15 min read
The average American adult consumes over 77 grams of sugar every single day.1 The largest source of sugar intake is sugar-sweetened beverages like soda.2 In fact, nearly half of all Americans, around 48%, enjoy a daily can of soda.3
At around 39 to 45 grams of added sugar and 150 calories per can, that’s over 30 pounds of sugar and 54,000 calories every year just from soda alone.4
How Much Soda Is Too Much Soda?
According to the American Heart Association, women should limit their sugar intake to only 100 calories per day, or about 25 grams of sugar. For men, the recommendation is 150 calories per day or about 37 grams of sugar.1
That means the leading soda brands put you well above your daily limit in just one can. (Never mind all the other forms of sugar you might be consuming throughout your day!)
So, how much soda is too much soda? Well, according to the American Heart Association, if you’re regularly drinking soda, you’re drinking too much soda. What consequences is this sugar overload having on your health?
Here we dive into a few of the telltale signs that you’re drinking too much soda (including diet soda!). If you’re experiencing these side effects it might be time to adapt your soda habits to a healthier alternative.
7 Side Effects of Too Much Soda
1. Increased Sugar Cravings
The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you crave. And that’s because sugar has a powerful effect on the brain. So powerful that the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse says that sugar impacts your brain’s reward center in a similar way to drugs like cocaine and alcohol.5
When your brain processes sugar, such as a bite of an apple or a sip from a can of soda, it releases chemicals and hormones known as your “food reward pathway”.6 In other words, your brain is excited because it thinks nutrition and energy are coming your way.
And in the case of the apple, that’s what happens. Apples have fiber and other nutrients that satisfy your food cravings and slow down your digestive process so your body can slowly absorb the sugar that it needs.1
Soda, on the other hand, is like releasing a dam of sugar. It comes rushing into your system all at once. This results in the spike in energy you often experience with sugar, but also the all-too-familiar sugar crash. Without fiber or other nutrients to slowly absorb all that sugar, most of it goes to waste as extra calories (and overwhelms your system in the process).7
This confuses your brain because it expected to feel full and satisfied but it wasn’t. This results in further sugar cravings and the cycle continues.
And it’s not just sugar that has this effect. Although artificial sweeteners aren’t sugar, they taste like sugar, tricking your brain into thinking it’s about to get a burst of energy. When it doesn’t get the energy it anticipated, this can train your brain to crave the very sugar that the sweetener was trying to replace.6 8
2. Weight Gain
With all that sugar from a can of soda rushing your system, your body needs reinforcement, otherwise known as insulin, to help manage your now elevated blood glucose levels. And this increased level of insulin helps convert all these extra calories to fat.5
High levels of insulin also lead to leptin resistance, a hormone that signals to your brain it’s time to stop eating because you’re full.9 This is what makes it so easy to mindlessly enjoy foods that are high in sugar because sugar confuses the signals between your brain and body. In other words, your brain isn’t telling you to stop.5
And on top of that, liquid sugar calories are always easier to consume than solid sugar calories.10 For example, you’d need to eat 3-4 donuts to get the same amount of sugar as a can of soda.
3. Higher Sweet Tolerance
High levels of sugar or artificial sweeteners can also impact your brain’s tolerance for sweetness. Put simply, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you need to satisfy your sugar cravings. Just like any other addiction, your brain starts needing more to get the same effects.7 9
This is harmful in several ways. For one, it leads to further sugar cravings and more sugar calories. But it also reduces the appeal of lower sugar, higher nutritional foods like fruit.
If you’re someone who doesn’t eat a lot of sugar, you might find that a bowl of strawberries is the right amount of sweetness to please your sugar cravings. If you’re someone who consumes a lot of sugar, you might not find those strawberries sweet enough.
Because of this sugar preference, you’re more likely to choose high-sugar foods. This results in a lower intake of important nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy.12
4. Poor Gut Health
Unlike OLIPOP, most soda companies aren’t partnering with leading microbiome researchers and spending years formulating a gut-healthy beverage. A quick look at the back label of the leading soda brands will reveal a whole lot of sugar, food coloring, and artificial ingredients.
These non-nutritive ingredients do very little to support the healthy bacteria living in your gut. And your gut impacts everything from your immune health to your digestion to your cognitive functions. These high levels of sugar can cause intestinal inflammation and lower the diversity of your gut microbiota, increasing your risk for infection and illness.11
And artificial sweeteners aren’t any better. Like sugar, artificial sweeteners can alter your gut microbiota and lead to glucose intolerance. This increases your risk of several metabolic health concerns.15 16 17 Some of the most popular artificial sweeteners used in sodas, like saccharin, neotame, aspartame, acesulfame-K, and sucralose, are among the biggest culprits we know about when it comes to the possible alteration of your gut microbiota.15
5. Dehydration, Headaches, Difficulty Sleeping, and Other Caffeine Side Effects
Caffeine, another big ingredient you may find in your can of soda, can have some unwanted side effects like an increased risk of dehydration, elevated heart rate, anxiety, headaches, and can cause difficulty sleeping, just to name a few. This is why sometimes you’ll feel jittery, or like your heart is going to explode out of your chest when you drink too much soda or other high-caffeine beverages.
