Shannon and I try to drink milk instead of pop (or soda, or cola, or whatever you want to call fizzy sugar drinks); we typically go through about 2 gallons/week of skim milk. I do it more out of habit, as I drank a lot of milk growing up, but it also has health benefits. Here are some facts for you:
- The average American drinks 18 oz. of soda per day (about 1.5 cans). That adds up to about 216 calories/day for regular soda.
- Soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks have become the largest source of calories in the American diet, replacing white bread.
- 450 different varieties are sold in the U.S.
- Soft drink sales reached $68.1 billion in 2005.
- Sports drink sales increased 19.3% to $1.5 billion in 2005.
That 216 calories per day in soda consumption may not seem like a lot, but over a month it all adds up to nearly 7,000 additional calories which could result in a 2 pound weight gain. Over a year, that translates to 24 pounds. Ouch.
A further complication is that people drinking 250 calories do not feel as full as a person eating 250 calories of solid food. The type of sugar in most soda is man-made high fructose corn syrup. It fails to suppress the production of ghrelin which is a hormone made by the stomach to stimulate appetite. Drink a six-pack of cola which is 900 calories and your body feels no fuller than if you had just swallowed water (ref).
Sipping on cola is like bathing your mouth in corrosive acid. Soda can (and does) dissolve tooth enamel. A series of studies have tested and compared the pH of various sodas. Consider the following:
As soon as you take a sip it acidifies the saliva, which the body then works to neutralize. If you were to gulp your soda the saliva would return to normal in 20 minutes. But most people sip sodas for an hour or more and the mouth stays acidic the entire time. Multiply that by several sodas a day and you know why the dentists often say "Lay off the soda".
In the 1950's, children drank 3 cups of milk for every cup of soda. Today that ratio is reversed. Osteoporosis is a threat for 44 million Americans. Most experts say the real culprit is the displacement of milk in the diet, but some believe that the acidity of colas may be weakening bones by promoting the loss of calcium. One recommendation is to drink a glass of low-fat milk or have some type of low-fat dairy serving for each soda you drink.
A can of diet soda doesn’t contain 10 teaspoons of sugar, but many do contain caffeine (mildly addictive), acids that promote dental erosion, and artificial sweeteners, which have raised small safety issues. It's still not certain whether or not diet sodas ward off weight gain. Researchers at Purdue University found that artificial sweeteners can interfere with the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake.