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The Dangers of Soda and Other Sugary Drinks: A daily soft drink is more harmful than you think

By Kelsey Ogletree, AARP, Jun 09, 2022

Creative nonalcoholic drinks are all the rage, and we have more options to suck through a straw than ever before.

Example: Spring Fling is manufactured by a Utah-based company called Swig and is made with Dr. Pepper, vanilla, strawberry puree, and coconut cream.

But this isn’t a healthy trend.

Guzzling sugary beverages of any kind puts you at greater risk for weight gain, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.


“Drinking calories is not natural. It was never part of a human being’s evolution,” says Zhaoping Li, M.D., director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. In fact, sipping sugary drinks may be more harmful to your health than eating a candy bar BECAUSE THEY PROMOTE FAT STORAGE MORE QUICKLY.

A typical healthy person has about 5 grams of glucose (sugar) circulating in their blood.

20-ounce bottle of cola = 65 grams of sugar (five times more than a glazed doughnut).

Drink a sugary beverage à to the bloodstream à raises glucose/sugar levels quickly (much faster than if taking in the same number of calories from a solid food).

The body now has more blood sugar than it can use for energy, so it converts the excess glucose into body fat.

To make it worse, even though sugary beverages are loaded with calories, the brain doesn’t recognize them as food because calories in liquid form don’t produce satiety. Therefore, the overload of sugar won’t trigger the hormone (Leptin) that tells one to stop eating.

The American Heart Association recommends adults consume no more than 6 teaspoons/2 5 grams of added sugar per day (women) and 9 teaspoons/36 grams (men). AND THAT INCLUDES ALL SUGARS, EVEN THOSE CONTAINED IN BREADS, SAUCES, AND PROCESSED FOODS.

Be careful of supposed healthy drinks like store-bought orange juice because it is ultra-​processed and has as much sugar as soda. Likewise for sweetened coffee, fruit smoothies, and sports drinks. A 20-ounce bottle of sports drink can contain 34 grams of sugar.


Besides obesity and diabetes, long-term consumption of sweet beverages may increase the risk of dying from heart disease and certain cancers.

Harvard researchers found consuming sugary drinks is associated with a moderately higher risk of breast and colon cancer. Also, every additional sugary drink a person consumes - on average per day – increases the risk of dying from ​heart disease by 10 percent.


Consuming a sugary beverage infrequently will not kill you. It’s the multiple times/day consumption that should be avoided:

1. Consume sparkling water. Calorie-free seltzers come in many flavors.

2. Brew your own iced tea and if you must add sugar, use just a touch.

3. Flavor H2O with sliced fruit or calorie-free powders to add zing to it.

4. Replace juices by snacking on whole fruits, especially citrus fruits and berries.

5. Don’t attempt to drink away stress. Instead, turn to physical or mental exercise.

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