By Dr. Mercola
The soda industry is a $75-billion market,1 an industry that reached its greatest heights in the US during the 1980s and 1990s, when Coca-Cola began pushing larger drink sizes and “upsizing.” Fountain drink sizes grew more than 50 percent by 1990, and in 1994, the 20-ounce plastic bottle was introduced in the US.
As people drank more and more soda, rates of obesity and diabetes soared, and while the soda industry still denies to this day any connection, research suggests otherwise.
The American Beverage Association (ABA), which includes members such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, in particular, has long claimed there is "no association between high fructose corn syrup [in soda] and obesity."
ABA has historically attacked suggestions to tax soda as "discriminatory,” and though their organization is touted as a "neutral forum," in reality it is devoted to discrediting negative press against soft drinks. In relation to obesity, ABA states, "All of our industry's beverages can be enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle."2
Soda Front Group Pledges to Reduce Soda Calories by 20 Percent by 2025
The American Beverage Association recently announced an unlikely partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization founded, in part, by the American Heart Association.
If the idea of the soda industry partnering with the American Heart Association sounds odd, considering that sugar and fructose, which are prevalent in soda, are leading culprits in the increasing rates of heart disease in the US, you’ll also be perplexed by ABA’s new “health-conscious” announcement.
The front group claims that it will cut the number of calories consumed from sugary drinks by 20 percent in the next 10 years. Even if they succeed, it will only make a small dent in Americans’ soda consumption…
Along with energy drinks and sports drinks, soda is among the top 10 sources of calories in the US diet (number four on the list, to be exact),3 and, in 2012, Gallup found that 48 percent of Americans said they drink at least one glass of soda a day,4 with proven detrimental impacts to their health.
ABA Promotes Smaller Portion Sizes, More Diet Drinks
As for how they plan to reduce soda calories, ABA stated:5
“In order to ensure that we continue to see a reduction in beverage calories consumed, it will take our member companies working together and leveraging their marketing and distribution strengths to promote smaller portion sizes, water, and no- and lower-calorie beverage options.
In the next 10 years, the beverage landscape will be vastly different than it is now. When you walk down the beverage aisle in your local supermarket or convenience store, there will be more options in more sizes so that you can make the choice that is right for you.”
More options in more sizes? It’s unclear how this will encourage Americans to drink less soda, but ABA claims their tactics have already worked, with soda companies collectively selling 6.4 trillion fewer calories in the US in 2012 than in 2007.
An independent analysis from University of North Carolina researchers found a different trend, however, showing that total calories from packaged goods sold to households with children by those same companies remained the same from 2011 to 2012.6
More Americans Actively Avoid Soda
It’s clear that if Americans are drinking less soda, it’s despite the ABA’s actions… not because of them. It’s not unusual for the ABA to spend millions of dollars in lobbying efforts in a year’s first quarter alone, so while they want to give the illusion that they’re concerned about your health, they certainly do not want you to give up soda.
Nonetheless, 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, a Gallup poll revealed.7
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.”8 Rather than educate consumers about the real health risks of soda, the industry has taken on a different marketing ploy by introducing smaller “guilt-free” sizes.
Smaller, 7.5-ounce minicans and 8-ounce glass bottles have been selling well, according to Coca-Cola, which also has been increasing marketing aimed at teens. Over the summer, Coca-Cola printed the 250 most common teen names on Coke bottles, hoping to entice teens with the “personalized” drinks. It worked.
Sales increased by 1 percent in North America in three months.9 Beverage consultant Mike Weinstein, former president of A&W Brands, even noted that he goes right into high schools to find out whether teens can identify soda company slogans.
And make no mistake: soda companies may claim they’re reducing the number of soda calories consumed, but they’re heavily invested in keeping soda as an American staple. Coca-Cola has even invested $1 billion in a two-year marketing blitz, whose sole goal is to drive its “sparkling” division back to its former glory. And in case you were wondering… its healthy-sounding “sparkling” division includes soda, which is beyond misleading.
Zero- and Low-Calorie Sodas are Not the Answer
ABA intends to achieve its goal of reduced soda calories, in part, by offering more zero or low-calorie drinks. Bottled water will be among them, they said, but undoubtedly so, too, will diet soft drinks. However, 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 & 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.10
Further, research continues to pour in revealing proven health dangers to aspartame, the artificial sweetener often used in diet sodas. Among them is a recent commentary that reviewed the adequacy of the cancer studies submitted by G.D. Searle in the 1970s to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for market approval.11
The review of the data found that the studies did not prove aspartame’s safety, while other recent research suggests aspartame has potential carcinogenic effects. You can learn more alarming aspartame facts in the infographic below.
What are the Health Risks of Drinking Soda?
The health risks of soda extend far beyond excess calories. Once ingested, your pancreas rapidly begins to create insulin in response to the sugar. A 20-ounce bottle of cola contains the equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The rise in blood sugar is quite rapid. As I’ve discussed on numerous occasions, chronically elevated insulin levels (which you would definitely have if you regularly drink soda) and the subsequent insulin resistance is a foundational factor of most chronic disease, from diabetes to cancer to obesity.
Sugar is also addictive, and when you consume soda your body increases dopamine production, which stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain – a physically identical response to that of heroin, by the way, which explains why so many people find it difficult to give up their daily soda “fix.”
There are other risks as well, like caramel coloring, which is widely used in brown soft drinks. It may cause cancer due to 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), a chemical byproduct formed when certain types of caramel coloring are manufactured.
Research from Consumer Reports revealed that levels of 4-MeI may exist in sodas at levels above certain state limits, potentially posing a risk to soda drinkers.12 About 10 percent of sodas sold in the US also contain an endocrine-disrupting additive called brominated vegetable oil (BVO), which has been banned in food throughout Europe and Japan. The health risks of soda consumption are quite varied and complex, but research has linked it to the following 9 health conditions (and more):
Obesity Liver damage Heart disease Diabetes High blood pressure Kidney disease Tooth decay Osteoporosis Heartburn and acid reflux
Stop Your Soda Habit with These Simple Tips
In order to break free of your soda habit, first be sure you address the emotional component of your food 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 food 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. Remember, 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.