Calories vs. Chemicals: The Soda Battle

taco bell sodas

Soda: the Achilles' heel of our nation. Studies have revealed that soda is second only to water when it comes to the most consumed beverages in the United States. Medical Daily estimates that Americans down a whopping 57 gallons of soda per person every year, despite the dangerous calorie and chemical issues that are fueling the rise of obesity in our country. But we're addicted, right? Plus, what's the harm in a can a day, especially if it's diet? Unfortunately, the calorie (regular cola) versus chemical (diet cola) debate offers little in terms of justification. If you can't seem to ditch the habit of guzzling a bottle or two a day, it may be time to acknowledge that you are fighting a losing battle, ladies. Don't believe us? Take a look below to learn more!

>> Read more: 7 Worst Drinks for Your Waistline

Caloric issues: There's no easy way to put this, but if you are in the habit of popping open a can of cola to wash down lunch or give you an afternoon caffeine boost, you are overloading your body with a whole lot of ingredients you could really do without. In a 12 oz can of Coca Cola there is only 140 calories, but nearly 40 grams of sugar. That means that one can of soda clocks in at nearly 20 percent of your recommended daily carb intake (and that's for those of you who aren't cutting back on your sugar this month!). Yikes! What may seem like a harmless can or two of soda can take its toll on the body. When soda enters our system, our pancreas releases insulin in response to the sugar rush. Insulin allows the sugar to enter our bloodstream, where it is transferred into cells to be converted into energy. However, when our blood sugar levels spike, our liver reacts to the insulin by storing that excess sugar as fat, and then it's goodbye bikini bod! Once that sugar rush wears off, most of us are automatically geared to either reach for another soda or some other sugary treat to preserve our energy. Before we realize it, those calories can really pile up!

sugar label

>> Read more: Can You Really Be Addicted to Sugar?

Chemical issues: The allusion of diet soda as the calorie-free alternative to all that "sugar" in regular soda has fooled the vast majority of Americans into reaching for a diet Dew whenever the urge strikes them. However, all that sugar has to be replaced with something in order to keep those flavors addictive. So what exactly are these heavy-hitting chemicals that are wreaking havoc on our bodies? There's caramel coloring, which can increase your risk of lung cancer, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate, and aspartame to name but a few. Aspartame in particular has suffered a great deal of scrutiny recently due to the severe effects it can have on our systems. It is composed of three chemicals - aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol - which many experts consider to be poisonous to the human body. Aspartame is responsible for 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives, and can lead to serious medical conditions such as brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, diabetes, lymphoma, mental retardation and more. Some of the short term side effects of all those chemicals include:

  • Dissolving tooth enamel: The copious amounts of both sugar and acid in soda are a nasty combination that often results in the wearing down of the enamel on our teeth. Once gone, enamel cannot be replaced, so drink sparingly! Want to know more? Check out The Acid Truth: Our Modern Diet Can Pose a Risk to Your Teeth
  • Contributing to asthma: Sodium benzoate, a chemical found in most sodas, is a preservative that adds a whole bunch of sodium to our favorite drinks. However, sodium benzoate also inhibits the availability of potassium, which can result in asthmatic symptoms.
  • Negatively impacting the kidneys: Sodas contain astronomically high levels of phosphoric acid, which doesn't always play nice with our kidneys. For those of us who indulge a little more frequently than we should, soda can cause some severe renal issues, including kidney stones.
  • Increasing risk of heart disease: One of the greatest dangers that soda brings to the table is the presence of high fructose corn syrup. This sugary substance has been highly scrutinized in recent years, particularly because it can jack up your chances of falling prey to a condition called metabolic syndrome, which is associated with diabetes and heart disease.
  • Reproductive complications: For those of you who are trying to get pregnant, soda can be a big barrier to conception. Soda contains a resin that has traces of the chemical BPA, a cancer-causing agent that can do some real damage to your endocrine system, and can even effect the development of your child. Find out more about how to Safely Satisfy Your Pregnant Sweet Tooth here.
teenager drinking water bottle

>> Read more: How To Stop Drinking Soda Once and For All

Studies at Harvard have revealed that each additional soda we drink a day can increase our likelihood of obesity 1.6 times. If that's not a risk you are willing to take, there are a variety of drinks you can swap in the next time you are craving some instant energy. You can check out some of our sugar-free favorites by clicking here. For more information about the dangers of soda, check out our sources: Medical Daily, Men's Health,, SF Gate: Healthy Eating.