How Diet Soda, Soft Drinks, and Energy Drinks Are Slowly Killing Us

How Diet Soda, Soft Drinks, and Energy Drinks Are Slowly Killing Us

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Soda, juice, and energy drinks are some of the worst offenders when it comes to your diet, "because of the extremely high sugar content and acidity," explains Dr. Rohit Chandra, child and adult psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital-Chelsea and instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

But just how bad are they for you?

"They are toxic to your teeth and leach calcium from your bones in addition to contributing heavily to obesity because of their sugar content. No ifs, ands, or buts: just avoid them."

And the other doctors couldn’t agree more. "Soft drinks are liquid candy," confirms Dr. Chris Tolcher, pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Pick eating an apple over drinking apple juice; most of the juices say right there on the bottle 'contains no fruit'!"

And as far as energy drinks go: "Too many stimulants," scolds Dr. Luis Pacheco, family practice and medical director of transitional care at the California Hospital Medical Center. "Some studies [show] that there is increased platelet aggregation along with heart problems [for patients who consume energy drinks]. Caffeine is fine for bodies, but excessive quantities are a problem."

Many people turn to diet sodas to get their carbonation fix, but they are hardly a wise alternative.

“Diet soda is no better than regular soda," according to Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The chemicals in it to lead to the metabolic syndrome! No reason to add this one to your diet. A truly unhealthy choice.”

“Poison, in my opinion,” agrees Dr. Michael Fiorillo, a plastic surgeon in Pearl River, New York.

To be specific, it’s the artificial sugars in diet soda that really turn doctors off. “Anything with aspartame — it’s true that you are not getting any calories in your diet beverage, but the dangers associated with aspartame may not be worth it," says Santa Monica OB/GYN Sheryl Ross. "This zero-calorie sugar substitute may be linked to headaches, dizziness, digestive problems, mood changes, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and some cancers.”

To find out what other foods doctors won’t eat, check out our report here!

Everyday Foods That Are Slowly Killing You

When it comes to the foods you shouldn’t be eating, it would be simple for me to point to the obvious. Bacon, for example, regardless of its deliciousness…well, on EVERYTHING, will eventually double your risk of stroke if you eat a lot of it every day. And food experts warn that convenience, deep-fried foods are no better. Donuts, French fries, and chicken wings not only threaten your waistline the deep-frying process actually leaves food infused with toxic chemicals that put you at risk of chronic inflammatory conditions and certain types of cancer.

Most of us know that we should eat better. But if you think you’re eating healthy yet the following 20 foods make up the majority of your diet—think again! So as much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, it’s prime time you discovered the hidden dangers of these popular North American foods…

You can lose weight.

Lisa R. Young PhD, RDN, and the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, points out that soda is full of empty calories. If you're not familiar, "empty calories" is a term used for food that is highly caloric but doesn't provide your body with any kind of sustenance to keep you feeling full. When you stop drinking soda, your body is more likely to lose weight because you are significantly cutting down on those empty calories in your diet.

"Regular sodas are high in calories, high in sugar, and absent in nutrients," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. "They can also cause blood sugar spikes and drops leaving your blood sugar, and your energy levels, on a roller coaster."

These blood sugar spikes can someday lead to weight-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

"Even if you only drink diet sodas, you may see some weight loss when [you] eliminate soda and [you] can decrease your risk of developing diabetes, as both diet and regular sodas have been connected with the development of insulin resistance that leads to diabetes," says Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN at a Taste of Health and Expert at Testing.com.

What Do We Do?

Need I say more? Doing this research has given me a major jolt. It is sad that the government allows the manufacture of these killer drinks. It is even sadder that many people I know still drink soft drinks like water, thinking that “they need it” to keep them awake, sigh.

Do yourself and me a huge favor—please cut down or stop drinking any form of soft/carbonated/soda drinks. Instead, turn to healthy fresh fruit and vegetable juices if you value your health. Start today, it is not too late. You can still reverse the damages already done to your body, by taking the first step to learn what is beneficial for you. Choose to live healthy.

Some of the links I post on this site are affiliate links. If you go through them to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you). However, note that I’m recommending these products because of their quality and that I have good experience using them, not because of the commission to be made.

About Sara Ding

Sara Ding is the founder of Juicing-for-Health.com. She is a certified Wellness Health Coach, Nutritional Consultant and a Detox Specialist. She helps busy men and women identify their health issues at the root cause, in order to eliminate the problems for optimum physical/mental health and wellbeing.


thank you .. this has been a great warning and a wake up call… very informative

Good write-up. I definitely love this site.
Keep writing!

Thank you so much. I was so keen of drinking such drinks but your message is a true alarm turning off my good false favour towards soft drinks.