And if you’re not supplementing your soda with extra water, you can experience headaches, fatigue, and other signs of dehydration.4 Caffeine also takes over five to seven hours to work its way out of your system.13 So if you’re a regular evening soda drinker, this could leave you tossing and turning in your bed unable to get a full night’s sleep.
6. Trips to the Dentist
As your dentist has likely told you one too many times, sugar is not great for your teeth. When sugar lingers on your teeth and gums, this allows bacteria to grow, resulting in tooth and gum decay.12
Over time, this can lead to painful cavities or worse conditions like gum disease. A bit of soda every once in a while is fine, but regular consumption of sugar could result in frequent trips to your dentist to get yet another cavity filled.
7. Increased Risk of Health Concerns
Perhaps most concerning is that there’s a strong relationship between the consumption of high-sugar beverages like soda and serious health outcomes. Sugar consumption increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, stroke, and more.14 It impacts almost everything from your liver to your joints to your skin.
It’s also worth noting that there is no conclusive evidence that diet soda reduces your risk for many of these health concerns. If anything, the research shows that your risk is just as high drinking diet soda as it is for regular soda.7 8
Take this 19-year study on over 450,000 individuals across Europe as an example. Researchers found that those regularly consuming both sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened sodas were at a higher risk of mortality than those who didn’t drink any soda at all.11
Swap Your Soda for OLIPOP Instead
It’s time to make the switch to a healthier soda alternative. At OLIPOP, we combine the rich, sweet, and bubbly flavors you know and love with the complex nutrients you need. While other sodas lack any kind of nutritional value, we pack OLIPOP with prebiotics, plant fibers, and botanicals for a gut boost that feels as good as it tastes (and it tastes really, really good).
Plus, we skip out on all that unhealthy extra sugar. Our squad of delicious soda flavors has no more than 5g of added sugar per can. (Featuring natural ingredients like cassava root syrup, sweet birch, real fruit juice, and stevia!)
We’ve taken a beverage traditionally dominated by processed sugar and artificial ingredients and made it into a healthy and delicious experience. That’s because at OLIPOP we know that life is too short to load up on unnecessary sugar and zero nutrition. But it’s also too short not to satisfy your sweet cravings.
And as you start cutting out added sugars and enjoying our pop more and more, you’ll start to notice that you crave those unhealthy soda calories less and less.
- American Heart Association. (n.d.). How much sugar is too much? Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/how-much-sugar-is-too-much
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
- Saad, L. (2012, July 23). Nearly Half of Americans Drink Soda Daily. Gallup. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/156116/nearly-half-americans-drink-soda-daily.aspx
- Csatari, J. (2021, February 10). Warning Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Soda, According to the Mayo Clinic. Eat This, Not That. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.eatthis.com/news-warning-signs-drinking-too-much-soda-mayo-clinic/
- University of California San Francisco. (2018, December 8). How Much Is Too Much? SugarScience. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html#.YhUCh4rMKbj
- Vani Hari, Feeding You Lies: How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health (Hay House Inc, 2019)
- Cleveland Clinic. (2019, October 10). Just How Bad is Diet Soda for You? Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/3-reasons-you-should-kick-your-diet-soda-habit/
- McMillen, M. (2017, May 5). Is Drinking Diet Soda a Health Risk? WebMD. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20170505/diet-soda-health-risks
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, January 13). Know Your Limits for Added Sugars. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/sugar.html
- Harvard Health. (2022, January 6). The sweet danger of sugar. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar
- Mullee, A., Romaguera, D., Pearson-Stuttard, J., Viallon, V., Stepien, M., Freisling, H., Fagherazzi, G., Mancini, F. R., Boutron-Ruault, M. C., Kühn, T., Kaaks, R., Boeing, H., Aleksandrova, K., Tjønneland, A., Halkjær, J., Overvad, K., Weiderpass, E., Skeie, G., Parr, C. L., . . . Murphy, N. (2019). Association Between Soft Drink Consumption and Mortality in 10 European Countries. JAMA Internal Medicine, 179(11), 1479. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.2478
- Mayo Clinic. (2021, April 3). Added sugars: Don’t get sabotaged by sweeteners. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/added-sugar/art-20045328?reDate=22022022
- Walker, Ph.D., M. (2018). Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (Reprint ed.). Scribner.
- Stanhope, K. L. (2015). Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy. Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 53(1), 52–67. https://doi.org/10.3109/10408363.2015.1084990
- Ruiz-Ojeda, F. J., Plaza-Díaz, J., Sáez-Lara, M. J., & Gil, A. (2019). Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. Advances in Nutrition, 10(suppl_1), S31–S48. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmy037
- Bian, X., Chi, L., Gao, B., Tu, P., Ru, H., & Lu, K. (2017). The artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium affects the gut microbiome and body weight gain in CD-1 mice. PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0178426. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178426
- Nettleton, J. E., Reimer, R. A., & Shearer, J. (2016). Reshaping the gut microbiota: Impact of low calorie sweeteners and the link to insulin resistance? Physiology & Behavior, 164, 488–493. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.04.029
- The average American adult consumes over 77 grams of sugar every single day.
- Leading soda brands put you well above your daily recommended sugar limit in just one can.
- Sugar impacts your brain’s reward center in a similar way to drugs like cocaine and alcohol.
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