Soda is synonymous with America. After all, Coca-Cola essentially created the modern representation of Santa Claus. Ironically, however, large parts of the country don’t even call it “soda.”
Flavored soft drinks of all kinds are usually called “cola” in Southern states, while it’s common to call soda “pop” in Midwestern regions. Whatever its name, soda has been an integral part of the American diet for decades.
While soda consumption statistics in the United States have been declining in recent years, in 2018 the average American still drank an absolutely staggering 38.87 gallons of soda during the calendar year. That’s a lot of pop.
It’s no secret that America has an obesity problem. It is estimated that more than 41% of American adults are obese, and soda is a major contributor to this statistic. The vast majority of non-diet sodas available on store shelves today are filled with way too much sugar, caffeine, and empty calories.
“Healthy adults should aim to consume less than 50 grams of total added sugar per day and less than 300 milligrams of total caffeine per day (less than 200 milligrams if you’re pregnant). Unfortunately, most Regular sodas have about 40 grams of added sugar per 12-ounce can,” says registered dietitian Molly Hembree.
It should be noted that the habitual consumption of sodas can cause problems far beyond your waistline. There is no shortage of scientific research linking soda to other major health issues. This study, published in the British Medical Journal, reports that sugary drinks may increase the risk of cancer. Meanwhile, this project published in Stroke points to a link between diet sodas and dementia.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine really cuts to the chase, finding that the consumption of artificially sweetened and sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. In other words, if you drink a lot of soda, you’re more likely to die.
The thing is, if you’re looking for a healthy drink, you probably shouldn’t be walking down the soda aisle at all. That being said, some brands of soda are worse than others, and we’re not just talking about sugar or calories.
“Many sodas contain added synthetic colorants, preservatives for flavor and color, and flavor enhancers, which are not helpful to our health but provide a function to make the quality of these beverages consistent,” adds Hembree.
Read on to learn more about the soda brands you should avoid right now!
And don’t miss The Verdict on the Worst Sodas You Can Drink, Straight From Dietitians.
Did you know that long before soda commandeered the name, “Mountain Dew” was a nickname for moonshine? Mountain Dew’s soda version may be healthier than moonshine, but that’s hardly a feat.
From the outset, Mountain Dew stands out from other sodas with its fluorescent yellow/green color. This soda looks anything but natural, and that’s because it isn’t. Mountain Dew gets its almost electric coloring from a food coloring called tartrazine, or yellow 5. to be nothing more than an urban legend.
Yet, there are a number of real issues with yellow 5. It has been linked to multiple issues of concern in children; from hyperactivity to eczema. Tartrazine has also shown carcinogenic properties. Products containing Yellow 5 must include a warning label in the European Union, and Norway and Austria have even banned the ingredient altogether.
Mountain Dew claims the top spot on this list for another stomach-ache reason: it’s acidic enough to dissolve a mouse’s entire body. How the hell do we know that? Well, Pepsi (the producer of Mountain Dew) used that statement as a legal defense. In 2009, a man sued Pepsi after he claimed he discovered a mouse carcass in his can of Mountain Dew.
In response, Pepsi claimed that this could never have happened because “the mouse would have dissolved in the soda if it had been in the can from the time it was bottled until the day the plaintiff bottled it. drank”. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.
Mountain Dew has an acid pH level of 3, which is just two levels lower than literal battery acid (pH 1).
Pibb Xtra has gone through a number of transformations and name changes over the decades (Mr. Pibb, anyone?), but many unhealthy components have remained consistent.
Pibb Xtra contains a number of concerning ingredients linked to a myriad of health issues, like potassium benzoate and caramel coloring, but to be fair, tons of sodas contain these ingredients.
One ingredient, however, in Pibb Xtra stands out: polyethylene glycol. It is the same main ingredient found in Miralax laxative.
The classic Pepsi flavor may be enjoyed by many, but that doesn’t mean it’s particularly good for you.
Besides the obvious problems associated with caffeine, sugar, and too much high fructose corn syrup, Pepsi contains phosphoric acid. Why is it worth mentioning? Phosphoric acid is commonly used in rust removers and a number of household cleaning products.
Pepsi also contains caramel coloring, which has been linked to cancer, high blood pressure, and even a low white blood cell count. The state of California even declared 4-MEL (a caramel coloring by-product) a carcinogen a decade ago.
On a particularly bizarre note, Pepsi (and a few other sodas) was once used as a pesticide by farmers in India. Before you go call the poison control center, keep in mind that all the sugar in Pepsi was likely attracting nearby insects that killed even smaller larvae that damaged farmers’ crops. Yet the terms pesticide and soft drink should never go hand in hand.
While there are plenty of nutritional reasons to avoid Coca-Cola, the world’s most recognizable soda brand makes it onto this list for a reason unrelated to nutrition or ingredients.
A Boston University survey published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that Coca-Cola and Pepsi sponsored nearly 100 national health organizations between 2011 and 2015. Coke also spent six million dollars on lobbying efforts between 2011 and 2014 (Pepsi spent $3 million). Additionally, Coke and Pepsi have lobbied against at least 28 different public health bills focused on reducing public soda consumption and/or improving nutrition.
A total of 96 health organizations took money from Coke or Pepsi during the study period, including 83 from Coca-Cola alone.
“Soda companies can neutralize possible legislative opposition by invoking reciprocity and financial dependence on national health organizations,” said the study’s lead author, Daniel Aaron, in a press release. “Rather than supporting public health, organizations may become unwitting partners in a corporate marketing strategy that undermines public health.”
Additionally, Coca-Cola was sued in the fall of 2020 for its plastic pollution by the Earth Island Institute and the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Break Free From Plastic also named Coca-Cola the world’s biggest plastic polluter in 2019.
Like many other soda brands, Sun Drop contains sodium benzoate, another preservative that has been shown to have serious carcinogenic properties, immune system-weakening tendencies, and a penchant for promoting hyperactivity in teens. .
But that’s not all: Sun Drop also contains brominated vegetable oil (BVO). The BVO acts as an emulsifier, ensuring that the soda ingredients stay well mixed. So what’s the problem ? Well, for starters, BVO is banned as a food additive in much of the world (Europe, Japan) – but not in the good old USA!
This synthetic chemical is woefully understudied, so we’re only scratching the surface of its potential impact on human health. That said, one of its main ingredients (bromine) has been linked to a plethora of frightening health issues like headaches, skin issues, and even memory loss. What we do know is that ingesting BVO results in persistent residues in body fat found in the brain, liver, and other organs.
You would have to drink more than two liters of soda containing BVO per day to be at serious risk of bromine buildup in your body, but the point still stands.
BVO was actually much more common in sodas. Around 2013-2014, Coca-Cola and Pepsi pledged to remove BVO from all their drinks (but it took until 2020 for the ingredient to finally be removed from Mountain Dew).