I swear, the conversation around soda consumption over the last 5 years has evolved from friendly/healthy advice – to a polarizing topic that frankly, seems as though could give Marriage, and Gender Equality a run for their money. Or, maybe I’m just an addicted twenty-something. Either is entirely plausible.
Personally, I consume what would be described by professionals as an “above average” amount of sugary soda. I avoid diet soda like the plague. I am around 5’10” and weigh approximately 145 pounds, depending on the day. I say depending on the day, because like many twenty-something’s my eating habits vary depending on how busy I am, or what my schedule looks like.
That being said, I still exercise daily – and actually run at least 3 miles, a few times a week. I lightly work out, and try to “watch” what I eat, generally. For me personally, soda, or more specifically – Pepsi – was my side kick through most of high school, through the duration of college, and became a close companion for early mornings as I entered the workforce.
I loathe coffee. Occasionally, I will choke down a cup to appease the social standards of our society when absolutely forced, or if the rare mood should find me. But, that happens literally less than once every few months. In fact, while I’ve significantly curbed my soda intake in the last couple of years – I can recall at different points drinking as much as 3 liters a day. Clearly, that is the furthest thing from a healthy choice, or lifestyle if that became a long-term habit.
However, I sit here today writing this because soda manufacturers are once again under the gun. Not that they haven’t been at any point in the last several years. Before I go any further, I’d like to reiterate that I don’t condone the irresponsible consumption of soda. It’s not a healthy choice. At all. It’s loaded with sugar, and to be blunt – chemicals that are far more damaging in the long-run than any sugar or calorie count. But, in a lot of ways – I feel soda has been given an unfair, and equally unjust rap in this country. While from a health, and wellness perspective – I completely understand the concerns surrounding soda consumption, especially in children.
The talking points though, are hitting all the wrong areas if ceasing soda consumption is actually the goal. I’m a person who will never stop drinking soda, and will always stand up in the defense of soda, as well as the industry, when the media attacks it as if it’s the root of all evil – and the singular reason for poor health in this country.
Here are the top reasons why soda should be banished, and why they’re horribly flawed:
1.) Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO): BVO is patented as a “flame retardant.” So, when people throw around the phrase, “you’re drinking flame retardant,” it is a little more than misleading. Yes, it’s in the same chemical family as polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE’s). A chemical that’s found in a ton of household products, that has caught a lot of scrutiny itself. But, the list of side effects is no greater than a typical list of side effects for any drug your doctor will happily, and frequently write a prescription for. And the extreme cases of poisoning, or overdosing on the chemical – the two predominant cases that have garnered a lot of attention over the last twenty years both resulted from two separate individuals drinking anywhere from 2-8 liters of soda(containing BVO) every day!
2.) 4-Methylimidazole (4-MEl): A study published in 2007 showed an increased rate of lung cancer in mice after long-term exposure to the chemical. While we’re on the subject of lung cancer causing agents, I’ll just direct readers to this fun link. (All things that cause lung cancer) Specifically, take a look at the top cause. 9 out of 10 cases are smoking related, not 4-MEI related.
3.) Bisphenol A (BPA): This is the gem that keeps the soda from reacting with the metal can. Side effects of BPA consumption have been pinned to brain, behavior, abnormalities in fetuses, and children. It’s ironic because of all “canned goods” soda has been canned for the shortest period of time. That’s right, the soup – and canned veggies – many parents put on the dinner tables for their kids are lined with the exact same chemical that opponents will tell you soda is damned for using. Matter of fact, if it’s in a can – and you’re genuinely concerned about BPA – you better quit now, while you’re still ahead.
4.) Human Embryonic Kidney 293 Cells (HEK293): Ok – this one is a little weird, even to my standards. No, if you’re told or are under the impression that you’re drinking fetal cells – rest assured that you’re not – at all. However, Pepsi Co. does use flavor enhancers (and has been since 2013) made from a biotech company that uses them to develop said flavor enhancers. Senomyx is the name of that company, and it’s unclear how the aborted HEK293 cells are precisely used – but it’s there. It’s also in many vaccines, and is used throughout the process of developing various drugs, vaccines, and even personal care products like makeup. Heartbreaking, but soda probably isn’t the place you should be most concerned about consuming these guys.
5.) High Fructose Corn Syrup/Aspartame (HFCS): High fructose corn syrup should honestly be the biggest concern, above all others, and way – far above the reach of just soda. This one is easily the most dangerous, most rampant in our foods, most highly consumed by a large margin, AND is protected by the Corn Industry. This should worry a lot of people. We consume a lot of bad things, but this is far and away the worst. Not all sugars are created equal. Cane sugar, and HFCS (or any chemically engineered sugar) is not processed in the same way inside our bodies, and in many cases – cannot be processed at all. That not only raises cancer causing concern, but also raises obesity, and other health related concerns. It raises virtually every major health concern that we currently have as a nation. And, it’s found in EVERYTHING. With that being said, lay off soda – and worry about everything sitting in your freezer that isn’t fresh – or grown in your back yard. And then, while you’re at it worry about everything in your cupboard too that is mass produced. Soda is the mildest offender in this category.
Then, there are the lifestyle concerns. Soda is a sugary drink, which is high in virtually everything. More calories than most should consume. Far more sugar than anyone should be consuming. And, it has literally no nutritional value. But, let’s not get into the game of kidding ourselves that this is the single, large-scale problem. All the chemicals, all the high counts of one additive or another, all the risks – they’re found in every single product we put in our kitchens – sadly. And even some things we don’t put in our kitchens – and just put directly in our bodies, like tobacco products. Weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, lung cancer, liver problems, osteoporosis, and shortened lifespans are just some of the more predominant reasons why so-many call for soda’s boycott.
But, can you take any of those aforementioned health risks and not link them to behaviors, or things we consume that are far, far, far more detrimental to our overall well-being?
The resounding answer is absolutely not.
Soda may not be great, but it’s not the evil that so many people try to make it be.