I’ve received many emails asking for guidance around healthy drink choices. Since studies show people drink one-third of their daily calories, and many beverages contain harmful ingredients while others contain health benefits, it’s important to have the information to sift through the options and make the best choices.

Over the coming weeks, we are going to look at some popular beverages and today we are going to begin by talking about soda — and why diet soda is even worse. Even if you don’t drink any soda, this is one you’ll want to read through and understand as loved ones around you are likely part of the masses consuming soda periodically or on a regular basis and it’s about much more than just sugar and calories.

If you have taken a child to the dentist recently, you may well have seen an empty Coke bottle with an inch or so of sugar on the bottom. Dentists are using this visual to get kids’ attention as to how much sugar is contained in soda. At nine teaspoons, it is hard for an adult to imagine taking a glass of iced tea or coffee and putting nine teaspoons of sugar in before drinking. But that’s what is contained in soda. No wonder it provides a sugar rush and raises insulin levels in the body only to have the come crashing back down later. Soda has been linked to obesity and diabetes and it’s no surprise. But in most cases, it’s not even sugar that’s the real problem; it’s the fact that the sweetener being used is high fructose corn syrup.

As we learned in the special report on sugar you received when you subscribed, high fructose corn syrup has been shown to interfere with leptin signaling, or the cell mechanism that lets you know when you are full so that you stop eating. Fructose is also metabolized in the liver, much like alcohol, which leads to an undue burden on the organ that has to detoxify our bodies from all the harmful toxins we take in. We are meant to handle about 15 grams of fructose, which occurs naturally in fruits, not the 50-70+ grams a day many are ingesting due to soda and processed food consumption.

But there is more to soda than just high sugar.

In order to get that lovely brown or green color, soda includes dyes that are often listed on harmful ingredient lists and additives to create flavor and preserve shelf life that we should all avoid. More than just empty calories, these ingredients have actually been shown to cause harm. One such carcinogen is benzene, which is created when ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and sodium benzoate are added as preservatives.

While the FDA has known since 1990 that benzene is created by this combination and has been found in soda at levels significantly higher than the maximum allowed in drinking water, it was not until 2006 that pressure was put on manufacturers to address this health concern. It took a class action lawsuit against the biggest offenders (benzene levels varied significantly by manufacturer and brand) to require reformulation to bring benzene levels down. (The longer soda sits in a warehouse or your garage and the higher the exposure to heat, the more benzene is created and the greater the potential for cancer-causing impact.)

Though many manufacturers have reformulated their products, some were not required to and continue to follow their same practices. In addition, there is no FDA standard for benzene in soft drinks (as there is for benzene in drinking water), so there is no legal mandate to achieve a certain consistent minimum standard in soda products.

Another problem with soda is that it contains phosphoric acid, which is known to leach calcium from the bones and is connected to osteoporosis. It’s heavily acidic and can shift the Ph balance of your digestive tract dramatically. In fact, most soda has a Ph similar to vinegar, which is not something we would typically drink. The acidity is then covered up by the excessive sugar to balance it. But imagine what drinking vinegar might do to the lining of your stomach!

We need an alkaline environment to detoxify and shifting to a highly acid state can wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal tract and lead to digestive concerns. Phosphoric acid is commonly used as a rust remover and if you are at all in doubt, consider the lawsuit filed against Pepsi earlier this year when a man claimed to find a dead mouse in his can of Mountain Dew.

Pepsi’s defense against the suit countered that it was impossible that the mouse could have made its way into the can at the bottling plant because the acid in the soda would have decomposed the mouse before it reached the consumer, so it had to have entered after opening in order to be found intact!

And not to pick on Pepsi, but Pepsi recently responded to protesters because one of its research flavoring companies, Senomyx Inc., was using aborted human embryo kidney cells in its flavor enhancer testing. It was maintained that the flavors did not contain the fetal cells, but were only used in the testing process. The end results were originally stated to make their way into Pepsi products in 2013. Due to public pressure from right to life groups, Pepsi has announced it will not use the end products of any of the flavor testing utilizing the fetal cells known as HEK-293. (The HEK line, however, is still slated to be used by other food companies.)

