U.S. Soda Consumption Falls to 30-Year Low

Drinking Coke

Story at-a-glance -

  • Sales of carbonated soft drinks have dropped for the 11th consecutive year in the U.S.
  • Carbonated soft drink sales declined by 1.2 percent in 2015, as measured by total volume, which is a greater decline than the 0.9 percent drop in 2014
  • PepsiCo had the steepest decline — a 3.1 percent volume loss — and their Diet Pepsi product was particularly hard hit with a nearly 6 percent drop; Diet Coke faced similar losses with a 5.6 percent drop

By Dr. Mercola

If you have recently cut back on soda or eliminated it from your diet entirely, congratulations! You deserve to be proud. Sales of carbonated soft drinks have dropped for the 11th consecutive year in the U.S. This is great news!

The message is spreading that soda is a health disaster, and increasing numbers of Americans are ditching it in favor of their health. This is one more example that we're winning the war against the junk food and beverage industries.

Better still, the rate of decline is increasing. Carbonated soft drink sales declined by 1.2 percent in 2015, as measured by total volume, which is a greater decline than the 0.9 percent drop in 2014.

Soda Consumption at Its Lowest Rate Since 1985

Annual per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in 2015 was 650 8-ounce servings, the lowest rate since 1985.1

PepsiCo had the steepest decline — a 3.1 percent volume loss — and their Diet Pepsi product was particularly hard hit with a nearly 6 percent drop. Coke wasn't hit as hard — it had a 1 percent loss. Diet Coke faced similar losses as Diet Pepsi with a 5.6 percent drop.

Diet soda is falling out of favor due to the growing unpopularity of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose (Splenda).

PepsiCo even replaced the aspartame in Diet Pepsi with Splenda in 2015 in an effort to win back customers who've become wary of aspartame's health effects — but it clearly didn't work.

Coca-Cola has also been trying to stave off further slumps in sales. In 2013, the company rolled out an ad campaign encouraging people to unite in the fight against obesity, but the campaign backfired.2

The ads drew fire from consumers, consumer advocates, and obesity experts, and many saw the campaign as little more than an effort in damage control, considering the overwhelming evidence linking soda consumption to obesity.

Coca-Cola Tries to Convince Americans to Drink Diet Soda

Soon thereafter, Coca-Cola launched another ad campaign, this time assuring the public that diet beverages containing the artificial sweetener aspartame are a safe alternative to regular soda.

They even released an industry-funded study that claimed diet soda drinkers lose weight faster than those who don't drink any soda. That study was also heavily criticized.

Purdue University researcher Susie Swithers, Ph.D., whose own research showed that diet drinks promote heart problems and animals fed artificial sweeteners develop a disrupted metabolic response to real sugar, called the study "fatally flawed."3

For more on the detrimental effects of diet sodas, including in relation to weight gain, check out our infographic below.

Coke is a Joke Infographic Preview

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What Happens When You Drink Soda?

Soda is on my list of the absolute worst foods and drinks you can consume. A 20-ounce bottle of soda contains the equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar, typically in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The rise in blood sugar is quite rapid. Here's a play-by-play of what happens in your body upon drinking a can of soda:

  • Within 20 minutes, your blood sugar spikes, and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat.
  • Within 40 minutes, caffeine absorption is complete; your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, and your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream.
  • Around 45 minutes, your body increases dopamine production, which stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain — a physically identical response to that of heroin, by the way.
  • After 60 minutes, you'll start to have a blood sugar crash, and you may be tempted to reach for another sweet snack or beverage.

The health effects don't stop after one hour, either. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming beverages sweetened with low, medium or high amounts of HFCS increased risk factors for heart disease within two weeks.4

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 U.S. ranked third with an estimated 25,000 annual deaths from sweetened drinks.5

Soda Makers Try to Lure More Customers With Smaller Cans

Part of the soda industry's plan to bring soda back is by introducing, and aggressively marketing, smaller sizes. This gives the illusion that the industry is looking out for American's health while allowing them to increase profits; the smaller sizes cost more per ounce than larger sizes.

As Business Insider reported, Coca-Cola COO James Quincey even said at Future Smarts:6 

"The number of calories consumed by the population in... countries [where obesity is an issue] will have to go down … Moderation is going to have to be key, and beverage is going to have to be a part of it."

With the smaller cans, they've figured out a way to make more money by selling less soda. The Wall Street Journal reported:7

"Industry leader Coke has been the most aggressive in pushing smaller sizes to consumers. The company says sales of its smaller packages — including 8-packs of 12-ounce bottles and 7.5-ounce cans — rose 15 percent in the first nine months of last year.

Meanwhile, sales of larger bottles and cans fell to about 85 percent of its U.S. sales last year from 90 percent in 2011, even though buying Coke in larger quantities almost always costs less at the store."

Fruit Juice Is Not a Healthy Alternative to Soda

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans said they actively try to avoid soda in their diet, according to a 2014 Gallup poll.8 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."9

As Americans cut back on soda, however, many are turning to fruit juice as a healthier alternative. It is not. Fruit juice can easily contain just a much sugar as soda, with similar impacts on your health.

A study published in BMJ Open surveyed the sugar content of juices sold in the U.K. that are specifically marketed to children.10 Nearly half contained 19 grams of sugar (nearly 5 teaspoons), which is the maximum amount a child should eat in an entire day, according to U.K. public health guidelines.11 Study author Dr. Simon Capewell, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, told Time:12 

"Most people assume, wrongly, that fruit juice is healthy and contains little free sugar … the ones we tested contained up to six teaspoons of sugar in a standard 200 ml serving, twice the daily recommended limit for a young child."

Smoothies, which were also tested in the study, fared even worse. Some of the samples tested had up to 8 teaspoons of sugar per serving. While whole fruits do contain fructose, they're also rich in fiber, antioxidants, and a vast array of health-promoting phytochemicals.

The fiber in the whole fruits helps protect you from a rapid and exaggerated rise in blood sugar. The fiber slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream. This is why eating a small piece of whole fruit can be healthy, but drinking a glass of fruit juice is akin to drinking soda.

In one study, those who drank one or more servings of fruit juice each day had a 21 percent higher risk for type 2 diabetes compared to the others. There's also the rarely mentioned methanol toxicity in any preserved juice.

What Are the Best Healthy Alternatives to Soda?

Your best, most cost-effective choice of beverage is filtered tap water. I strongly recommend using a high-quality water filtration system unless you can verify the purity of your water. Seltzer or mineral water is another option. Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime is one way to add some flavor and variety, and many soda drinkers find it easier to ditch soda when replacing it with some sparkling water. Unsweetened tea and coffee can also be healthy beverage choices.

As for a safer sweetener option, you could use stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. You can easily grow stevia and harvest the leaves as you need them. Just keep in mind that 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, including stevia and Luo Han.

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 Techniques (EFT).

More than any traditional or alternative methods 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 manner.