Featured story November 25, 2013
A Soda A Day Will Double Your Cardiac Risk Today
By Imran Ali MD, MS
Some call it Pop and others call it Soda. But no matter how you look at it health experts compare it to liquid candy. The soda you may drink with your healthy lunch salad may be doing you more harm than you think. A recent study in the Journal Circulation by Dr. Ravi Dhingra and his colleagues at Boston University shows how your favorite drink might increase your risk for metabolic disorder. Metabolic disorder essentially means that the body has a difficult time processing nutrients that can lead to excess abdominal fat, diabetes and ultimately cardiovascular disease. Jackie Newgent RD a New York City based nutritionist and author of the soon to be released The All Natural Diabetes Cookbook notes that "Regular soda--or any "empty" calorie food or beverage--should be limited in a healthful diet. Instead of sipping soda after soda, what I recommend as a dietitian is to focus on naturally nutrient-rich beverages in the diet such as 100% vegetable juice, soy milk or fat-free milk."
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Regular soda contains large amounts of high fructose corn syrup, which often leads to insulin resistance, and increased levels of triglycerides. High fructose corn syrup is not natural and it joins the ranks of trans fats as one of the dangers of processed foods. This excess sugar can lead to large spikes in blood sugar leading to an overwhelmed insulin response. This results to insulin resistance, a leading cause for metabolic syndrome. Howard Eisenson MD, the director of Duke University's Diet & Fitness Center puts it this way. "Metabolic Syndrome is a big deal - it's common, and those who have it are at significantly increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes." When you come right down to it, this study looked at how making soda a regular part of your diet can cause these effects. Consuming soda regularly every day constantly puts stress on your body's metabolism and eventually it cannot process all the excess sugar leaving it to end up in either two places, abdominal fat or excess triglycerides in the blood. Excess abdominal fat and high triglycerides can increase your risk for heart disease. Dr. Dhingra in his study showed an increased risk of heart disease by up to 46% in those who drank at least one soda per day.
But How About Diet Soda?
You may think that diet soda may not be a problem, but this study looked at both diet and regular soda and the results came out the same. But why? The study points to the added caramel coloring that might be the culprit. Carmel coloring is what is known as a glycated end product, simply meaning that it is already processed thus making the body's insulin ineffective. This can lead to insulin resistance, which results in diabetes. But also it is more than that. Ever notice how artificially sweetened drinks taste sweeter sometimes than regular? This is true with some of the current artificial sweeteners on the market. This "extra sweetness" conditions diet soda drinkers to have a taste for sweet things. So even though they only drink diet soda they may add a cupcake to their lunch routine. Sometimes the best way to avoid this is to ultimately believe in moderation.
It Goes Deeper than Your Soda
Removing soda or at least limiting it from your diet may be good idea, but you need to look at more than that. Obesity is becoming currently the cause for a projected decrease in life expectancy here in the US and soda is just one part of the problem. As the researchers in this study noted, the people who drank regular soda every day were not exactly following the model diet. That is, most daily soda drinkers also eat high fat and processed food as well. Dean Ornish MD founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute at UC San Francisco explains: "Dietary behavior among individuals consuming soft drinks may account in part for the clustering of metabolic risk factors in these people. Individuals with greater intake of soft drinks also have a dietary pattern characterized by greater intake of calories, saturated and trans fats, lower consumption of fiber and dairy products, and a sedentary lifestyle." It is not only the type of diet you have with your daily soda intake that is cause for concern. Imagine all that you are not giving your body when you fill up on the empty calories of soda. Replacing soda with other healthy beverages or plain old water can make way for more nutritional needs. Robyn Flipse MS, RD from Nutritional Communication Services notes: "If you are drinking soft drinks, diet or regular, you are not getting the benefits of essential nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, folate, calcium and vitamin D." The diet soda you see advertised that boasts vitamins and minerals only make up a trace amount of what you can get from juice and milk. Also it may seem that diet soda with vitamins may be a great combination, but the fact is that you are still going to condition yourself to crave sweeter foods and still not feel as hydrated as you would with water.
The bottom line is that regular soda should be enjoyed with moderation because there are a lot of essential nutritional daily needs that will not be fulfilled if you stick to only soda. So live life, be happy, and enjoy a cool beverage with your meals. But also be sure to open yourself to other choices when it comes to drinks because your future health may be at risk!