Before we start let’s take a look at something scary. Run on over to Sugarstacks.com and take a quick look at the stack of sugar behind the soda containers. That 20-ounce bottle of Coke has 17 sugar cubes next to it and that 44-ounce Super Gulp that we love to order alongside our meals at 7-Eleven has 39 – 39! –cubes of sugar stacked up beside it. That is how many teaspoons of sugar you are consuming every time you reach for one of these beverages.
Today our addiction to these beverages equally rivals our addiction for tobacco sticks despite the heightened awareness about the unnerving side effects. Whether it’s to pair it with lunch or dinner or get through the evening slump, most of us will end up reaching for a soda at least once daily. This is the main reason why:
America has witnessed a 15 percent increase in obesity rates.
8.3 percent of the American population suffer from diabetes according to the CDC. 35 percent of adult residents have Prediabetes.
“Soft Drink” Or “Soft Poison”
So, is it all about satisfying our sweet tooth or is there more to these relentless soda cravings. Of course it’s no secret that Coke contains high fructose corn syrup but what about the other ingredients? A bottle of Coke also contains caramel color, phosphoric acid and caffeine – the drug most of us can’t get through a day without. Don’t be misled by the term “soft drink,” these ingredients are certainly not “soft”, a more appropriate term is “soft poison” – considering all the damage it may cause in the long haul.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Although the jury is out on whether HFCS increases the risk of obesity and other severe health conditions, studies have suggested that it causes more damage than regular sugar. Researchers at Princeton University demonstrated that rats that were exposed to HFCS become obese in under six months and displayed symptoms of metabolic syndrome, while rats exposed to regular sugar did not. The researchers suggested that the findings might be because of the fact that the excess fructose is metabolized into fat, while the regular sugar is stored as carbohydrate in the muscle and liver or used for energy.
Other studies have indicated that HFCS and other forms of fructose may cause a person to overeat as opposed to regular sugar such as glucose, due to the way it’s metabolized. Therefore, by drinking soda rich in HFCS you are subsequently heightening your overall calorie intake, increasing your chances of gaining weight. And we wonder why so many Americans have fallen victim to obesity.
Sure, there are more harmful ingredients on the market, like Mexican cane sugar, that was removed from most if not all Mexican Coke. Nevertheless, this does not mean that it is harmless.
Phosphoric acid is corrosive and can create toxic fumes when exposed to ketones and alcohols, among other compounds. In its purest form it is a scentless, colorless crystal created from burning elemental phosphorous and combining the byproduct with water or from rocks rich in sulfuric acid. It is used in Coke to reduce the growth of bacteria and molds and contribute to a tangy, sharper taste.
Phosphoric acid is far from “soft.” For instance if its inhaled or comes in contact with the skin or other body tissues it can cause pain, dermatitis, gastrointestinal issues, difficulty breathing and swallowing and blurry vision. Although most of these side effects occur in industrial manufacturing plants with high levels of phosphoric acid; the amount found sodas could also cause complications.
A strong digestive system can buffer the acidity of a 20-ounce bottle of Coke but it does come at a great cost – leeching on your calcium phosphate levels. Eventually this draws minerals from your bones, which is one of the main reasons why osteoporosis is more prone among soda drinkers. A research issued by the “Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine” back in 2000 revealed that bone fractures are more common among female athletes who drink soda than those who did not.
Dental decay is also major problem among people who overindulge in acidic drinks. A research published by the “General Dentistry,” in 2007 supported this, stating that phosphoric acid encourages tooth enamel decay, even in small amounts.
Caramel coloring is what gives Coke its brown hue. Although the Food Drug Administration says caramel coloring is not harmful to the human body, many recent consumer reports have suggested differently. It is made by reacting ammonia with sugar sulfites in heat. The byproducts of the reaction are 4-methylimidozole and 2-methylimidozole. Studies conducted by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, revealed that overexposure to 4-methylimidozole may led to lung cancer.
That encouraged the state to add 4-methylimidozole to their list of potentially harmful compounds under Proposition 65 that states that a warning label must be placed on products containing the compound. In most cases you find 29 micrograms of 4-methylimidozole in a bottle of Coke.
Caffeine – the Culprit Behind Your Cravings
OK, sure — most of use can’t start the day without a cup of coffee, so you may be thinking it’s no big deal that caffeine is one of the ingredients in your favorite beverage – for some of us it’s a plus. However, a single can of Coke contains 64 milligrams of caffeine, about two-thirds of the amount in a cup of coffee. Just imagine how much caffeine you are consuming when you drink a44-ounce Super Gulpat 7-Eleven. For adults this may not be a big problem but for kids it can be dangerous, leading to increased anxiety, stomach problems, hyperactivity and disruptions in their sleep pattern.
Caffeine is a stimulant that belongs to the chemical group called adenosine and has a strong impact on the brain and the central nervous system. Adenosine is a nucleoside that occurs naturally in the brain cells and causes tiredness. Caffeine interacts with neurotransmitters responsible for binding adenosine and inhibits the body’s ability to relax, causing the nerve cells to accelerate.
A person who has decided to quit caffeine may experience withdrawal symptoms, which for most people is a sign of addiction. Of course, there are many arguments to dispute the fact that caffeine is addictive. As with many controversial nutritional debates today, there are no conclusive evidence to support the argument brought forth. However, if you drink a lot of coffee, there is a high chance you depend on caffeine to perform your daily duties, as with most caffeine lovers. But caffeine is not the only culprit, majority of the ingredients found in carbonated beverages may cause dependency.
So What Can You Do?
If you recognized the fact that you have an addiction to Coke or any other carbonated beverage, you are probably asking this question: what can I do about my addiction? The good news is overcoming a caffeine addiction is much easier than other additive substances. Some people have experienced headaches during the withdrawal, but most supplements and herbs can help to reduce these.
Start moderately by switching to a healthier “caffeinated” beverage such as antioxidant-rich green tea, which is a good alternative to soda considering the overall benefits. Isolate yourself from the source of your addiction and fuel up on water – it keeps you hydrated and it will not make you feel deflated like the letdown after a caffeine high. After two weeks of avoiding caffeinated beverages and replenishing your body with healthier options, the norepinephrine receptors and adenosine in the brain will return to normal, riding you of those relentless soda cravings.