Are carbonated drinks bad for you?


Health hacks and fear-mongering videos quickly make their way through social media like a hurricane, rapidly gaining momentum. A few months ago, several videos went viral about tips to keep your avocados longer. However, this “hot tip” was not so helpful. Thankfully experts chimed in, warning people not to do this as they would be at greater risk for salmonella poisoning.

 

viral message on social media

 

The latest viral health message is that carbonated drinks are bad for you. According to multiple social media accounts, even sugar-free fizzy drinks like sparkling water will eat away your tooth enamel, causing permanent damage.

We’ve looked into what research and experts say on the topic to help you determine if you should really stop drinking carbonated drinks!


When talking about carbonated drinks, it’s important to understand that not all drinks are the same. Some are loaded with caffeine, artificial flavoring, dyes, and sugar. Soda, energy drinks, and sparkling juices aren’t exactly good for you.

array of carbonated soft drinks

The biggest issue with these drinks is the sugar content. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the majority of Americans consume too much sugar and the leading source of this excess sugar is sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Excess sugar intake puts you at greater risk for heart disease, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, weight gain, tooth decay and cavities, gout, and non-alcoholic liver disease.

 

Research has also found that an increase in SSB consumption is linked to an unhealthy lifestyle. For example, if you don’t get enough sleep on your buckwheat pillow at night, you are more likely to consume more sugary drinks during the day and vice versa. Further, SSB consumption is linked to smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and increased fast food consumption. Finally, adolescents that drink more sugary drinks are also more likely to spend more time on their phones, computers, and playing video games (check out our blog on the dark side of video games here).

 

Soda is the most commonly consumed carbonated beverage. Your typical can of soda contains between 7 to 10 teaspoons of sugar!

 

typical can of soda contains 7 to 10 teaspoons of sugar

 

Research from Harvard Health found that drinking soda led to weight gain. In addition to an increase in calories and sugar, it impacts your appetite and diet. For example, despite drinking 150 calories, you won’t feel full or satisfied the same way 150 calories worth of food would. So, you may also reach for a snack to have with your soda, further increasing your caloric intake.   

 

Additional studies have found that when you drink a sweet-tasting drink (diet sodas included), it increases your appetite for other sweet, high-calorie foods, which further increases your daily caloric intake. This increase in sugar also wreaks havoc on your smile. Soda is one of the leading causes of tooth decay and cavities. This is caused by the bacteria in your mouth that breaks down sugar. When it does, it produces an acid, which eats away at your tooth's surface.

 

woman suffering from tooth ache

 

Cola has also been found to have an adverse effect on bone health. A 2006 study looked at the relationship between carbonated drinks and bone density. The researchers found that women who drank cola three times a week had a lower average bone mineral density in their hip bones. This was not found in other beverages, and therefore the researchers believed it was due to the caffeine also found in cola and the result of phosphoric acid.

 

You're mistaken if you think you're in the clear with your diet cola. In fact, in some cases, diet sodas are even worse for your health. Aspartame and saccharin are the commonly used artificial sweeteners found in diet soda, and they are not good for us. In 2018 a study on the effects of diet soda and diabetes found that it did not make a difference in diabetes risk. This means that even by switching to diet soda instead of regular, your risk for developing type 2 diabetes remains high.


Your teeth aren’t safe either. In 2019 a study looked at the effect of diet soda on tooth enamel and found that just like regular soda, artificial sweeteners damaged tooth enamel and contributed to tooth decay.

 

tooth enamel damaged from sugar and carbonated drinks

A great deal of research continues to look at the risks associated with aspartame. Although more research is needed, there are claims that it can lead to headaches, allergies, heart disease, poor glucose control, cancer, seizures, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more.

 

Like soda, energy drinks are not healthy. Large amounts of caffeine can cause serious health concerns, including increases in blood pressure, heart rate, heart rhythm disturbances, and heart and blood vessel issues. This high intake of caffeine can cause future sleep troubles, anxiety, and dehydration. Research has found that consuming energy drinks can disrupt teens' sleep patterns and increase risk-taking behavior. It increases their risk for sleep disorders as well as mental health issues like depression, cognitive under-development, and cardiovascular nervous system anomalies.

 

In 2011 there were over 20,000 emergency room visits in the United States associated with energy drink use. And in 2014, a review found that 5 out of 11 patients with heart problems heavily consumed energy drinks.

young woman suffering from heart problems from consuming too many energy drinks

 

The risks associated with energy drink consumption increase significantly when combined with alcohol – which they often are. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), roughly 25% of college students consume alcohol with energy drinks.   When combined, the two make a person feel less intoxicated while still experiencing signs of alcohol impairment. Essentially, it lowers their awareness increasing their risk of drinking too much and binge drinking. Binge drinking is associated with cancer, memory problems, alcohol abuse disorders, and chronic diseases.

 

In many cases, you can enjoy things that are “unhealthy” when they are consumed in moderation and under the right circumstances; however, many health experts advise avoiding energy drinks altogether. Lauren Popeck, a registered dietician with Orlando Health, told Insider there are better ways to get a boost in energy. Instead, try eating a snack containing carbohydrates and protein like string cheese and an apple. She also recommends getting enough sleep each night! When you live a healthy lifestyle, like sleeping 8 hours a night on your buckwheat pillow, taking a multivitamin, and exercising regularly, you won’t find your energy dips as much during the day.

 

Most of us know sodas and energy drinks aren’t good for us. But we are hooked on the caffeine and sugar (or sweetener), and it becomes a habit. To break the habit, many people start substituting with flavored carbonated waters – but are these any better?

 

flavored carbonated water

The CDC endorses the swap stating that carbonated water is an excellent alternative to sugar-filled drinks. Yet, some rumors suggest that drinking carbonated water will harm your stomach. The good news is this isn’t necessarily true. Although the carbonation can cause some short-term bloating or indigestion, there isn’t anything harmful about it. In fact, in some cases, it can help tummy troubles.

 

In a small double-blind, randomized trial, patients with constipation of frequent dyspepsia were assigned still or sparkling water for 15 days. The study found that both conditions improved in the people who drank sparkling water, but no improvement was found in those who drank still water.

 

There remains little research on the effects of carbonated water and teeth. The studies that exist have all been using sugary sodas and cola-based drinks. According to Barry Owns of the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry, the acidity of the drink, other foods, and saliva all matter. Cola is the most acidic, followed by sparkling fruit juice. So, although some carbonated drinks can disrupt the enamel, we don’t have enough evidence to say that all do. Science has shown that the length of time the drink is in your mouth also matters. A study out of Sweden found that the longer the drink stayed in the mouth before swallowing, the more acidic the mouth became, which contributed to decay.   

 

A study out of the University of Birmingham put human teeth into jars of sparkling mineral water for 30 minutes as well as other flavored sparkling waters. Part of the tooth was varnished, and part was left unvarnished. When the teeth were removed, the enamel had softened. It was found to have the same effect as orange juice. When the flavor is added to sparkling water, it often has the same acidity as the flavor or juice. 

 

So far, unflavored carbonated water seems relatively harmless. Although it is mildly acidic, there is a lack of evidence that suggests it is harmful to your teeth, bones, or stomach. But, it all depends on your mouth and body and, according to Swedish research, how long you keep the drink in your mouth.


If you are looking to cut back on soda, try flavor-enhanced water. You can add lemon, cucumbers, strawberries, or melon to your water to flavor it naturally. Although it won’t taste as sweet as a cola-based soda or energy drink, it is much better for your sleep quality and physical and mental health.

 


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