I made the choice to reduce my diet soda intake. I don’t know that I’ll stop drinking it completely, but I haven’t had soda for almost a month now, and I’ll say that I feel better, and my appetite seems to have decreased as well. And if you’re thinking about cutting out soda from your diet, I also found some great alternatives to drinking soda that I’ll be sharing soon!