By Steve Edwards
If you’re looking for a scapegoat in the obesity epidemic, look no further than soda (and exercise). It’s the single greatest caloric source in the world, accounting for somewhere between 11 and 19 percent of all the calories consumed worldwide. It’s cheap, addictive, and readily available, which generally means that it will take some willpower to avoid. But don’t despair, as we at Beachbody® are here to help. We present: our top 10 reasons to give up soda. Drumroll please . . .
- Soda may cause cancer. According to a report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, consuming two or more soft drinks per week increased the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by nearly twofold compared to individuals who did not consume soft drinks. As reported, the study “followed 60,524 men and women in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years. During that time, there were 140 pancreatic cancer cases. Those who consumed two or more soft drinks per week (averaging five per week) had an 87 percent increased risk compared with individuals who did not.”
Then why, you’re probably asking yourself, is this number ten on our list and why is soda even still on the shelf? Not that I’d challenge the ability of such large corporate power to hide such a thing but, in this case, the study slit its own throat. As one of the researchers noted, “soft drink consumption in Singapore was associated with several other adverse health behaviors such as smoking and red meat intake, which we can’t accurately control for,” meaning that we have no way of knowing, for sure, if soda was the culprit. Still, it doesn’t hurt to know that when you drink soda it lumps you into a fairly unhealthy user group.1
- It’s not just about calories. Calories grab headlines, but recent science is showing that diet soda users are still in the crosshairs. A 2005 study by the University of Texas Health Science Center showed that there’s a 41 percent increased risk of being obese—and a 65 percent increased risk of becoming overweight during the next 7 or 8 years—for every can of diet soda a person consumes in a day. Admittedly, this one should be higher on the list, but I wanted to make sure the article-skimming crowd knew the score up front: that diet sodas are very much a part of the problem.
- It’s the water . . . and a lot more. Okay, so that was a beer slogan, but soda is also made up mainly of water, and when you’re slinging as much of it as they are, and you need to sling it cheap, sometimes you can’t help but run into problems with your supply chain. In India, Coca-Cola® has found itself in hot water, and not the kind they thought they were purchasing rights to. Two of their factories have been closed, but one continues to run amok. According to a report in The Ecologist, “They accuse the company of over-extracting groundwater, lowering the water tables and leaving farmers and the local community unable to dig deep enough to get to vital water supplies.”
“Since the bottling plant was opened in 2000, water levels in the area have dropped six metres, and when a severe drought hit the region earlier this year the crops failed and livelihoods were destroyed.”2
- BPA: not just for water bottles anymore. Nalgene® and other water bottle companies took the heat when the dangers of bisphenol A (BPA) were made public a couple years back. While these companies went to great lengths to save their businesses, the soda companies somehow flew under the radar and continue to use it in their products. A recent Canadian study has found that BPA exists “in the vast majority” of the soft drinks tested. Most of these were under the national limits set for toxicity, but some were not. And remember how much soda the average person consumes, meaning odds are most soda consumers are at some risk.
“Out of 72 drinks tested, 69 were found to contain BPA at levels below what Health Canada says is the safe upper limit. However, studies in peer-reviewed science journals have indicated that even at very low doses, BPA can increase breast and ovarian cancer cell growth and the growth of some prostate cancer cells in animals.”3
- Can convenience. As in the 1950s colloquial: can it. Speaking of the 1950s, those were the happy days when most of our soda was consumed at soda fountains, obesity was a term hardly anyone had heard of, and the most feared epidemic was one of atomically mutated insects taking over the world. Now instead of hoofing it down to the corner confectionery for one soda, we fill out trucks with pallets of shrink-wrapped cans or bottles and quaff the stuff by the six-pack. Not to mention how out of balance this ensures our diets will become, it wreaks havoc on the world around us. The bottled-water industry (which is mostly owned by the soda industry) famously uses 17 million barrels of oil a year, and the aluminum industry uses as much electricity as the entire continent of Africa. Not only that, aluminum mining accounts for a ton of toxic chemicals that is left behind for every ton of the metal produced.4
- The Frankenfood factor. Whether you consume diet or regular soda, you’re getting all of the genetically modified food you need and more, via high fructose corn syrup or aspartame. Both of these are under plenty of scientific as well as anecdotal scrutiny. Findings aren’t pretty but, so far, this multibillion-dollar industry has kept these sweeteners on the shelves while alternative sweeteners meeting cost requirements are explored. Since it’s almost impossible to read health headlines without finding one of these ingredients in some type of controversy, I’ll just use one example:
“The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition and food safety advocacy group, called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review the claims, which stem from research conducted by the European Ramazzini Foundation in Italy.
