Most of us occasionally crave a sweet, refreshing soda pop. We also know that it’s not the healthiest choice we can make…but are fizzy drinks bad for us? That bubbling, joyful carbonation is undoubtedly attractive – and it can lure you into a false sense of security. How can something so light and lovely be harmful? If it gives you energy and curbs your appetite, what’s the problem?
Where better to turn for an answer than science? Recent studies have, indeed, drawn a link between carbonated drinks and a range of health issues. Let’s scratch the surface a bit. Read on to discover the specifics about how some sparkling beverages should be consumed with caution.
What makes fizzy drinks?
So, what constitutes a carbonated drink? Well, anything that has undergone the process of filtration and the addition of carbon dioxide is classified as carbonated. But carbonation is not really the danger. There are sparkling mineral waters that can actually be beneficial to your skeletal system, for instance. It’s the drinks that include sweeteners (especially artificial sweeteners) and acidulants (additives that impart acidity and enhance flavours) that can have a detrimental effect upon your health. Historically, carbonated beverages were developed by the pharmaceutical industry to be used as tonics for the relief of headaches, indigestion and similar ailments.
Of course, that was long ago. These fizzy drinks have morphed to become a huge, commercial industry. They are available in a multitude of hues and flavours, most of them full of additives and other chemicals. And, as we said, they’re not all equal. More often than not, you’re getting sweetened water that fizzes. How bad is that for your health? What about their former medicinal qualities? Sadly – unless you’re drinking unsweetened sparkling water – you can be almost certain that you’re not doing your body a kindness if you’re drinking them. The younger you are, the worse the news. Every day, there’s a new discovery about how soda pop negatively affects children. Need more convincing? We’ll give you some detail about how your health could suffer if you make a habit of these types of beverages.
You’re drinking too many fizzy drinks if you have…
- a headache
- the shakes
- cardiac arrhythmia
- sleeping problems or insomnia
- nausea and vomiting
- frequent urination
- weak bones or an overall reduction in bone mass (because of low calcium absorption)
- appetite loss
Carbonation and your health
Ever more frequently, there are clinical studies that illustrate how closely connected our health is to what we put in our bodies. It’s no different for fizzy drinks. Their habitual consumption has very real consequences for human health.
It gets on your nerves
With the caveat of sparkling mineral water, most fizzy drinks contain a boat load of caffeine. This alkaloid stimulates your nervous system and heart, making you feel more alert and giving you a greater resistance to tiredness. Because of its effects on the nerves, this compound is a fierce vasodilator – which is to say that it widens the blood vessels. That, of course, is a double-edged sword. If you take in too much caffeine, your body can become addicted and you could experience headaches, cardiac arrhythmia, insomnia and anxiety. Sound like fun? If you drink too much coffee or tea during the day, you can expect these symptoms more often.
There’s no denying the allure of a fizzy drink. Its colour and taste are attractive and a bottle’s shelf life is enviable. Of course, that’s down to its being piled high with preservatives, acidulants and chemicals. As you can imagine, these things are not brilliant for your major organs such as your kidneys. These artificial substances accumulate in your tissues, causing the formation of cancerous cells and, in the longer term, the development of tumours. It truly is a nasty business. If you are in the throes of a bad habit, try to wean yourself off soda pop. In the meantime, load up with fresh fruits and vegetables for their antioxidants.
Anyone for acid reflux?
In contrast to their past as medicinal elixirs, carbonated drinks are now actually considered counter to good digestive transit. The carbon dioxide in these drinks acidifies gastric juices and accelerates their production. It’s a process that also speeds up digestion and this is what leads to acid reflux, acidity and absorption trouble – all of which are terribly painful and distressing if you’re someone who suffers from stomach ulcers or frequent bouts of gastritis.
Carry on, dental caries
Sugar and fizz are a deadly combination when it comes to tooth enamel. Research has produced mounds of evidence that soda pop erodes protective layer of enamel on your teeth and can even alter your taste buds. Corrosion of the teeth spells cavities.
Sparkling water notwithstanding, carbonated drinks tend to be packed with sweeteners. Whether they’re refined sugar (a 330 ml can or bottle can contain up to 4 tablespoons of sugar!), corn syrup or artificial, their effects can be harmful. Low calorie sugar substitutes are those such as sorbitol, aspartame or saccharine. High calorie sweeteners are things such as sucrose and glucose. When you take in too much of any of these types of sugars, your blood sugar levels increase. This paves the way for diabetes and pancreatic inflammation. Another consideration: carbohydrates that are not readily converted to energy by the metabolism are more likely to accumulate in the arteries and tissues as fats. This is what leads to weight gain and obesity.
Goodbye, bone mass
You should be put off by now, but if you need some more proof that your penchant for pop isn’t doing you any favours, consider this: the acids and caffeine in these drinks collude to inhibit your ability to absorb calcium, which reduces bone mass and makes you more prone to fractures. Weaker bones are more susceptible to bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Worse yet, the damnable duo of sugar and acid make it more difficult for your cells to absorb and convert iron. Low iron levels lead to anaemia and increase your exposure to different types of infection.
Pop goes your diet!
If you’re trying to lose a bit of weight or you’re diabetic, diet soda pop is not a magic bullet. The chemical soup of sweeteners and other artificial substances spells trouble if you rely too heavily on it. Because they interfere with proper metabolic functions, carbonated drinks can lead to brain damage, loss of memory and an increased risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s.
Some friendly final words…
Okay, okay. Yes, fizzy drinks can be quite tasty. In moderation – and, by that, we mean less than one per day – they may not do any long-term damage. Why not play it safe? Be healthy and opt for plain water. It needn’t be fancy. There’s nothing like a cold glass of filtered water to quench a parched body. If not water, go for a glass of pure juice, a fresh smoothie or a herbal tea. In contrast to soda pop, these beverages can protect your health. If you’re pregnant or suffer from anxiety, this advice is emphasised. The same can be said if you’re someone who has breast problems, gastric ulcers, cardiovascular trouble, hypertension or frequent migraines. If you’re in this group, your risk is higher.
Apparently, a habit takes 21 days to stick. Try avoiding the fizz for three weeks and you should see abundant health and happiness.