When consumed in excess, added sugar can have disastrous effects on your health.
However, some sources of sugar are worse than others… and sugary drinks are the worst, by far.
This primarily applies to sugary soda, but also to fruit juices, highly sweetened coffees and other sources of liquid sugar.
Here are 13 reasons to avoid soda (and other sugary drinks) like the plague.
1. Sugary Drinks do Not Make You Feel Full and Are Strongly Linked to Weight Gain
Added sugar is highly fattening… and liquid sugar even more so.
One of the reasons for this, is that sugar supplies large amounts of the simple sugar fructose, which does not lower the hunger hormone ghrelin in the same way as glucose, the main carb found in starchy foods (1).
Studies have also shown that fructose does not seem to stimulate the satiety centers in the brain in the same way as glucose (2).
The brain is actually supposed to regulate your calorie intake. If you eat more of one food (like potatoes), you should automatically eat less of something else instead.
In one study in children, each daily serving of sugar-sweetened beverages was linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity (10).
The truth is… sugary drinks are THE most fattening aspect of the modern diet. If you want to lose weight, or avoid gaining it over time, then you should seriously consider removing these drinks from your life.
Bottom Line: Liquid sugar does not cause satiety in the same way as solid foods, making people eat more total calories. Sugar-sweetened beverages may be the most fattening aspect of the modern diet.
2. Large Amounts of Sugar Are Turned into Fat in The Liver
Sugar is composed of two molecules… glucose and fructose.
Glucose can be metabolized by every cell in the body, whereas fructose can only be metabolized by one organ, the liver (11).
Sugary drinks are the easiest (and most common) way to consume excessive amounts of fructose.
When we consume too much, in the context of a high-carb, high-calorie Western diet, the liver becomes overloaded and turns the fructose into fat (12).
Bottom Line: Sucrose and high fructose corn syrup are about 50% fructose, which can only be metabolized by the liver. Excessive amounts may contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
3. Sugar Drastically Increases Belly Fat Accumulation
Sugar consumption makes you prone to storing more body fat.
In a 10 week study, 32 healthy people consumed beverages sweetened with either fructose or glucose (16).
Glucose consumers only had an increase in subcutaneous fat (not linked to metabolic disease), while fructose drinkers had a significant increase in the harmful visceral fat.
Bottom Line: High consumption of fructose causes accumulation of visceral fat, the dangerous fat that leads to metabolic disease.
4. Sugary Soda Can Cause Insulin Resistance, a Key Feature of Metabolic Syndrome
The main function of the hormone insulin, is to drive glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
But when we drink sugary soda, the cells tend to become resistant to the effects of insulin.
When this happens, the pancreas must make even more insulin to remove the glucose from the bloodstream, so insulin levels in the blood go up.
This condition is known as insulin resistance.
Bottom Line: Excess sugar can lead to insulin resistance, the main abnormality in metabolic syndrome.
5. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages May be The Leading Dietary Cause of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a very common disease, affecting about 300 million people worldwide.
It is characterized by elevated blood sugars in the context of insulin resistance or a deficiency in insulin.
Given that sugary drinks can lead to insulin resistance, it is not surprising to see that numerous studies link soda consumption with type 2 diabetes.
To put that number in perspective, if the entire US population added one can of soda to their daily diet, almost 3.5 million people might become diabetic.
Bottom Line: There is a large body of evidence linking added sugar consumption, particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages, to type 2 diabetes.
6. Sugary Soda Contains No Essential Nutrients… Just Sugar
Sugary soda is “empty” calories. No doubt about that.
It contain absolutely no essential nutrients… no vitamins, no minerals, no antioxidants and zero fiber.
It literally adds nothing to the diet except excessive amounts of added sugar and unnecessary calories.
Bottom Line: Sugary sodas contain little to no essential nutrients and can therefore be classified as “empty” calories.
7. Some Believe That Sugar Can Cause Leptin Resistance
Leptin is supposed to protect us from both starvation and obesity, and is often referred to as the “satiety hormone” or the “starvation hormone.”
Well… several preliminary studies have linked sugar intake, primarily fructose, to leptin resistance in rats.
However, this is far from definitive and needs to be confirmed in human studies that use physiologically relevant doses of sugar. These rat studies used massive doses, as in up to 60% of calories as fructose.
Bottom Line: Animal studies show that a high fructose diet can drive leptin resistance, but eliminating fructose reverses the problem.
8. Sugary Soda Can Be Downright Addictive For a Lot of People
When we eat sugar, dopamine is released in the brain, giving us a feeling of pleasure (33).
The human brain is hardwired to seek out activities that release dopamine. Activities that releases huge amounts are especially desirable.
This is actually how addictive drugs like cocaine function, and the reason people can become dependant on them.
For certain people with a predisposition to addiction, this causes reward-seeking behavior typical of addiction to abusive drugs. This is also known as food addiction.
While addiction is harder to prove in humans, many people consume sugary drinks (and other junk foods) in a pattern that is typical for addictive, abusive substances.
Bottom Line: Sugary drinks have powerful effects on the brain’s reward system, which can cause downright addiction in susceptible individuals.
9. Numerous Studies Link Sugar-Sweetened Beverages to Heart Disease Risk
Since then, it has been established that sugar-sweetened drinks increase some of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
One study following 40,000 men for two decades found that those who drank one sugary drink per day had a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack, or dying from a heart attack, compared to men who rarely consumed sugary drinks (47).
Bottom Line: The relationship between sugar and heart disease risk was first discovered decades ago. Since then, many studies have found strong links.
10. Soda Drinkers Have a Higher Risk of Cancer
The risk of cancer tends to go hand-in-hand with other chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
For this reason, it is not surprising to see that sugary drinks are frequently associated with an increased risk of cancer.
One study of over 60,000 men and women found that those who drank two or more sugary sodas per week were 87% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who did not drink soda (48).
Another study on pancreatic cancer found a strong link in women, but not men (49).
Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has also been linked to cancer recurrence and death in patients with colorectal cancer (51).
Bottom Line: There is evidence from observational studies that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to an increased risk of cancer.
11. The Sugar and Acids in Soda are a Disaster For Dental Health
It is a well known fact that sugary soda is bad for your teeth.
Soda contains acids like phosphoric acid and carbonic acid.
These acids create a highly acidic environment in the mouth, which makes the teeth vulnerable to decay.
Bottom Line: The acids in soda cause an acidic environment in the mouth, while the sugar feeds the harmful bacteria that reside there. This can have severe adverse effects on dental health.
12. Soda Drinkers Have a Drastically Increased Risk of Gout
Gout is a medical condition characterized by inflammation and pain in the joints, particularly the large toes.
Gout typically occurs when high levels of uric acid in the blood become crystallized (56).
Fructose is the main carbohydrate known to increase uric acid levels (57).
Consequently, many large observational studies have found strong links between sugar-sweetened drinks and gout.
Bottom Line: Men and women who frequently drink sugary drinks appear to have an increased risk of developing gout.
13. Sugar Consumption is Linked to an Increased Risk of Dementia
Dementia is the collective term used to describe neurodegenerative conditions that can occur as we grow older.
The most common form is Alzheimer’s disease.
In other words, the higher your blood sugar, the higher the risk of dementia.
Because sugar-sweetened beverages lead to rapid spikes in blood sugars and can raise blood sugar by causing insulin resistance, it makes sense that they could increase your risk of dementia.
So… not only do sugary drinks wreak havoc on metabolic health, they appear to be seriously harmful for your brain as well.
If you want to lose weight, avoid chronic disease and live longer with a sharper brain, then consider avoiding sugary drinks like the plague.