The foundation reported that rats who consumed aspartame in exceedingly large quantities were more likely to develop cancer. CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson considers this an important finding that should not be overlooked.” 5
I know, there I go again with the cancer. But some people need to be shocked in order to take action. For me, seeing the Diet Coke® and Mentos® experiment was all I needed to swear off the stuff.
- Foreign news cares how much soda we sell in our schools. How bad is your country’s problem when the whole world is watching its daily actions? “Nearly one in three children and teenagers in the U.S. are overweight or obese and health experts say sugary drinks are part of the problem.” Yep, bad. The world is well aware of the problems soda is causing and is looking to us to lead. And we certainly are trying. Are you with the program?
“Under the voluntary guidelines, in place since 2006, full-calorie soft drinks were removed from school canteens and vending machines. Lighter drinks, including low-fat milk, diet sodas, juices, flavoured waters and teas, were promoted in their place.”6
And, while great and all, it appears that no one got the memo about diet sodas.
- Diet? Um, that’s just like your opinion, man. When it comes to soda, treat the word “diet” as a slogan. A study at Boston University’s School of Medicine linked diet soda with increased risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. To be more specific, the study “found adults who drink one or more sodas a day had about a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome,” which is a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around the waist, low levels of “good” cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other symptoms that lead to heart disease and/or diabetes. And, for those of you only concerned about how you look in the mirror, “Those who drank one or more soft drinks a day had a 31 percent greater risk of becoming obese.”
- Soda outkills terrorists. A study out of the University of California, San Francisco, shows that soda has killed at least 6,000 Americans in the last decade.
From ABC News: “The new analysis, presented Friday at the American Heart Association’s 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, offers a picture of just how horrifying the damage done by excess consumption of sugary drinks can be.
Using a computer model and data from the Framingham Heart Study, the Nurses Health Study and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers estimated that the escalating consumption between 1990 and 2000 of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages, which they abbreviated as ‘SSBs,’ led to 75,000 new cases of diabetes and 14,000 new cases of coronary heart disease.
What’s more, the burden of the diseases translated into a $300 million to $550 million increase in health care costs between 2000 and 2010.”7
- It’s the “real thing” . . . not exactly. Should having the number one caloric source in the world come from something that’s entirely manmade be a metaphor for a dying world? It doesn’t have to be this way. After all, there’s nothing in soda that we need. In fact, there’s nothing in soda that even comes from the earth except caffeine, and that’s optional. It’s a mixture of altered water (injected with carbon dioxide gas), artificial flavors (yes, “natural flavor” is artificial), artificial color, and phosphoric acid, along with its sole caloric source that is a by-product of genetically modified corn production and offers virtually no nutritional value. It’s about as real as The Thing.
- 1 http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-02/aafc-sdc020310.php
- 2 http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/373906/cocacola_just_part_of_indias_water_freeforall.html
- 3 http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/03/05/popcans.html
- 4 http://www.pacinst.org/topics/water_and_sustainability/bottled_water/bottled_water_and_energy.html, http://www.earth-policy.org/index.php?/books/eco/eech6_ss3
- 5 http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Diet/story?id=3317079&page=1&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312
- 6 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8557195.stm
- 7 http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/study-sugary-drinks-lead-early-grave/story?id=10019518