By Dr. Mercola
“Pepsi Special” is the latest “healthy soda” to hit the market, this time in Japan. Infused with dextrin, a type of fiber that’s popular in fiber supplements in the U.S., Pepsi Special is being marketed as a “fat-blocking soda,” as it claims to help reduce your body’s absorption of fat.
How Can Soda Claim to Help You Absorb Less Fat?
Pepsi’s Japanese partner, Suntory Holdings Limited, is reportedly basing their claim, in part, on a 2006 study that found rats fed dextrin absorbed less fat from their food,1 and Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition now allows it to bear the designation as a “food for specified health use.”
These are foods that are meant to be consumed “by people who wish to control health conditions, including blood pressure or blood cholesterol.”2 But can soda really be healthy?
Pepsi Special is far from a health food. Adding fiber to a disastrous combination of high fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid, caffeine and coloring does not make it good for you. But it may “fool” some people into thinking it does, which could make them drink even more of it, further damaging their health.
Soda is a leading contributor to the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases facing much of the developed world, and any claims to the contrary are dangerously misleading. As Dr. Walter Willett, chair of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Time:3
“Unless Pepsi can provide data from controlled studies in humans to the contrary, their claim should be regarded as bogus and deceptive.”
Pepsi’s Eager to Cash In on Health-Conscious Consumers
Remember Pepsi Raw, which was introduced in the UK in 2008? This was another one of the soda company’s ridiculous creations – a concoction of sugar, caramel coloring, coffee leaf and sparkling water that was supposed to be another “healthy” version of soda.
While it had 10 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi, Pepsi Raw was simply another sugar-sweetened beverage, not a health drink. It was removed from the market just two years after its release.
Earlier this year, Pepsi Next was released. Pepsi Next claims to have 60 percent less sugar without sacrificing taste, but the secret to keeping its sweet taste comes from the use of not only high fructose corn syrup, but also THREE artificial sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose, all of which are linked to several dozen serious health risks.4
It’s all part of the company’s plan to beef up their share of profits from the “healthy foods” category, with reports noting they hope to boost their nutrition business from $10 billion to $30 billion by 2020.5
This is a classic corporate move. Find something that people are interested in and sell it to them even if it is deceptive and worsens their health. Most of these companies have absolutely ZERO interest for your health; they are only focused on their bottom line profits. So the age old adage is appropriate, Buyer Beware.
Is “Healthy” Soda Too Good to be True?
In a word, yes.
There’s nothing healthy about soda, even if it contains fiber or is sugar free. Drinking soda is in many ways worse for you than smoking, and it is only because of massive marketing campaigns from the industry that these sugary beverages are deemed so acceptable, including for our most vulnerable members of society – our kids.
If I asked you to quickly recall a commercial or slogan from leading soda companies, like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, chances are you'd have no trouble recalling the friendly polar bear commercials or "the real thing" logo, and if you asked your kids, they'd probably come up with a few too.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for how beverage bigwigs have gotten their products firmly embedded into the homes and psyches of millions of Americans and others worldwide. Coca-Cola, for instance, spends close to $3 billion a year on advertising. With that amount of money it's no wonder the company has managed to hold on to its wholesome reputation.
They, and other beverage giants, are also in the habit of forming strategic alliances with ostensibly health-focused organizations that make it appear as though they are looking out for your health, which is about as laughable as Big Tobacco sponsoring a marathon. For instance, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi are sponsors or partners of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and have featured exhibits at their annual conference.
Diet Coke has also teamed up with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to raise awareness for women’s heart health program, even though Coca-Cola is one of the main retailers of sugar in the United States and it is very clear that sugar and fructose are actually leading causes in the increasing rates of heart disease.
Fructose: Soda’s Dirty Secret
The primary reason why soda is so dangerous to your health?
The fructose content of the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used in many popular soda brands has been grossly underestimated. Around 100 years ago the average American consumed a mere 15 grams of fructose a day, primarily in the form of fruit, not industrially produced isolate, which is infinitely different on a physiological level. One hundred years later, one-fourth of Americans are consuming more than 135 grams per day, largely in the form of soda.
Fructose at 15 grams a day or less is generally harmless (unless you suffer from high uric acid levels). However, at nearly 10 times that amount it becomes a major contributor to obesity and nearly all chronic degenerative diseases. Instead of consisting of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, many soda brands, including Coke, Pepsi and Sprite, contain as much as 65 percent fructose, nearly 20 percent higher than originally believed.6 Thanks to the excellent work of researchers like Dr. Robert Lustig, and Dr. Richard Johnson, we now know that fructose:
- Is metabolized differently from glucose, with the majority being turned directly into fat
- Tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, as it turns off your body's appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the "hunger hormone"), doesn’t drive glucose into the cell to create satiety, and doesn't stimulate leptin (the "satiety hormone"), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance.
- Rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity ("beer belly"), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure — i.e., classic metabolic syndrome.
- Over time leads to insulin resistance, which is not only an underlying factor of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but also many cancers.
- Leads to a dopamine-mediated hedonistic syndrome, which causes an insatiable desire to consume more of the same, despite the broad range of adverse, even life-threatening health effects caused by excessive fructose consumption.
Diet soda, by the way, is NOT a healthy alternative, even though it’s fructose-free. People who drink diet soft drinks daily may be 43 percent more likely to suffer from a vascular event, including a stroke or heart attack,7 as well as are more likely to experience weight gain, increased waist size, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Warning: 5-Hour Energy Shots Linked to Deaths
If you’re thinking of ditching your soda in favor of another caffeine kick like 5-hour Energy, be warned that 13 potentially related deaths and more than 90 adverse reaction claims (including 33 hospitalizations) following its consumption have already been reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although the product’s label does not disclose how much caffeine it contains per serving, it’s been estimated at over 200 milligrams (compared to about 100-150 for a typical 8-ounce cup of coffee). Consuming large quantities of caffeine in energy drinks can have serious health consequences, especially in children and teens, including caffeine toxicity, stroke, anxiety, arrhythmia, and in some cases even death.
Are You Hooked on Soda and Energy Drinks to Give You a Boost?
There are a number of reasons why people drink soda, but many do so because they’re addicted to the ephemeral energy boost they get from the caffeine and sugar. There are, however, natural ways to give your body lasting energy without any of the downsides of consuming fructose, excessive caffeine or artificial sweeteners.
- Eating a healthy diet with limited sugar, fructose and processed foods. See my nutrition plan for a naturally energy-enhancing diet.
- Increasing your intake of animal-sourced omega-3 fatty acids, e.g. krill, wild salmon, free-range eggs, to support your energy levels
- Release draining emotional stress and negativity with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT); this (and Turbo Tapping) can also help you to beat soda cravings
- Sleep when you’re tired, and make sure you’re getting high-quality sleep while you’re at it
- Exercise, and be sure to include high-intensity interval exercises like Peak Fitness for near endless energy
- If you need a supplement, do the above steps first and then try ones that are designed to increase your level of foundational energy at the mitochondrial level. Some of the best are vitamin B12, Ubiquinol and magnesium.