Here’s a little history lesson: Pepsi, Coca Cola, and Dr. Pepper—the oldest sodas in the world—were all invented by pharmacists. In fact, these soft drinks were originally intended to serve as remedies for nausea, headaches, heartburn, and other ailments. Considering the fact that the most common ingredients found in soda these days include high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings, and food colorings, and phosphoric acid—all of which can have negative health effects when consumed in excess—that’s pretty surprising. While the occasional can of soda may not have dangerous implications, doctors say drinking it even semi-regularly is one of the dangerous soda habits you can get into from a health standpoint.
“There’s a risk to develop oral cavity problems, kidney malfunction, decreased blood flow to the brain, heart disease, osteoporosis, and ulcers, among many other diseases that can be exacerbated by a soda addiction,” says Dr. Ava Williams, a board-certified Primary Care doctor at Doctor Spring. “You may not know it, but each can you drink already brings you a step closer to any of those illnesses.”
One of the reasons why soda is considered so unhealthy is that it contains virtually no nutrients—meaning it’s basically just empty calories. Not to mention, the typical can of soda contains about 7 to 10 teaspoons of sugar. According to Harvard Health, if you were to drink just one serving of soda a day and not cut back on calories in other areas of your diet, you could gain 5 pounds a year. In part, this is because your liver turns fructose (sugar) into fat when you consume too much of it.
But beyond potentially gaining weight, research has repeatedly proven that these syrupy sweet beverages can also increase your risk of many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and gout. One study even found that a higher soft drink intake was associated with an increased risk of death from any cause—regardless of whether it contained sugar or artificial sweetener.
In case you need a little more motivation to nix soft drinks from your diet once and for all, here are how some of the most dangerous soda habits could impact your health. And for more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Drinking soda daily.
You may want to think twice before guzzling down a soda on the daily.
“The high amount of sugars (fructose) that are present in sodas can make you gain weight without fulfilling your hunger,” says Dr. Amber O’Brien, MD, a health expert for Mango Clinic.
The average can of soda contains It’s not just the excess sugar and calories in soda itself that poses an issue when it comes to weight gain. There have been dozens of studies that have explored the link between soft drink consumption and weight, and the consistent finding is that the more soda you drink, the more likely you are to consume more calories from other sources as well.
“It can also lead to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, as you are no longer hungry after drinking these empty calories,” says Dr. Leann Poston MD, a licensed physician with Invigor Medical.
That’s not all. Dr. Poston and Dr. O’Brien both note that sugary beverages like soda can also cause insulin resistance.
“Insulin is a hormone that ushers sugar into body cells,” explains Dr. Poston. “If cells are resistant to the effects of insulin, glucose (sugar) increases in the blood and leads to Type 2 diabetes. Weight gain from soda consumption can also lead to insulin resistance, which can ultimately lead to type 2 diabetes.”
Here are the 28 Unhealthiest Sodas That Are Never Worth Drinking.
Guzzling it regularly if you have tooth enamel issues.
Soda contains certain acids—including phosphoric acid and carbonic acid—which can make your teeth more vulnerable to decay.
“If your tooth enamel is weak, you should avoid consuming sodas as they can cause cavities and tooth enamel destruction,” says Dr. O’Brien.
Dr. Poston adds that the sugar in soda can lead to a plaque buildup on your teeth by feeding the bacteria in your mouth.
“Soda is highly acidic and therefore can increase the risk of cavities and gum disease,” she says.
Basically, regularly drinking soda could ultimately lead to more dentist office visits.
Dr. Williams also points out that the phosphoric acid content can raise your risk of developing osteoporosis because when it gets digested in your stomach, it binds to calcium and therefore prevents your body from absorbing it for bone strength.
Here are 12 Foods and Drinks to Avoid If You Have Sensitive Teeth.
Having soda on an empty stomach.
When those afternoon hunger pangs hit at the office, experts say one of the worst things you can do is grab a soda from the vending machine. In fact, while the bubbles may make you feel a temporary sense of fullness, soda could also cause an upset stomach if you haven’t eaten anything recently.
“It’s most dangerous to drink soda on an empty stomach because when your stomach receives something for digestion, it releases acid,” says Dr. Williams. “When you drink soda, an acidic drink, you’re just releasing extra acid into your stomach. It disrupts the acid-alkaline balance in your stomach and linings of your gastrointestinal system, causing you to feel tummy aches and pains.”
Instead, sip on one of these 12 Healthiest Teas on Grocery Store Shelves.
Opting for diet soda.
Think diet soda is healthier for you? Think again. Just because these alternatives are calorie- and sugar-free doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own risks.
“Diet sodas contain more chemicals than regular sodas,” says Dr. Poston. “These chemicals can adversely affect gut bacteria and insulin sensitivity. There are even some scientific studies that show that artificial sweeteners can cause insulin resistance and weight gain, just like sugar, but the jury is still out on this.”
Not only that, but Dr. Williams adds that diet soda is just as addicting as regular soda, and contains nearly all of the same questionable ingredients with the exception of the type of sweetener—meaning it comes with many of the same negative health implications. In fact, research has found that consuming high amounts of diet soda and artificial sweeteners is associated with an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Additionally, studies have linked diet soda to an increase in the risk of stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, tooth decay, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even depression.
Drinking soda late in the evening.
It’s no secret that consuming caffeine can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Once it enters the bloodstream, it causes your body to ramp up adrenaline production while increasing your blood pressure and simultaneously blocking the chemicals in your brain that allow you to feel sleepy. That’s why Dr. Williams strongly advises against drinking sodas that contain caffeine late in the day.
Even in moderate doses, it can cause insomnia, headaches, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbances, rapid heartbeat, and excessive urination.
It’s also worth mentioning that caffeine can have diuretic properties—by causing you to urinate more frequently, it may put you at a higher risk for dehydration.
Insufficient sleep is associated with a whole slew of health concerns, and since drinking soda at night or even in the late afternoon can inhibit your ability to sleep at night, that’s one habit that’s best to ditch.
Ready to give up soda for good? Here are 6 Surprising Reasons to Finally Give Up Soda.