Sugar consumption, obesity, and the associated illnesses is a hot topic across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, 13 percent of the world’s population were clinically obese in 2014, with a body mass index of 30 or higher — a number that has more than doubled between 1980 and 2014.
Researchers, public health experts, and physicians have identified what they believe is a major culprit in the world’s unhealthy consumption epidemic: Soda. Yes that thirst quenching bottle of blue raspberry pop has been linked to gout, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and premature aging.
Though drinking soda has such harmful effects, the science of soda cessation shows it can be reversed. Here’s why.
You’ll get more shut eye
Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages like energy drinks and fruit juices have an effect on every part of your body, especially the brain. Under normal circumstances, our bodies are well-oiled machines. Our body naturally releases chemicals to remind us we need to eat, sleep, poop, and procreate. But soda inhibits one of those important reminders — we need sleep.
A key ingredient in soda is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which many of us love because it keeps us awake during those 2-hour staff meetings. But that Diet Coke you had during that meeting could be keeping you up at night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, moderate caffeine usage can cause insomnia and sleep disturbances.
You’ll remember where you put your keys
Sleep isn’t the only effect soda has on the brain, it can also make you forgetful. Researchers at UCLA found long-term sugar consumption could lead to impaired memory, learning, and behavioral plasticity. The study found that animals on high-sugar diets had reduced amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which impacted their ability to learn and remember things. If you want a better memory (and who doesn’t?), it might be time to kiss the soda goodbye.
Your heart will thank you
Because of the caffeine and other ingredients in soda, it has an adverse impact on how your heart functions. Caffeine may increase blood flow to the skin and extremities, blood pressure, blood sugar, body temperature, heart rate, stomach acid secretion, and urine production. The more soda you drink, the greater your risk of having a heart attack — at least that’s what researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say. In a 22-year study of more than 40,000 men, researchers found those that drink a sugar-sweetened drink like soda every day could increase their risk of having a heart attack by 19 percent. Those that had soda more than three times a week had an even higher risk. The researchers wrote that reduced intake sugar-sweetened beverages saw significant weight loss, lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Your skin will also thank you
Researchers at UCSF found that drinking soda causes premature skin aging. In a five-year study of more than 5,000 adults, researchers found that people who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages had shorter telomeres. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes. Think of them like the plastic caps at the end of your shoelaces; they exist to protect the chromosome. But as time wears on the telomeres shorten, like your lace caps begin to fray. Telomeres naturally shorten with age.
However, soda consumption and bad habits increase the odds your telomeres will shrink. The rate of telomere shortening can be either increased or decreased by specific lifestyle factors. Better choice of diet and activities can reduce the rate of telomere shortening or at least prevent excessive telomere weakening.
Everyone will love your smile
It’s pretty much a no-brainer that soda — diet or otherwise — isn’t so great for your teeth. Soda is acidic, and the acids in the soda eat away at the enamel causing tooth decay and cavities. In a Chinese study on the effects of soda consumption on oral health, researchers wrote, “It is necessary to educate patients about the harmful effects of excessive soft drink consumption.” They went on to say that dentists should advise patients to limit soda intake, and drink less erosive soft drinks like unsweetened iced tea and iced coffee. The researchers also advised that patients should avoid brushing their teeth within one hour of consuming acidic food and using fluoride and remineralizing toothpaste.
You’ll have gorgeous, commercial-worthy hair
Well, maybe not exactly like the commercials. But according to the American Hair Loss Association, high sugar intake from things like soda can indirectly cause hair loss. It might sound like a leap, it actually makes sense. Sugar affects the hormones in your body, specifically dihydrotestosterone, which causes hair loss. So it is believed if you control the amount of sugar you take into your body, you can help control the amount of dihydrotestosterone and hopefully, the amount of hair on the top of your head.
It may help you lose weight
Its no surprise that drinking sugary drinks like soda causes weight gain. If you hope to lose a few pounds, eliminating soda can do the trick. Two studies have found that swapping soda for a healthier beverage option can lead to some weight loss. The first study, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed moderate weight body weight reduction when a group of teens were given a noncaloric beverage to replace a sugar-sweetened beverages. The second study, which involved overweight and obese adults, found that replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages resulted in 2 to 2.5 percent weight loss.
You’re just going to feel better
If all those reasons aren’t good enough, how about just having the knowledge that your insides could be as beautiful as your outsides. Frequent consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages is also linked to a slew of conditions that make you feel pretty awful. That includes life-threatening kidney disease, diabetes, and obesity — which is a gateway disease for conditions like breast, colon, endometrial, and pancreatic cancer, and heart disease.
Help is on the way
Its easy to say you shouldn’t drink soda. But the reality is, its tough. It tastes wonderful and feels like a fiesta in your mouth. Public health officials, policymakers, and doctors know just how tough it can be. So they’re coming up with a bunch of ways to reduce soda consumption, including higher taxes on soda and aggressive advertising. And that just might work — the advertising that is. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Health Communications, certain PSAs aimed at sugar-sweetened drinks did influence a teen’s intention to cutback. If you can get a teen to cut back on the Mountain Dew, anything is possible.