Can the Cola
By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
I’ve been good, really good. I quit smoking years ago, cleaned up my diet, and now exercise six days a week. Yet, there is one bad habit I just simply haven’t been able to give up – diet cola. I’ve cut back to just one or two a day, considerably less than I used to drink. But it would be even better if I could give it up completely. And I may have found the motivation I need to do just that!
Experts from the University of Ioannina in Greece have issued a warning against drinking large quantities of cola, saying it could lead to muscle problems, an irregular heartbeat, and bone weakness. All of this because Americans – myself included – drink too much of the fizzy stuff.
Problems With the Pepsi Generation
The dangers of downing too much Coke or Pepsi may be even more dire. Guzzling gallons of soda can cause potassium levels in the blood to plummet. This can increase the risk of muscle problems and heart rhythm abnormalities, which could prove fatal in some cases.
In the International Journal of Clinical Science, the Greek researchers cited two cases where soda caused a surprising health crisis. The first was an Australian ostrich farmer who drank several liters of cola every day for years. Not only did this add empty nutrition to his caloric intake, it also virtually paralyzed his lungs! Fortunately, emergency treatment and abstaining from his beloved cola have helped him recover.
The other case involved a woman who drank one to three liters of soda a day. She suddenly began to experience episodes of vomiting, lack of appetite, and exhaustion – frightening symptoms that could have signaled a serious illness. But once her doctors pulled her off of the pop, these symptoms disappeared.
One of the study’s authors says that these two cases were likely due to drains to their potassium levels caused by too much cola consumption. Past studies have shown how the excessive intake of caffeine can cause potassium drainage – and when potassium levels drop severely, the body’s musculature can go haywire. The reason? Potassium is critical to regulating muscle function. He cautions that the high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup in colas can cause potassium levels to drop as well.
Think Before You Drink
While colas and other soft drinks may deplete potassium levels, they certainly add calories. And the calories you’re getting don’t even add any nutrients (sorry Coke Plus). Besides edging out more nutritious drinks, these sugary beverages may be contributing to the country’s obesity epidemic. True, a myriad of other factors likely come into play, but many experts believe super-sized sodas are a big reason why so many Americans need super-sized clothes. In fact, sweetened drinks are the only specific food that clinical research has directly linked to weight gain.
Even research in children has implications for adults. David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., a Harvard researcher and director of the obesity program at Children’s Hospital Boston, has conducted several studies examining the role of soft drinks in the American diet. He found that the odds of a child becoming obese increase by 60 percent with each additional serving of sugar-sweetened drinks a day. And the link was independent of food intake, television viewing, and physical activity.
Those in the Boston study who drank soft drinks took in almost 200 more calories a day than those foregoing the soda. Ludwig and colleagues say this supports the notion that we do not compensate for liquid calories by eating less solid food.
Other studies suggest that our brains may get confused by liquid calories, because they do not satisfy us in the same way that calories from solid foods do. In other words, 400 calories from liquids may not send the same appetite-suppressing sensory message to your brain as 400 calories of solid food would. And since the stomach’s sensory signals are based partly on food volume, your appetite may remain unsatisfied after downing liquid calories.
Two other factors may be at play as well. When we drink calories, our brains don’t receive the visual cue that a bulky amount of food (think fruits and vegetables) transmits. Moreover, liquids don’t require chewing, which forces you to take longer to eat, giving your brain time to register what you’ve just eaten. All that is missing when you slurp a soda.
Diet soda, along with also posing a risk to your potassium levels, isn’t a safe bet for your health or your weight. According to a study by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, people who drink diet soft drinks don’t lose weight. In fact, they gain weight!
After reviewing eight years of data on more than 1,500 people, the researchers found that for each can of diet soft drink consumed each day, a person’s risk of obesity went up by a whopping 41 percent! In fact, when the researchers took a closer look at their data, they found that nearly all the obesity risk from soft drinks came from diet sodas.
What it comes down to is this: Soda, whether it’s diet or regular, diminishes the body’s ability to perform at its peak. Not only does it diminish muscle power, but it also eats away at other things, like teeth enamel and bone composition. And it just might make you fat!
One Last Thing …
So, what should you drink? Good old-fashioned water. Water keeps you hydrated, contains no calories, and helps transport nutrients around the body. Water is perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet essential, nutrients we can ingest. Without enough water, we are at risk of developing numerous diseases including cancer, arthritis, ulcers, migraines, colitis, and high blood pressure. Dehydration is also linked to low back pain, poor circulation, obesity, and poor health in the elderly.
Every day we lose water through sweat, urine, feces, tears, and nasal discharges. We even lose water when we exhale. Some liquids such as coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol are also dehydrating. It has been estimated that we lose about 12 cups of water, even on a cool day without exercising.
Surveys indicate that about one-third of Americans drink three or fewer servings of water every day. To calculate your water needs, take the number of pounds you weigh and divide that number in half. That number is the fluid ounces you should drink each day. For instance, a 200-pound person should drink 100 ounces of water, which is at least twelve 8-ounce cups.
So the next time you think about reaching for a soda, diet or not, think about an ice-cold glass of water instead.
Carwile JL, et al. Use of Polycarbonate Bottles and Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations. Environmental Health Perspectives. Published ahead of print May 12, 2009.
Fowler, S.P. 65th Annual Scientific Sessions, American Diabetes Association, San Diego, June 10-14, 2005; Abstract 1058-P.
Tsimihodimos V, et al. Cola-induced hypokalaemia: pathophysiological mechanisms and clinical implications. International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2009; 63: 900-902.
Wang YC, et al. Impact of change in sweetened caloric beverage consumption on energy intake among children and adolescents. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2009;163:336-343.