At this point I know some of you are nodding your heads saying, “that’s why I drink diet soda instead.” But diet soda has the same concerns about preservatives and dyes, the same issues around phosphoric acid and benzene: the major difference is the source of the sweetness. I shook my head when I saw the soda products being labeled as now made with “real sugar.” I don’t drink soda and don’t give it to my kids at home. But if they have a soda at a birthday party or special occasion, I encourage them to choose the sugar product over the high fructose corn syrup. And I would take high fructose corn syrup version over a diet soda containing aspartame or sucralose any day. And here’s why.

I am only going to highlight a few of the concerns here as I will devote an entire newsletter to artificial sweeteners soon. But you should know that aspartame (known by the brand names NutraSweet or Equal) is considered by many physicians and scientists to be the single most dangerous food additive used today. It is responsible for more than 75% of all food additive complaints to the FDA and has been linked to triggering or worsening multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, chronic fatigue, diabetes, fibromylgia and much more.

It also causes a long list of symptoms such as headaches and migraines, nausea, dizziness, loss of taste, tinnitus, heart palpitations, memory loss, joint pain and even severe seizures and death. Suffice to say it is far worse than MSG or high fructose corn syrup and is on my list of NEVER to ingest substances.

The other major sweetener found in diet sodas is sucralose. Sucralose, marketed as Splenda, is said to be natural, but many scientists say it has more in common with DDT than sugar. It was discovered by scientists seeking a new pesticide: it starts with sucrose but replaces three hydroxyl groups with chlorine atoms. Scientists say that the bonds holding the carbon and chlorine atoms together act like a chlorocarbon; most pesticides are chlorocarbons.

It is not recognized by the body as food and so is not fully absorbed. Your body tries to clear foreign substances by digesting them, but it’s estimated as much as 15% remains intact in the body. (Though ironically, the healthier you are the more of it your body will likely be able to absorb.)

There have been no long-term or large-scale studies done on its safety, and it has been linked to migraines and headaches, dizziness, cramping, stomach pain and more. (Sound familiar?) It’s newer than aspartame so the evidence is still coming in, but for me, it is also on my list of NEVER to be ingested substances.

If the concerns about these artificial sweeteners aren’t enough or you’re not convinced (I’m confident that when I go into it in greater detail in a future newsletter, you will be) for now, there is more evidence to indicate that diet sodas are not the way to go.

The Nurses’ Health Study released in 2009 studied 3256 women and found that those who drank two or more servings of diet soda had a 30% decrease in kidney function compared to those who drank regular soda or other drinks.

Last year, a study by the University of Miami concluded that diet soda led to a 61% increased risk of heart attack and stroke, even after accounting for smoking, physical activity, alcohol and calories consumed. The study failed to find an increased correlation to cardiovascular events among those who drank regular soda.

And if that’s not enough, many people drink diet soda in an effort to lose or maintain weight. But studies show that people who drink diet soda eat more, and gain more weight over time, than people who don’t. One study showed an increase in waist circumference (a more reliable indicator of pending health concerns that actual weight) of 70% over a ten-year period among those who drank diet soda compared to those who did not. Those who drank two or more a day had an increase in waist circumference that was 500 % greater.

Another study from the University of Texas showed a 41% increase in obesity risk for every diet soda consumed per day.

In addition studies have shown the artificial sweeteners such as saccharine, aspartame and sucralose interfere with cell signaling and sets up the body to expect calories. But when they don’t come, they result in cravings that ultimately lead us to eat more. Purdue University has shown that rats fed an artificial sweetener ate more calories, gained more weight and put on more body fat than rats fed sugar.

So if diet soda isn’t the answer, what is? Studies have shown replacing soda with water leads to health benefits and weight loss. So even replacing one soft drink a day with a tall glass of water could lead to big health benefits. But if water just doesn’t do it for you, we’ll look at other healthy beverage options in the weeks to come.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

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