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Bursting bubbles: the sour side of soda

May 2019

Spring is in the air! For some, a soda is the perfect complement to a sunny afternoon – the bubbles, the crisp taste, the refreshment! For others, it’s that pick-me-up needed to get through the day.

It’s no surprise that – in spite of evidenced-based data linking regular soda consumption with health risks such as obesity and diabetes – Americans are still drinking a lot of the bubbly stuff.

Thankfully, there is research on the effects of soda and sugary drink consumption. Let’s look at some of the drivers to health risks associated with soda consumption.

First stop: sugar.

According to the USDA, the average American consumes 270 calories each day from added sugars. That’s 17 teaspoons of sugar. A 12-ounce regular sugar-based soft drink contains approximately 9 to 10 packets of sugar. When we take too much added sugar into our body, it struggles to shed the extra empty calories – among other things – which can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease over time.

Sweeteners can be found in diet or regular soda and are generally categorized as nutritive or non-nutritive sweeteners.

Nutritive sweeteners provide calories that the body can digest, but overconsumption of these sweeteners can also place the body at risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Sugar is a nutritive sweetener.

Let’s take a quick glance at the nutritive sweeteners commonly found in soft drinks:

  • Sucrose – A naturally occurring sugar as found in cane and beet sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup – Made from cornstarch, a processed simple sugar with no
  • nutritional benefits that is often added to concentrated juice drinks and soft drinks
  • Added sugars – Processed sugar, syrup or molasses, which are used in the processing and preparation of foods and concentrated drinks

So what’s the deal with non-nutritive sweeteners? They are common in diet soda. You may know these as artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes, and they go by names like Aspartame, Acesulfame – Potassium (Ace-K), Sucralose and Saccharin. They can be up to 700 times sweeter than table sugar. All non-nutritive sweeteners have something in common: They provide little to no calorie value, and they do not metabolize in the body like regular sugar.

While there is research suggesting non-nutritive sweeteners contribute to obesity, there is not enough evidence to conclude that non-nutritive sweeteners have a negative impact on blood sugars or to conclude that diet soda causes obesity or heart disease.


If you have diabetes, I encouraged you to play it safe. Consuming sugary drinks will elevate blood sugar levels. To stay in control of your diabetes, I recommend making beverage choices that work for you, such as choosing drinks with little or no added sugar while keeping in mind that portion sizes are important.

Moderation is key for everyone! If you drink soda regularly, try mixing it up with water and other calorie-free beverages. If your goal is to shed a few pounds, water has wonderful benefits to help you feel fuller between meals and can help you consume less calories during meals.

You can also consider some of these alternatives:

  • Beet juice
  • Carbonated or sparkling water
  • Cranberry juice
  • Diet soda
  • Low-calorie lemonade
  • Seltzer water
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Zero-calorie flavored water

Cheers to you and a healthier weight, when you think about what’s “On Your Plate!”

Pearl Brooks