Photo of someone pouring sugar into a cup

9 min read

Health Facts on Sugary Soda: The Truth About Sugar in Soda

Chances are, we're not the first people to tell you that soda isn't nutritious. But what you might not know is just how hazardous sugary soda is for your health. Soda is a beverage crammed with questionable and controversial chemicals that could potentially interrupt and mess with your body's most fundamental and essential processes.


And here’s the truth about soda: pretty much everyone, including the makers, knows that soda isn’t a good-for-you product.


Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, like energy drinks, are some of the most non-nutritious products because they provide so many calories and virtually zero nutrients.1 


Want the health facts on sugar in soda? You've come to the right place. In this blog, we're focusing on the health effects of the high amount of sugar found in popular carbonated beverages.


How Much Sugar Is in a Can of Soda?

First things first, how much sugar are we talking about here?


Well, the American Heart Association (AHA), recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day and men no more than 36 grams.2


Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, A&W Root beer, and Pepsi all have over 40 grams of sugar in one can. Meaning by consuming one twelve-ounce can of soda, both men and women exceed their suggested amount of sugar per day.


And that's just with one can of soda! That doesn't include all the natural sugar sources, like fruit, that you might be eating throughout the day. This is why when it comes to health, sugary soda has a not-so-sweet reputation.

Rethink your drink graph showing high sugar levels in soda

Naturally Occurring Sugar vs. Added Sugar

But wait, what's the difference between the sugar in your soda vs. the sugar in your fruit? Sugar is sugar whether it comes from an apple or your soda. But there is a difference between natural sugar sources and added sugar. Let's dive into it:


Naturally Occurring Sugar

Sugar naturally occurs in all foods that contain carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. But there's less cause for concern with natural vs. added sugars.


Why's that? That's because naturally occurring sugars come with other healthy ingredients, such as fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. They might also have fat, fiber, and/or protein.


The addition of all these healthy nutrients helps slow down your body's digestion of these natural and whole foods. This allows for the sugar in these food sources to provide an ongoing supply of energy to your cells vs. an all-at-once sugar rush.3


Added Sugar

The sugar in soda, on the other hand, is added sugar. These are sugars added to products to increase the flavor and/or extend shelf life. Consuming added sugar in excess has a variety of well-documented health impacts, such as obesity and diabetes.3


Plus, many products high in added sugars don't have many (or any) of the nutritious elements you'll find in naturally occurring sugar sources. Take a look at the back label of some of the leading soda brands. We're going to guess that there are no fiber, protein, or antioxidants in there (unless you're drinking OLIPOP of course!).


When you eat fruit, like an apple, you ingest a large amount of sugar alongside fiber and other nutrients. The combination of fiber with sugar slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing a sudden spike.3 


When you pop open a sugary soda, all you're drinking is sugar. All that sugar floods your internal organs, sending your pancreas and liver into overdrive. The excess sugar is then converted into fatty globules in the bloodstream, which may lead to heart disease.


Additionally, the lack of fiber means that soda leaves you feeling unsatisfied.3 Research indicates that soda drinkers do not feel as satisfied as non-soda drinkers when eating the same amount of calories from solid food. This means that soda drinkers are more likely to consume more calories than they need. This can have negative consequences for your health.1


Sugar in Soda: Possible Negative Health Effects

What exactly are the possible negative health consequences of sugar in soda?


The Centers for Disease Control recognizes soda consumption as associated with a long, unpleasant list of health problems, including:4

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gout
  • Asthma
  • Heart, kidney, and fatty liver disease 

Additionally, added sugar intake increases health risks like higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. These are all linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.5

Here are the ways in which sugar contributes to soda’s unhealthy reputation and health problems.


Weight Gain

The sugar in soda provides empty calories that do nothing but increase your blood sugar. The empty calories and increased blood sugar combination are two processes known to cause excess body fat.


Additionally, sugar is unlike other calories. It negatively affects your normal appetite controls. This drives your metabolism to convert those calories into extra fat.4


Aging

Sugar harms your skin through a natural process called glycation. In this process, sugar molecules attach to proteins, collagen, and elastin and form harmful free radicals known as advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).


These AGEs could impair your skin structure and lead to wrinkles and lines. The more sugar you consume, the more these AGEs accumulate.4


Inflammation

When you consume too much sugar, your body responds by sending inflammatory messengers known as cytokines. In this state of inflammation, you are at a higher risk of diseases ranging from digestive disorders to heart disease or even cancer.4


Liver Problems

Consuming too much refined sugar could create a fatty buildup that leads to liver disease. The production of fat in the liver is a process known as lipogenesis.


The result is a nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that puts you in danger of a plethora of other chronic diseases. Some research concludes that sugar can be as detrimental to the liver as alcohol.4


Tooth Decay

As your dentist likes to tell you: sugar erodes your teeth. The naturally present bacteria in your mouth devour the sugar in your diet. This produces acids that demineralize the enamel on your teeth, leading to cavities and tooth loss.4


Fatigue

Sugar forces your blood sugar to increase and then immediately plummet. This crash and burn cycle triggers feelings of irritability and leaves you exhausted until your next sugar fix.4


Brain Health Concerns

According to research conducted by the University of South Wales, chronic sugar consumption creates modifications to the hippocampus, an essential area for memory and stress.


In another study led by UCLA, they found that a high sugar diet undermines learning and memory ability. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic observed in a study that people who overeat sugar have a greater risk of cognitive deterioration as they age.4


Weakened Immunity

Consuming sugar boosts insulin levels which leads to high cortisol levels. Because cortisol is a stress hormone, you put stress on your body, resulting in a weakened immune system.4


Heart Health Concerns

Research demonstrates that those who eat more sugar are 400% percent more likely to suffer from a heart attack.4


How to Cut Back on Sugary Soda

Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, are the greatest contributor of calories and added sugar to the U.S. diet.1 Cutting out sugary soda is an easy way to take one step toward removing some added sugar in your diet and combating the harm added sugar causes.


Luckily, with drinks like OLIPOP, it’s easy to cut sugary soda out of your diet! With all the flavor and fizz of regular soda, OLIPOP is a deliciously fizzy tonic that combines the benefits of prebiotics, plant fiber, and botanicals to support your microbiome and benefit digestive health. Instead of added sugar and ingredients that cause more harm than good, we pack OLIPOP with ingredients that do good for your health and body.


Sources

  1. “Sugary Drinks,” The Nutrition Source, September 4, 2013, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/.
  2. “Added Sugars,” www.heart.org, accessed May 11, 2021, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars.
  3. Harvard Health Publishing, “The Sweet Danger of Sugar,” Harvard Health, accessed May 8, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar.
  4. Vani Hari, Feeding You Lies: How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health (Hay House Inc, 2019).
  5. “Harvard Health,” Harvard Health, May 1, 2017, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar.
Cheat Sheet
  • Soda and other sugary drinks, like energy drinks, are some of the most unhealthy products because they provide so many calories and virtually no other nutrients.
  • The Centers for Disease Control recognizes soda consumption as associated with a long, unpleasant list of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, gout, asthma, and heart, kidney, and fatty liver disease.
  • Sodas contain added sugar which are added to products to increase flavor and or extend shelf life. Unlike naturally occurring sugars, products high in added sugars tend to contain little to no nutrition. 

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