Thank you for educating me on the danger of soft drinks. I will never take it again.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with having two, three, or even four cups of coffee per day, but one study found that consuming more than four cups of coffee a day could actually have negative effects on one's lifespan. However, the scientists that authored the study, which evaluated 40,000 younger adults, did note that having 28 cups a week is fine (exactly 4 cups each day of the week), but drinking more of that could result in negative consequences with regards to longevity. For more, see Ugly Side Effects of Drinking Too Much Coffee, According to Science.

4 Ways To Beat Your Diet Soda Addiction In One Week

Sure, diet soda isn't the sugar and calorie bomb of regular soda, but it's not exactly harmless either. "Not only is there little evidence that diet drinks help people lose or maintain weight," says nutritionist Marion Nestle, PhD, a professor of nutrition at New York University and author of Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), "but there's some evidence that diet drinks cause similar metabolic problems to sugary drinks."

Indeed, a University of Minnesota study of nearly 10,000 adults found that just one diet soda a day triggered a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome, that cluster of symptoms that includes belly fat and high cholesterol and can lead to heart disease. "Anything with a heavy sweet taste, even if it's not technically sugar, may stimulate insulin release," explains Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of the Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction. "When it becomes excessive, you start to see a rise in insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease." Part of the reason it becomes excessive is that your taste buds get used to sweetness and then require more and more to feel satisfied.

The artificially sweetened, caramel-colored bubbly has also been shown to cause tooth decay, thinning bones, and kidney decline and to increase the odds of obesity. In a University of Texas Health Science Center study, sipping two or more cans a day expanded waistlines by 500%. (Take back control of your eating&mdashand lose weight in the process&mdashwith our 21-Day Challenge!)

To curb your cola consumption, you could try weaning yourself slowly: First, cut out one can a day for 2 weeks then mix the remaining one with water (uh, ew, but people are apparently doing it) then go down to half a can&hellipbut Teitelbaum believes there's a better way. "The issue is that it's an addiction&mdashthere's something driving the craving," he says. "If you don't address what's driving the craving, it won't go away."

Here's how you might be using diet soda to achieve various goals&mdashand the healthier way to meet those needs. "Whatever way you choose to do it, have a plan," advises Londa Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "Have other drinks on hand to replace your soda with."

1. Your diet soda motivation: You need energy.
If you pop a can of diet soda when you're looking for a pick-me-up, it could be the caffeine you're after.

Your diet soda detox: Try coffee or tea, which are chock-full of antioxidants for a good measure of disease protection. It's OK to lightly sweeten them&mdashas long as you choose stevia, a naturally sweet plant extract, or a teaspoon of honey, and not three packets of table sugar or the artificial stuff. Sandon recommends fruit-flavored iced tea such as cold brew peach or berry by Celestial Seasonings, because the fruit provides a natural sweetness. It's also a good idea to get more sleep so you're not chronically exhausted and dependent on caffeine to get through the day. (Think you're fine on shut-eye? Don't be so sure. Here are 7 ways to tell if you're getting enough sleep.)

2. Your diet soda motivation: Your blood sugar is low.
If you get irritable, shaky, or lightheaded and feel overwhelmed by everyday stressors, it could be that your adrenal glands need support. "Their job is to make more sugar during periods of stress," Teitelbaum explains. "When they get exhausted from being chronically activated, your blood sugar will drop and you won't have the hormones to manage it."

Your diet soda detox: Teitelbaum advises dispensing with as many day-to-day stressors as you can&mdashlike, do you really need to watch TV news at breakfast and start your day with terrorism and tornadoes? He also suggests avoiding blood sugar dips by not skipping meals (aim for three meals and two snacks daily) spread your protein throughout the day (add grilled chicken or chickpeas to that pasta salad) and keep a supply of nourishing snacks (like ⅓ cup of nuts and raisins) on hand for a blood sugar reboot. Nuts contain healthy fats that slow the absorption of sugar, and raisins have natural sugars that will bring you back into balance. You can also rehab your adrenal glands by taking supplements of vitamin C (500 mg) and vitamin B5 (50-100 mg) and by drinking licorice tea, Teitelbaum says.

3. Your diet soda motivation: You're (unconsciously) feeding yeast in your body.
If you have chronic nasal congestion, sinusitis, spastic colon, or irritable bowel syndrome, you could be heeding sugar cravings caused by yeast or candida overgrowth in your intestinal tract.

Your diet soda detox: "A good probiotic and getting off sugar will kill the yeasty beasties," Teitelbaum says. In the meantime, find a diet soda alternative that doesn't feel like punishment. Teitelbaum likes to trick out tea with stevia, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sandon recommends fruit-infused water or seltzer. "Lemon-flavored seltzer with a splash of cranberry juice is my favorite," she says. (Give these 25 simply delicious water recipes a try.)

