What Happens in Your Body

The Play-by-Play

It is argued by many professionals in the health community that soda is probably one of the top five worst things to have in your diet. Americans drink about 20 ounces of soda a day, more than any other country, and as no surprise, we are one of the fattest nations in the world. Of course there probably other factors in the American diet that contribute to our obesity, but drinking soda is most certainly one of the primary causes.

Shortly, I’ll walk through the process the body goes through when digesting a can of soda, but first, it’s important to understand one thing that is not always mentioned when discussing the health effects of soda – its acidity. The body maintains a PH balance of approximately 7.1-7.5, which is slightly alkaline. The scale goes from 1 – 14, with 1 being acidic and 14 being alkaline. In another post we’ll discuss the body’s PH levels in more detail, but for now I think it’s intuitive to suggest that if the body is naturally at a PH level of around 7.1-7.5, one should try to maintain those levels. Sodas PH level?  Approximately in the 2.5 range, with no one brand going above 3.0. Soda creates a tremendously acidic environment in the body, which can lead to bone loss, dental erosion, stomach issues (think heart burn, indigestion) and many other problems. Some people even suggest that it would take up to 30 glasses of alkaline water (PH 9) to neutralize one can of soda! It’s just plain not good.

As far as the digestion process goes, let’s dive right in. After ingesting a single can of soda, the following occurs:

10 minutes: Anywhere from 10-20 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup (sugar) hits your system. The recommended daily intake is 10 teaspoons. We’ve likely already doubled it.

20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, which causes a burst of insulin from the pancreas. The liver responds by processing all that sugar, some into fuel and the excess (most of it) into fat.

40 minutes: Your body has absorbed all the caffeine. Blood pressure rises and the pupils dilate. The liver responds by producing more sugar and dumps it into the bloodstream.

45 minutes: Dopamine production in the body increase. This stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, a process similar to that of many drugs.

60 minutes: As a diuretic, the caffeine likely makes you have to pee. Any of the water that may have been in the soda is now gone. Additionally, calcium and other vital minerals have literally been pissed away. This results in longer term bone loss effects, among other ailments.

60+ minutes: You’ll have a blood sugar crash and may become sluggish. You’ll crave more sugar to reverse the effects you’re feeling.

As you can probably tell, much of what happens in our body relates to the amount of sugar in the soda. Soda is made up of mostly water, but gets its taste from added sugars and flavors. The sugars are usually made from high fructose corn syrup, which is typically 55% fructose and 45% glucose (as a reference, regular table sugar usually has a 50/50 ratio between fructose and glucose). Studies have shown differences in the way the body metabolizes fructose and glucose. Fructose, in particular, is linked to belly fat and weight gain, which is more so associated with chronic diseases. Frankly though, both forms aren’t healthy for us. The body has limited storage for sugar, so when it’s bombarded with excess it gets processed into fat (or triglycerides).

And in case you’re wondering, yes, fruit has fructose in it. But you’d have to eat a tremendous amount of fruit each day to even get close to the amount of fructose in a soda. A 20 ounce glass of soda may contain upwards of 30 grams of fructose, whereas most fruits have between 1 and 5 grams of fructose. Plus fruit has fiber, vitamins, and lots of other good stuff. There really is no comparison between the two.

But wait!  Before you think you’ve outsmarted us and sneak to go grab a can of diet soda, know that you’re not doing much better; actually, you’re not doing better at all. Diet sodas are linked to the same health ailments that regular sodas are, and in particular, weight gain, which is proven in study after study. Also, diet sodas are just as acidic as regular sodas and wreak havoc on our systems in the same ways that regular sodas do. Not to mention, many of the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas have been found to have a number of negative health effects.

The moral of the story is that as it relates to health, soda (regular or diet) is an absolute nightmare in a can. It should be avoided altogether and not a single health professional would argue otherwise. Replace your daily soda with tea or coffee if you need to, but please, if you’re at all trying to be even a little healthy, put down that Coke.