What if you only drank soda?

With over 1.8 billion bottles of Coca-Cola sold a day and nearly half of Americans (48%) drinking at least one glass of soda or pop a day, it’s safe to say many of us love a sugary drink. But what would happen to our brains and bodies if we only drank soda? As the drink enters your mouth, it’s high acid content begins to erode the enamel on your teeth, and the microorganisms in your plaque start to feed off the sugar, which can lead to cavities. Finish the can, and you may have consumed upwards of 46 grams of sugar. The receptors on your tongue sense this and send a message to your cerebral cortex, activating the reward centre of your brain, which says “more please!” After a week of substituting the recommended 8 daily glasses of water for cola instead, you would have consumed around 5432 extra Calories. And this is one of the biggest health problems linked to carbonated drinks: weight gain. It’s been estimated that ⅕ of the weight gained in the US between 1977 and 2007 can be attributed to soft drinks. Furthermore, Yale researchers found that when people drink soft drinks, they also consume more calories, mainly because people don’t accurately account for the added calories in their beverage. On top of this, the high fructose corn syrup - which is the primary soda sweetener - is not metabolized in our bodies the same way other sugars are. They increase liver fat, upping the risk of cardiovascular disease, and don’t stimulate the hormones insulin and leptin. These hormones help the body signal when we are full, to prevent overeating. The disruption of insulin also increases the risk of diabetes. Overall, research suggests that reducing the amount of sugar in drinks could prevent 1 million cases of obesity. So, should we swap in diet drinks instead? Surprisingly there is still a link between artificial sweeteners and weight gain as well. Experiments have found that the sweet taste, whether from real sugar or artificial sweetener, enhances our appetite. Not to mention many diet drinkers allow themselves to eat more because they believe they have already reduced calories, thinking “I’m having a diet soda so I can have a large fry with my burger”. But soft drinks can also age us. Telomeres are protective caps on the end of our chromosomes which shorten over time. And it turns out that their rate of shortening is nearly the same in a person who drinks 600ml of soda a day, as it is in a smoker. So, what if you drank 2 litres of pop every day? Well, one woman did just that for 16 years straight, until she was hospitalized at age 31. With no family history of heart problems, she suffered from arrhythmia and fainting spells, and tests found her severely deficient in potassium, as both fructose and caffeine can lead to potassium loss through urine and diarrhea. Luckily, our bodies have an amazing ability to recover and once she quit, her potassium levels and other complications began to rebound.

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