This week the New York City health department launched what has become a popular YouTube clip. In it, a man gets ready to guzzle some soda. When he pours it into a glass, globs of fat drip out instead. He drinks it anyway, which makes for good video. The point, of course, is to gross you out and get the message across that soda isn’t good for you. In fact, it’s bad for you, as the video explains, because drinking a single can of soda a day will add ten pounds to your weight. Sobering, but will it matter to those who are addicted to their 4 p.m. soda high?
About six or seven years ago, I would have said no. Back then, my husband drank at least three or four cans of Pepsi every day. No matter what. If we went out to lunch or dinner, he added another few glasses to his total. Around that same time I was starting on my current natural-as-possible path. I was reading a lot about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I passed along the information. Since then, the news has only gotten worse. One study links HFCS to diabetes — especially in children. A more recent February 2009 study — this one out of the Loyola University Health System — found that women who drank more than two cans of soda a day “are nearly twice as likely to show early signs of kidney disease.” The American Society of Nephrology in October of this year released another study calling HFCS “a recipe for hypertension.” According to the study “…Americans consume 30% more fructose than 20 years ago and up to four times more than 100 years ago, when obesity rates were less than 5%.” The results point to HFCS being “significantly and independently associated with higher blood pressure levels in the US adult population with no previous history of hypertension.” HFCS even affects the brain. A July Georgia State University study found that it impairs memory function. This is because HFCS is metabolized by the liver, which in turn produces triglycerides that get into the bloodstream and mess with brain signaling.
And then there’s the whole it-makes-you-fat thing. A can of soda has 200 calories. (Yes, the label says 150, but that’s per serving, and a can has 1 1/2 servings of soda in it.) Many of us don’t use the portion controlled cans, instead slurping soda from Big Gulp cups (400 whopping calories — 800 if you get a Super Big Gulp). That’s a whole lot of calories, people. Drink a soda a day and — like NYC says — you’re going to gain weight unless you’re logging a lot of hours in the gym to work them off. Soda also erodes tooth enamel, fills you up so you’re not hungry for actual healthy foods, and diet sodas are no better since they are linked to obesity, too. ““The data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain and adiposity than would consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar,” said researchers.
Back to my husband: After hearing all this, Chris went cold turkey on soda. (I also offered a deal he couldn’t resist, but that deal is not fit for a family blog, so we’ll just leave that there…) It was difficult. He craved soda. He couldn’t find something to replace it with for a while. But in the end he lost 15 pounds within a few months, and he didn’t change his routine at all aside from saying goodbye to Pepsi.
Today Chris drinks water, orange juice, a beer, or lemonade (made without HFCS) if he’s thirsty. Since it’s still a temptation, we try to avoid having soda in the house. For a while, we did try the natural sodas from Whole Foods, but they were expensive, and he decided that he didn’t want the calories after all. Is he completely off soda? No. He’ll still drink soda if we’re out to dinner, or at a party. And every once in a while like this past weekend he’ll swing into 7-11 and get a Big Gulp. Around the Jewish holidays he does buy Pepsi for the house because — since it has to be kosher — it’s made with actual sugar instead of HFCS. Still, bottom line: It can be done. You can eliminate soda from your diet. It can be as easy as thinking the way I do: I don’t like it, but I also won’t sacrifice the calories. I’d rather eat 200 calories worth of cookies than drink them out of a can. And until Pepsi starts putting chocolate chips in its products I should be okay.
Are you a soda addict like my husband? What do you think of the YouTube ad? Would you ever consider banishing soda from your diet? What do you drink every day? Would love to hear more.