Nothing beats a cold beverage on a hot day. An ice-cold soft drink sounds just right to quench your thirst, and the bubbly sensation gives a pleasant change from regular water. Drinks infused with soda instantly boost spirits and provide the jolt of refreshment needed in oppressively hot weather.
Soft drinks are manufactured and widely distributed throughout the world. Various brews can be made using soda water and syrups to create a delicious bubbly beverage. These drinks get their enjoyable sparkling sensation and fizzy taste thanks to the dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) that’s added to the drinks. But is fizzy enjoyment all there is to sodas? What impact does it have on our bodies?
But before we get into that, we should consider what makes sodas such desirable beverages.
What Makes Soda Appealing?
The main components of carbonated drinks include water, carbon dioxide, sweeteners, colours, acids, and added flavours. Sometimes, drinks can also contain caffeine. These components transform the plain carbonated soda into a sugary sweet, flavorful beverage. These flavours could come from fruit juice, natural extracts, or artificial sources.
The chilled temperature at which these beverages are served and the sugar factor make them highly desirable, especially during hot days. Sometimes, people want a combination of thirst-quenching and flavour. The added sugars might be the primary reason people prefer these over natural fruit juices and plain water. Sugar triggers dopamine release in the brain, making people crave these drinks more and more when the good feelings of a dopamine rush wear off. But sugar is not solely responsible for the addictive nature of these drinks, because people often crave the “diet” or “zero sugar” versions of carbonated beverages too. The addictive nature also comes from the other components. Caffeine, for example, is another addictive substance found in some carbonated drinks. And the carbonation itself is said to be a contributor to the reason why people crave aerated beverages.(1,2)
Health Consequences of Drinking Sugary Soda (soft drinks)
These drinks are often consumed in high amounts, offer no nutritional value to any individual and are associated with a wide range of health effects.
Most of these carbonated drinks have a harmful effect on the dental and general health of people, including children and adolescents. The high sugar content in these beverages has a high cariogenic (ability to cause tooth decay) and acidogenic (ability to produce acid or cause acidity) potential.(3)
Both, regular and diet sodas have been connected to obesity, kidney damage, and several malignancies, like:
- Blood Pressure: Regularly drinking soft drinks has been linked to the development of blood pressure issues(4). The possible involvement of high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks has been linked to oxidative stress, adipogenesis, and increased blood pressure. Moreover, fructose promotes fat storage and causes vascular damage. The little to no caloric compensation, lack of satiety, and high added sugar content are other mechanisms contributing to why the rise in blood pressure can be caused by soft drinks(5).
- Chronic Diseases(6): Soda sweetened with sugars can lead to chronic disorders like:
- Type-2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Non-alcoholic liver disease
- Weight Gain: Prolonged consumption of carbonated soft drinks is a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity because consuming the same number of calories in soda as in solid food does not result in the same feeling of fullness. Some people could keep eating after having a calorie-dense beverage. Additionally, calorie-dense foods may tempt you more when you consume sweet-tasting drinks(7).
- Gout: Sweetened soda beverages are high in fructose, the one carbohydrate which is known to increase uric acid levels(8). Such increased intake of fructose is associated with an increased risk of gout. It is observed that plasma uric acid concentrations increase soon after the infusion of fructose(9).
Health Risks for Children
Children who have a sweet tooth are highly likely to crave these unhealthy drinks because of the high sugar content. But how often a child is allowed to have soft drinks should be monitored as it can have critical health risks for the child.
- An excessive amount of added sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, can make kids more likely to develop obesity, tooth decay, and other health issues.
- It can also have an effect on bone health if children consume these beverages frequently, especially soda and energy drinks. During a child's critical growth and development, these drinks may impact bone density and the body's ability to absorb calcium(10).
It would seem that soft drinks are indeed refreshing and delicious but for all the wrong reasons. The added sugars and flavourings make the beverage one of the worst things you could put in your body, as it has little to no benefits and can cause massive damage.
We recommend switching to healthier options to quench your thirst, especially in the summers, such as homemade iced tea with honey, coconut water, fruit and herb infusion water, cool watermelon juice, and other delicious and natural beverages.
By making small changes to our beverage choices, we can improve our overall health and still enjoy refreshing drinks during the hot summer months. So next time you reach for a soda, consider trying one of these healthier alternatives instead.
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(2) Carstens, E.; Iodi Carstens, M.; Dessirier, J.-M.; O’Mahony, M.; Simons, C. T.; Sudo, M.; Sudo, S. It Hurts so Good: Oral Irritation by Spices and Carbonated Drinks and the Underlying Neural Mechanisms. Food Qual. Prefer. 2002, 13 (7), 431–443. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0950-3293(01)00067-2.
(3) My library. https://books.google.co.in/books?uid=109365201605173880220&hl=en (accessed 2023-02-20).
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(5) Tahmassebi, J. F.; BaniHani, A. Impact of Soft Drinks to Health and Economy: A Critical Review. Eur. Arch. Paediatr. Dent. 2020, 21 (1), 109–117. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40368-019-00458-0.
(6) Boyles, S. Soda Health Facts: Are Soft Drinks Really Bad for You?. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/sodas-and-your-health-risks-debated (accessed 2023-02-20).
(7) Hernández-López, R.; Canto-Osorio, F.; Vidaña-Pérez, D.; Torres-Ibarra, L.; Rivera-Paredez, B.; Gallegos-Carrillo, K.; Velazquez, R.; Ramírez, P.; Barrientos-Gutiérrez, T.; Salmerón, J.; López-Olmedo, N. Soft Drink and Non-Caloric Soft Drink Intake and Their Association with Blood Pressure: The Health Workers Cohort Study. Nutr. J. 2022, 21 (1), 37. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-022-00792-y.
(8) CDC. Sugar Sweetened Beverage Intake. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/sugar-sweetened-beverages-intake.html (accessed 2023-02-20).
(9) González-Morales, R.; Canto-Osorio, F.; Stern, D.; Sánchez-Romero, L. M.; Torres-Ibarra, L.; Hernández-López, R.; Rivera-Paredez, B.; Vidaña-Pérez, D.; Ramírez-Palacios, P.; Salmerón, J.; Popkin, B. M.; Barrientos-Gutiérrez, T. Soft Drink Intake Is Associated with Weight Gain, Regardless of Physical Activity Levels: The Health Workers Cohort Study. Int. J. Behav. Nutr. Phys. Act. 2020, 17 (1), 60. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-020-00963-2.
(10) Nakagawa, T.; Tuttle, K. R.; Short, R. A.; Johnson, R. J. Hypothesis: Fructose-Induced Hyperuricemia as a Causal Mechanism for the Epidemic of the Metabolic Syndrome. Nat. Clin. Pract. Nephrol. 2005, 1 (2), 80–86. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncpneph0019.
(11) Choi, H. K.; Curhan, G. Soft Drinks, Fructose Consumption, and the Risk of Gout in Men: Prospective Cohort Study. BMJ 2008, 336 (7639), 309–312. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39449.819271.BE.
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