By Daniel Herleth, MD
Since New York’s attempted ban on soda, many people have been talking about the health concerns of soda. As a physician, I think it’s important for people to be aware of these health concerns and be educated about alternatives to make smart decisions for themselves.
Why is there so much concern about soda?
Soda provides no nutrients, and regular soda has a lot of calories. All of these calories can lead to health problems and cause significant weight gain. Diabetes is significantly more common in soda drinkers. Here are a few facts that might make you re-consider that fizzy beverage:
- Even small amounts of soda have risks. A regular cola has about 140 calories per can. While this may not seem like a lot, many people drink more than one can per day. For instance, a 44-ounce soda has about 500 calories, which is one-quarter of our recommended total calories for the day.
- One recent study showed that people who have only one soda per day have a 20 percent increased risk for heart disease.
- Another study suggests that 25,000 people die each year related to health problems caused by soda.
What about some alternatives to soda?
Diet soda eliminates the sugar, but it does not prevent health problems. It is also shown to increase diabetes, heart attack, and stroke risk even without as much weight gain.
If possible, eliminate these drinks. If you can’t, remember moderation. Water should be your main beverage; this is the healthiest, most natural drink available. It is best to slowly decrease your soda intake and steadily replace it with water to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headaches.
What about caffeine? Many people use soda to provide caffeine. Coffee is a much healthier option as it has many anti-inflammatory properties that support our health, unlike soda. However, much of this benefit is lost with lots of sugar or other flavors in the coffee. Up to three cups per day is a safe amount of coffee.
If you have questions or if you are unsure if you are consuming too much soda, please talk to your doctor.