By Dr. Mercola
If you’re looking to make a significant, healthy improvement to your diet, cutting out sugary drinks would be one of my top recommendations. Such beverages provide little in the way of nutrition, making them a top source of “empty” calories.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg for why you should consider eliminating them from your diet. Research continues to show a strong correlation between sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, and chronic disease. What’s more, it takes only a couple of weeks for these drinks to start wreaking havoc on your health…
Sugary Beverages for Two Weeks Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease
A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming beverages sweetened with low, medium, or high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) increased risk factors for heart disease within two weeks.1
The study participants, who were otherwise young and healthy, consumed HFCS-sweetened beverages that accounted for 0 percent, 10 percent, 17.5 percent, or 25 percent of their total daily calorie requirements.
Hourly blood draws were used to monitor changes in lipoproteins, triglycerides, and uric acid, which can indicate heart disease risk. All of the risk factors increased within two weeks among the participants consuming HFCS-sweetened beverages, and the effects worsened as the dose of HFCS increased.2 The study’s lead author told Science World Report:3
“These findings clearly indicate that humans are acutely sensitive to the harmful effects of excess dietary sugar over a broad range of consumption levels.”
Excess Added Sugars Repeatedly Linked to Chronic Disease
Added sugars and processed fructose, in particular, is a primary driver of metabolic dysfunction. Refined fructose is actually broken down very much like alcohol, damaging your liver and causing mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as ethanol and other toxins.
It also causes more severe metabolic dysfunction because it’s more readily metabolized into fat than any other sugar. A recent meta-review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, there’s a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promotes pre-diabetes and diabetes.4
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) also concluded “most US adults consume more added sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet,” and there’s “a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular disease mortality.”5
The 15-year long study, which included data for 31,000 Americans, found that those who consumed 25 percent or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who got less than 10 percent of their calories from sugar.
On the whole, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of added sugar in the diet regardless of the age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index.
A 2014 study came to very similar results. Here, those who consumed the most sugar — about 25 percent of their daily calories — were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who limited their sugar intake to 7 percent of their total calories.6
‘You Cannot Outrun a Bad Diet’
Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers stated it’s time to “bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity.” While rates of obesity have risen sharply over the last three decades, rates of physical activity have stayed largely the same.7
The culprit, they say, is a poor diet loaded with excess sugar and carbohydrates. The review noted that poor diet is responsible for more cases of disease than physical inactivity, alcohol, and smoking combined.8
The review also blasted the food industry, which they argue is using marketing tactics that are “chillingly similar” to the tobacco industry. As reported in the Telegraph:9
“The ‘false perception’ that exercise matters more than healthy eating is due to how the food industry is marketed… They use the example of Coca-Cola associating its products with sport, ‘suggesting it is OK to consume their drinks as long as you exercise.’
They claim the public health messaging around diet and exercise, and their relationship to the epidemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity, has been corrupted by ‘vested interests.’ Celebrity endorsements of sugary drinks and the association of junk food and sport must end, they said.”
The study pointed out some revealing statistics, such as that for every excess 150 calories of sugar, there was an 11-fold increase in type 2 diabetes compared to 150 calories consumed from fat or protein. Meanwhile, Lead author Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, told the Telegraph:10
“Cutting down on carbs was also found to be the single most effective intervention for reducing all the features of the metabolic syndrome and should be the first approach in diabetes management, with benefits occurring even without weight loss, he said. Instead, fat appears to be the ideal fuel for most exercise.”
Sugary Drinks Cause Nearly 200,000 Deaths a Year
Research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions suggested sugary beverages are to blame for about 183,000 deaths worldwide each year, including 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart disease deaths, and 6,000 cancer deaths.
Among the 35 largest countries in the world, Mexico had the highest death rates associated with sugary beverage consumption. There, the average consumption of sugary beverages was 24 ounces per day.
The US ranked third with an estimated 25,000 annual deaths from sweetened drinks.11 You might have expected the US to come in first place, but remember that American processed foods contain far more sugars than other nations, so Americans also consume a lot of "hidden" sugar in products other than beverages.
Despite the growing evidence linking sugary beverages and obesity, those studies conducted by industry tend to find different results than unbiased research.
Researchers reviewed 17 papers (with 18 conclusions) and found that 11 of them supported a significant link between sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain or obesity.12 They then reviewed them based on whether or not the authors reported any conflicts of interest…
Among studies with no conflict of interest, 10 out of 12 supported the association between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity or weight gain. Among studies with industry support, 5 out of 6 found no association. In other words, in studies without industry support, 83 percent linked sugary beverages with weight gain. But in studies with industry support, 83 percent found no link at all.