4. Your diet soda motivation: Your hormones are in flux.
If you're PMSing or heading into perimenopause, hormonal fluctuations can cause insomnia, headaches, fatigue, or mild depression, all of which can trigger sugar cravings.

Your diet soda detox: Explore ways to kick up your estrogen, which increases the feel-good brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Teitelbaum recommends taking a page from Japanese women and grabbing a handful of edamame or drinking soy milk, because soy has plant compounds called isoflavones that mimic estrogen in the body. If that doesn't cut it and you need something sweet, have nature's treats&mdashan orange, a banana, a handful of berries, or two squares of dark chocolate.

It may take 7 to 10 days to stop craving diet soda, Teitelbaum says, depending on how well you're addressing the root cause. And if you still indulge occasionally, that's OK, too. "The bottom line is really to drink sodas of any kind in moderation," Sandon says. "By this I mean not every meal or every day. Save them for special occasions."

Tricks to Rethink Your Drink:

Choose water (tap, bottled, or sparkling) over sugary drinks.

  • Need more flavor? Add berries or slices of lime, lemon, or cucumber to water.
  • Missing fizzy drinks? Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink.
  • Need help breaking the habit? Don&rsquot stock up on sugary drinks. Instead, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge.
  • Water just won&rsquot do? Reach for drinks that contain important nutrients such as low fat or fat free milk, fortified milk alternatives, or 100% fruit or vegetable juice first.
  • At the coffee shop? Skip the flavored syrups or whipped cream. Ask for a drink with low fat or fat free milk, a milk alternative such as soy or almond, or get back to basics with black coffee.
  • At the store? Read the Nutrition Facts Label to choose drinks that are low in calories, added sugars, and saturated fat.
  • On the go? Carry a reusable water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day.
  • Still thirsty? Learn how to drink more water.

Remember that you can be a role model for your friends and family by choosing water and other healthy, low-calorie beverages.

Diet Soda and Insulin

If you’re diabetic then usually you have more attention to consuming excess sugars and what foods are best for you.

Some refuse to touch all soda or prefer to sweeten up with sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose.

Even though they have no calories, it is a man-made product and can have an impact on hormones and blood sugar.

Although a complex process within the body, studies show a difference in gut hormones secretion when drinking diet sodas.(1)

Studies also show sweeteners found in diet sodas could cause intolerance to glucose by changing the intestinal environment.

In animals, non-nutritive sweeteners activate gut sweet-taste pathways that control incretin release and upregulate glucose transporters.(2)

Bottom line is a tiny amount to sweeten your drink may not do much one time.

Repeated use, however, can indirectly affect insulin production, modify gut bacteria, and your body’s chemical response to sweet foods.

Dessert In Five 30 Low Carb Desserts

Ask the Dietitian: What's the Difference Between Added and Natural Sugar?

Whether it's run-of-the-mill granulated white sugar, high fructose corn syrup or something that sounds fancier, such as turbinado or raw sugar – these are all sweeteners. These ingredients are added to foods as they are processed or prepared. The distinct flavor and degree of sweetness will vary, but no matter which type you're dealing with, these sweeteners are a pure source of carbohydrate and have about 15 calories per teaspoon. When hefty doses of these types of added sugars are eaten, it can lead to weight gain and poorly controlled blood sugar levels.

The most significant sources of added sugar in the American diet are baked goods, candy, ice cream, soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.

Despite what food marketers might lead you to believe, there are only 2 forms of natural sugars – the kind found in milk (lactose) and the kind found in fruit (fructose). These types of sugar are also purely carbohydrates but from a nutritional standpoint, the food sources in which they are found have a lot more to offer. Milk and fruit provide other important nutrients like protein, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber – you'll be hard pressed to find any of these nutrients in candy, cookies and soft drinks. As an additional bonus, fiber and protein take longer to digest, causing a less dramatic spike in blood sugar. They also make you feel fuller for longer, providing a greater satiety value.

One of the biggest conundrums surrounding the sugar debate is deciphering where sugar is coming from on a food label. The total grams of sugar listed in the nutrition facts doesn't differentiate whether the sugars are coming from added or natural sources. The only thing a savvy consumer can do is read the ingredient list. Since ingredients are listed in descending order, folks can determine where the majority of the sugar in that food is coming from.

Bottom Line: Check ingredient labels – choose mostly foods where natural sugars outweigh the added ones.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »


Energy drinks may show positive beneficial effects on exercise performance in various sport activities. However, while energy drinks might benefit performance, possible detrimental health problems have been documented, particularly amongst children and adolescents. Various parts of the body are negatively affected by energy drink consumption. Considering this fact and the increasing popularity of these drinks, caution should be exercised while consuming energy drinks. Overambitious marketing and non-scientific claims should be regulated by governments until independent studies confirm that that these products are safe.

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