Is it time to ditch that soda? Scientific evidence says yes, definitely yes. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages have been long thought to contribute to the obesity epidemic in America, and strong measures such as banning sodas from school vending machines or imposing a “sugar tax” has been implemented across the country. A regular can of sprite contains 44 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends less than 20 grams of sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men. Just one can of soda exceeds the recommended amount of sugar intake.
A review of 30 different research studies looking at the association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and body weight found a positive association. Consumption of sugary soft drinks significantly correlated to weight gain and higher obesity risk in both children and adults.1 Although high in calories and sugar content, liquid form of energy is less complete (compared to solid forms) as it provides less satiety, has little nutritional value, and does not decrease food consumption and total caloric intake.2
Additionally, research suggests that high fructose corn syrup (prevalently used in processed foods and sodas) sweetened beverages advance weight gain more compared to sucrose or artificially sweetened beverages.3 Not only that, but sugar-sweetened soda also increases risk for type 2 diabetes.2
Thinking of switching over to diet soda? Think again. Artificial sweeteners that are advertised for their 0 calorie and 0 grams of sugar intake have their own caveats. Artificial sugar in diet sodas alter the way that brain perceives sweet taste and the reward processing system. Diet soda drinkers find the sweet taste more rewarding and pleasurable than regular soda drinkers, making them reach for more sodas.4
The best alternatives to soda are water (with a squeeze of lemon for added benefits and flavor) and unsweetened herbal or green tea. Although it may be hard to stop reaching for that Mountain Dew and its cold, sweet feel, it may be one of the best steps you can take for better health and reduced risk of weight gain and diabetes.
- Malik, V., Shulze, M., Hu, F. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006. 84(2): 274-288.
- Schulze, M., Manson, J., Ludwig, D., et al. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. Journal of American Medical Association. 2004. 292:927–34.
- Jurgens, H., Haass, W., Castaneda, T., et al. Consuming fructose-sweetened beverages increases body adiposity in mice. Obesity Research. 2005. 13:1146–56.
- Green, E., Murphy, C. Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers. Physiological Behavior. 2012. 107(4): 560-567