The Soda Effect: How Sweetened Beverages Change Your Body

The soda Effect

The soda EffectWith the convenience of vending machines, gas stations, and drive-thru restaurants, getting a soda has never been easier.

As a popular beverage choice, we can’t seem to get enough of the sweet, fizzy drinks. Over the last decade, soda has started to get a bad reputation, being taken out of some vending machines and even taxed in New York City. But what is all the fuss about?

Are sweetened beverages really that bad for you?

A recent study showed that the average American gets 21 percent of their daily calories from beverages. The majority of these drinks are sodas and fruit drinks with added sugars. In general, there has been a large increase in consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks over the last several decades.

Woman drinking glass of orange juice with straw in dinerAlso, these beverages offer very little, if any, nutritional value. And to top it off, people generally don’t compensate for these calories by eating less.

How does soda impact weight gain?

Weight gain and obesity are acknowledged health issues. Just to give you an idea: in 1960, only 13 percent of the U.S. population was obese. By 2009-2010, 68 percent of U.S. adults were overweight or obese.

Changes in lifestyle, including beverage choices, have contributed to these weight-related health challenges. In the past 40 years, calories consumed from drinks have increased by 226 calories per day. 152 of those calories are coming from caloric sweetened beverages.

What about diabetes?

Unfortunately, the extra calories not only impact weight gain, but also our risk for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

You may have heard that not all calories are created equal. The calories in soda and sweetened fruit juices are almost all from simple carbohydrates. These simple carbohydrates are easily metabolized and cause a spike and crash in blood glucose levels. To recover from the crash, some people reach for more carbohydrates. Over time, this blood sugar rollercoaster may impact the body’s ability to metabolize sugars properly, which can then lead to diabetes.

A recent study published in Diabetologia found that a five percent higher intake of energy (as a proportion from total daily energy intake) from sweetened beverages was associated with an 18 percent higher risk of diabetes.

The study also found that if the participants replaced a serving of a sugary beverage with a serving of water or unsweetened tea or coffee, the risk of diabetes decreased by 14 percent.

the soda effectSoda lacks protein and fat, which promote satiety – or the feeling fullness. Without feeling full it is easy to keep sipping on extra calories.

Even though some fruit flavored juices may seem healthier, be sure to check that they are made of 100 percent whole fruit juice. And even then, be wary of how much you drink. Unlike fruit, juices don’t have fiber. The soluble fiber found in most fruits can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. Fiber also can help prevent some chronic conditions.

The good news is that people don’t necessarily need to cut soda from their diet completely. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 450 calories per week from sugar-sweetened beverages (based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories).

To start, try replacing just one serving of soda with water. It can make a huge impact on your health. If you struggle drinking plain, unflavored water, check out this website to jazz it up a bit!


Nutrition and healthy eating. (2015, September 22). Retrieved July 07, 2016, from

Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2012). Prevalence of obesity in the United States. NCHS Data Brief, (82).

O’Connor, L., Imamura, F., Lentjes, M. A., Khaw, K., Wareham, N. J., & Forouhi, N. G. (2015). Prospective associations and population impact of sweet beverage intake and type 2 diabetes, and effects of substitutions with alternative beverages. Diabetologia, 58(7), 1474-1483. doi:10.1007/s00125-015-3572-1

Popkin, B. M. (2007, March). Nestlés Water Management Report; An expert voice on beverages and human health. Nestlé S.A., 17.

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