Is drinking soda as bad as smoking? New studies are showing us just how dangerous soda can be. But which is worse? Smoking or drinking a diet soda?
By now we’ve all heard the bad news about sugar. It causes obesity. It contributes to cancer. It’s as addictive as cocaine.
I’ve never had cocaine, but I’ve had plenty of sugar, and I’ve certainly been in its clutches. But a few years ago, I stopped drinking soda almost entirely. I was never a big soda drinker. I mostly just drank it at restaurants with my “combo meal.” But now, I only drink it a few times a year around holidays or special occasions–never at restaurants.
But there are some people who drink soda every single day. Maybe you are one of those people! If you are, I beg you to stop.
“But wait,” you might say. “I drink diet soda, so the sugar is not a problem.”
Alas, if only that were true. Most diet sodas contain the artificial sweetener Aspartame. (This is commonly known as NutraSweet and Equal). This is poison, my friends. In fact, a new study (the most extensive to date, lasting 22 years) on aspartame shows that drinking even one 12-oz. can of diet soda a day increases the risk of leukemia by 42% in men and women, and creates a 102% higher risk of multiple myeloma for men.
Aspartame is also an excitotoxin, which when combined with caffeine, makes that diet soda extremely addictive. In the book, Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Fix Itself by Dr. Joseph Mercola, it states that aspartame actually causes formaldehyde to build up in your tissues. This can result in headaches, seizures, fatigue, cognitive problems, and many other health issues.
If you are drinking diet soda in order to lose weight, you are shooting yourself in the foot. A 2014 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that overweight and obese people who drank diet beverages consumed more calories than overweight and obese people who drank beverages with regular sugar. This is because the sweetness in the soda primes your body to receive more sweetness, and your appetite increases. Then you eat more food than you would have if you had not drunk that sugar-free diet soda.
But don’t go back to drinking regular soda, as the risk for cancer and all kinds of other diseases seems to increase with regular sugar.
So what is a person to do? How about switching to “healthier” alternatives like sports drinks and vitamin waters? Not so fast. These things are not healthy in the slightest, and some of them have just as much sugar as regular soda! (The next time you’re at the store, look at the sugar content of a can of Coke and a bottle of Vitamin Water. You will be shocked!) They’ve also got harmful things like brominated vegetable oil (a patented flame retardant), artificial sweeteners, colorings, high-fructose corn syrup (the grandaddy of all evil sugars), and many more harmful substances. These drinks actually cause you to crave more sugar, thus thwarting your efforts to ditch those cookies and other sugary (or diet) sodas.
In Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Fix Itself, Dr. Mercola suggests the following for breaking your soda habit:
- If you are drinking three or more cans of soda a day, you may experience withdrawal headaches. In this case, it is best to gradually wean yourself off the soda by reducing your intake slightly every day.
- If you really enjoy the carbonation from soda, you can purchase a Soda Stream to make your own filtered, carbonated water to which you can then add some lemon, lime, cucumber, or essential oil for flavor.
- Try using EFT (otherwise known as “Tapping”) to re-wire your brain and curb your cravings. (EFT is like combining acupressure with modern psychology. You can learn more about it at The Tapping Solution).
So is drinking soda more deadly than smoking? Actually, no. Smoking accounts for 480,000 deaths per year in the US, along with 41,000 deaths related to second-hand smoke. See the CDC report here. According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity is responsible for 300,000 deaths a year, second only to tobacco-related deaths. However, there are studies that show that drinking one soda a day ages your cells as much as habitual smoking.
When I was young, I didn’t care what I ate. My dad used to worry about me, and for good reason. I went to school and bought a huge chocolate chip cookie for breakfast. I ate pasta with only butter. My diet was terrible, and I guess I felt like I was immortal. But I don’t feel that way now. I care very deeply about my health and about YOUR health.
But being healthy sometimes seems so difficult. You have to eat tons of vegetables. You’ve got to exercise. You have to get enough sleep. You have to reduce your stress. Doing it all can be overwhelming, especially if you are just now gaining a desire to be more healthy. But if there’s one simple thing you can do today to increase your health and prolong your life, let it be giving up your soda. The impact will be huge. There are people who love you and count on you to stick around as long as possible. Sorry for the guilt here, but it’s true! You are important to so many people, whether you know it or not!
I challenge you to quit drinking soda of all kinds. Will you do it?
(For more information on sugar and soda, there is an excellent documentary on Netflix called “Fed Up.” I high recommend it).