It's a striking disparity and a likely reason why some research seems to fly in the face of common sense and show no connection between such drinks and obesity. Researchers noted:
"Those reviews with conflicts of interest were five times more likely to present a conclusion of no positive association than those without them… Our results confirm the hypothesis that authors of systematic reviews may draw their conclusions in ways consistent with their sponsors' interests."
How Much Sugar Is Too Much?
Half of the US population over the age of 2 consumes sugary drinks on a daily basis,13 and this figure does not even include 100% fruit juices, flavored milk, or sweetened teas, which are essentially equivalent, so the figure is actually even higher. Sugary drinks, soda, and even fresh-squeezed fruit juice contain fructose, which has been identified as one of the primary culprits in the meteoric rise of obesity and related health problems—in large part due to its ability to turn on your "fat switch."
Fructose is also very taxing on your liver, in much the same way as drinking alcohol, making it a likely culprit behind the millions of US children struggling with non-alcoholic liver disease, which is caused by a build-up of fat within liver cells.
Around 100 years ago, the average American consumed a mere 15 grams of fructose a day, primarily in the form of whole fruit. One-hundred years later, one-fourth of Americans are consuming more than 135 grams per day (that's over a quarter of a pound!), largely in the form of soda and other sweetened beverages.
Fructose at 15 grams a day is unlikely to do much harm unless you suffer from severe insulin or leptin resistance. However, at nearly 10 times that amount it becomes a MAJOR contributor to obesity and nearly all chronic degenerative diseases in all those who have insulin and leptin resistance.
Drinking just one eight-ounce glass of orange juice will wallop your system with about 25 grams of fructose, which is more than you should have the entire day... If you drink more than one soda or additional sweetened beverages and eat processed foods, your sugar intake will quickly skyrocket out of control.
As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. However, for most people it would actually be wise to limit your fruit fructose to 15 grams or less, as it is virtually guaranteed that you will consume "hidden" sources of fructose from most beverages and just about any processed food you might eat. Remember, this is linked to weight gain and obesity, yes… but also much more. Excess fructose may cause or contribute to the following conditions:14
|Raise your blood pressure and cause nocturnal hypertension
||Insulin resistance / type 2 diabetes
||Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
|Raise your uric acid levels, which can result in gout and/or metabolic syndrome
||Accelerate the progression of chronic kidney disease
||Intracranial atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries in your skull)
|Exacerbate cardiac abnormalities if you're deficient in copper
||Have a genotoxic effect on the colon
||Promote metastasis in breast cancer patients
|Cause tubulointerstitial injury (injury to the tubules and interstitial tissue of your kidney)
||Promote obesity and related health problems and diseases
||Promote pancreatic cancer growth
More Americans Are Avoiding Soda
There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, as many Americans are starting to realize the dangers of soda, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) saying they actively try to avoid soda in their diet, according to a Gallup poll.15 This is a significant increase from 2002, when only 41 percent were trying to avoid soda, and a clear sign that, as TIME reported, “the soda craze is going flat.”16 Rather than educate consumers about the real health risks of soda, the beverage industry has taken on a different marketing ploy by introducing smaller “guilt-free” sizes and also pushing diet sodas.
Diet soda may not contain sugar, but that doesn’t make it a better choice than regular soda. Research has repeatedly shown that artificially sweetened no- or low-calorie drinks and other “diet” foods actually tend to stimulate your appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain.
A report published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism highlighted the fact that diet soda drinkers suffer the same exact health problems as those who opt for regular soda, such as excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.17
However, even with more Americans cutting back, soda is still among the top 10 sources of calories in the US diet (number four on the list, to be exact),18 and, in 2012, Gallup found that 48 percent of Americans said they drink at least one glass of soda a day.19 There’s clearly quite a bit of room for improvement.
Use This Simple Tool to Break Your Soda Habit
In order to break free of your soda habit, first be sure you address the emotional component of your cravings using tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT works to overcome cravings and helps you reach dietary success. Be sure to check out Turbo Tapping in particular, which is an extremely effective and simple tool to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time.
If you still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need to make some changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step fashion. Remember, nothing beats pure water when it comes to serving your body's needs. If you really feel the urge for a carbonated beverage, try sparkling mineral water with a squirt of lime or lemon juice, or sweetened with stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners.
However, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight then you have insulin-sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners, so opt for sparkling water with plain citrus instead.