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How Dangerous Is Soda? Take This Quiz to See

How bad is soda for you and your grandkids? Separating fact from fiction

By Beth Levine and

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1. True or False: Soda contributes to obesity

(This article appeared previously on

TRUE. More and more evidence shows that drinking sugary drinks increases the risk of obesity or weight gain in children and adults, because of the sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in soda, says Julie Salz Greenstein, deputy director, health promotion policy, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

In fact, an extra soft drink a day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60 percent, she says. Why? When people eat solid food, they feel more full and are less likely to eat extra calories. However, when you drink, you do not get that full feeling. So you eat in addition to drinking your soda, and end up consuming far more calories.

2. True or False: You have to drink a lot of soda to gain weight

FALSE. First off, the average American drinks a lot of soda. According to studies, sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in the American diet. the average American drinks about 40 gallons a year (which is about the weight of a preschooler).

The average American consumes 77 grams (6.1 tablespoons or 308 calories) of added sugar per day, and kids as young as three years old are consuming more than 12 grams (1 tablespoon or 46 calories). Almost half of all added sugars comes from sugary drinks — soda, energy drinks, sport drinks and fruit drinks. To put the numbers into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that adults have no more than six to nine teaspoons of sugar per day, and kids have no more than three and eight teaspoons.

3. True or False: There is no link between soda and cancer

FALSE. The caramel coloring used in most colas has been linked to two cancer-causing chemicals. In February 2011, CSPI petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban its use. The artificial brown coloring in sodas is made by reacting sugars with high pressure and temperatures. Chemical reactions result in the formation of 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole which in government-conducted studies caused lung, liver or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats. In addition, several studies have found correlations between soda consumption and lymphoma, leukemia and prostate cancers.

4. True or False: Drinking soda can lead to diabetes and stroke

TRUE. Drinking just one or two sugary drinks per day increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by about 25 percent, according to a Harvard University study. A study in the American Journal of Nutrition found an increased risk of stroke in people who consumed more than one soda per day. If that’s not enough of a deterrent, diabetes also can reportedly lead to erectile dysfunction.

Man hiding his teeth

5. True or False: Soda rots your teeth

TRUE. Soda consumption nearly doubles the risk of cavities in children and increases the likelihood in adults. “The acid in soda and other sugary drinks causes erosion of tooth enamel, while the sugar in the beverages provide fuel for bacteria that cause tooth decay,” says Greenstein.

Doctor reviewing spine x-ray
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6. True or False: Soda causes osteoporosis

TRUE AND FALSE. A Tufts University study found that daily consumption of colas is associated with low bone-mineral density in older women. The link was not found in other carbonated drinks.

Blood pressure

7. True or False: Drinking soda can cause high blood pressure

TRUE. A study by the Louisiana State University Health Science Center School of Public Health in New Orleans found that drinking too many sugary drinks can increase blood pressure levels, while the International Study of Macro/Micronutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP) notes that for every extra daily sugary drink, subjects on average had a significant increase in blood pressure.

8. True or False: You can avoid soda risks by switching to diet soda

FALSE. While diet sodas contain few or no calories, they have tooth-eroding acids, caffeine and/or artificial sweeteners. In addition, a University of Miami study found that subjects who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events than those who reported no soda drinking.

9. True or False: Drinking diet soda helps keep weight down

FALSE. INTERMAP reported that people who drank diet soda had higher body mass index than those who did not and had lower levels of physical activity.


How to Kick the Habit

If you or your grandkids can’t go cold turkey and give up your soda fix, here's what you can do:

  • Try drinking smaller serving sizes. Order small serving sizes at restaurants or split a can of soda with someone. Keep in mind that one 12-ounce can has about 10 teaspoons (more than three tablespoons) of sugar.
  • Cut the soda with seltzer, gradually increasing the amount of seltzer.
  • Switch to water, unsweetened tea or seltzer. Flavor with lemon, lime or fresh mint.
  • Drink 100 percent fruit juice. While it does have sugar, it also has healthful nutrients, as opposed to soda’s empty calories. If you miss the carbonation, add seltzer.


Beth Levine Read More
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