Tips

5 Surprising Reasons to Finally Give Up Soda

You spoke—with your wallets—they listened. The country's biggest soda manufacturers—Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group—vowed to slash beverage calories by 20% by 2025 by emphasizing low-calorie drinks, tinier sizes and old-fashioned water.

They also promised to post calorie counts on vending machines. The voluntary move—announced September 23, 2014—acknowledges their role in rising obesity rates. And it makes good economic sense: U.S. soda sales fell 3% last year, with Coke and Pepsi falling 7%.

More and more Americans are trying to kick the habit. According to a July 2014 Gallup poll, 63% of Americans are actively trying to avoid soda. That’s up from 51% in 2004! In 2004, 24% of American admitted to not thinking about how much they were consuming; in 2014 that number dropped to just 13%.

The recent announcement is a huge step forward. But your addiction to soda—even in smaller doses—could still be damaging your body and derailing your weight loss efforts. Maybe these surprising facts will help you cut the cola cord once and for all.

1
It Builds Up Fat
Around Your Organs

Yep, we’re talking dangerous fats that are hard to detect with the naked eye, meaning, you might not know you’re in risk of certain health problems because you won’t see the changes in your own body. Danish researchers conducted a study of the effects of non-diet soda by asking participants to drink either sweetened soda, milk containing the same amount of calories as the soda, diet soda, or water every day for six months. Total fat mass remained the same across all beverage-drinking groups, but the drinkers of regular soda saw a drastic increase in harmful hidden fats, like liver and skeletal fat. And we mean drastic. Liver fat numbers jumped between 132 and 142 percent and skeletal fat numbers soared to an increase of between 117 and 221 percent. That’s before considering the 11 percent increase in cholesterol, compared to people who drank the other beverages.

2
Switching to Diet
Doesn’t Help You

It’s a logical assumption; switching from a sugar-based soda to a non-sugar-based soda would help your health. While calorically speaking that might be true, diet sodas contain their own dangers and side effects. In a shocking study, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center monitored 475 adults for 10 years and found that the participants who drank diet soda saw a 70 percent increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink any soda. So much for the idea that diet soda helps you diet. That’s not all; the participants who drank more than two diet sodas per day suffered a 500 percent waist expansion! Yikes. The same researchers conducted a separate study on mice that indicates it might be the aspartame that causes the weight gain. Aspartame raises blood glucose levels to a point where the liver cannot handle it all so the excess is converted into fat.

3
Some Contain Toxic
Flame Retardants

Europe and Japan have already banned the toxic flame retardant brominated vegetable oil (BVO) out of their bubbly beverages, but it’s still going strong in certain North American soda products (specifically, the citrus-flavored ones). Originally created to make plastics flame-retardant, BVO has since been used to keep the flavoring in fizzy beverages from separating from the rest of the drink. While none of us want a layer of flavor floating at the top of our drink, it’s hardly a fair trade off for the potential side effects. While small levels of BVO aren’t harmful on their own, it can build up in our systems and eventually cause hormone imbalances, skin breakouts, memory loss, and nerve disorders. There is good news, though. As of May 2014 Coca-Cola and PepsiCo had both announced that they were working to remove BVO from their products, but they can still be found in Dr. Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. products like Squirt, Sun Drop, and Sunkist Peach and Fruit Punch flavors.

4
It’s Polluting
Our Water

It’s simple: our bodies cannot breakdown artificial sweeteners (isn’t that enough of a reason to avoid them?) so they leave us and travel through our waterways. Water treatment plants don’t catch them either, allowing them to flow out into rivers and lakes. Swiss researchers found acesulfame K, sucralose, and saccharin—all of which are, or have been, used in diet sodas—in water treatment plants, lakes, and rivers across the country when they did a survey in 2009. When 19 drinking water treatment plants were tested, sucralose showed up in every single one. A study found that despite water-cleaning agents like chlorine, the sucralose persisted in the finished water. We still don’t know all the effects of that residual sweetener, but past research indicates that it might interfere in the feeding habits of some organisms.

5
It’s Aging
You, Quickly

You’re spending hundreds of dollars on anti-aging products, multi-vitamins, and a personal trainer to keep yourself young and fit, but you haven’t kicked that soda habit yet even though it’s one step toward anti-aging that could actually save you money! Well, get on board because here’s what that sweet sip is doing to your body; lowering your bone density, eroding your teeth, and causing kidney problems and muscle loss. Diet and regular sodas contain phosphoric acid to ward off the growth of bacteria and mold and give it that tang that keeps you coming back. It’s also what’s causing all those health problems. A 2010 study published online in the FASEB Journal found that high levels of phosphate caused mice to die a full five weeks sooner than mice with normal phosphate levels. The results suggest that phosphorous is toxic to mice and, potentially, to other mammals as well, like humans.

SPARKLING WATER WITH A SPLASH OF JUICE

Drink This!

Sparkling water with a splash of juice

SPARKLING WATER WITH A SPLASH OF JUICE

For an easy, flavorful way to swap out your daily soda, try mixing a splash of 100% juice with some seltzer or sparkling water. You’ll still get the sweetness and bubbles you crave, but none of the additives.