Tuesday, November 2

Food Spotlight: Soda vs. Coffee (Part 1)

Soda drinkers versus coffee drinkers. It’s like Ohio State versus Michigan. Team Edward versus Team Jacob. Dog people versus cat people. You just like what you like. Right?

Well, I’m going to try and persuade the soda people to come over to the espresso side for their caffeine fix. It’s the better choice.

First, let me start with regular soda.

Who drinks this stuff anyway? It’s baffling to me that regular soda is still sold. It’s nothing but sugar, 10 teaspoons per can to be exact, which adds up to roughly 160 calories. Drinking three of those a day is an extra 480 calories and zero nutritional benefit. ZERO people!

You don’t care? Think about this. If you give up your 3-drink a day habit and change nothing else, you’ll decrease your weekly calorie consumption by 3,360 calories, which is almost equivalent to one pound of fat.

You could lose weight by simply giving up regular soda. I’m just sayin’.

Still not convinced? A study released last week by Diabetes Care found that people who drank as little as one regular soda a day had a 25% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Regular soda. It’ll make you fat and give you diabetes.

Now lets talk about diet soda, which gets a little trickier.

I can’t make the calorie argument since most diet drinks have zero calories. So let me start simply with the ingredient list for Diet Coke—carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid and caffeine.

Yeah, there’s nothing I like more than the refreshing taste of potassium benzoate and a splash of phosphoric acid. Yum.

You don’t care you say? You like that slightly metallic taste and the bite of artificial sweetener? Alrighty then, let’s move on to science.

There have been countless studies on artificial sweeteners and their correlation to health. The data is often contradictory and sometimes, highly controversial. For example, an Italian paper argued that aspartame caused cancer in rats. But, the National Cancer Institute, the FDA, and other prominent health agencies state that no solid evidence exists linking artificial sweeteners to cancer or other serious health issues. They declare these substances safe for human consumption.

While they might be safe, scientists are finding unexplained linkages between diet soda drinkers and weight gain.

Taste distortion is one possible explanation. Artificial sweeteners are hundreds, sometimes thousands times sweeter than real sugar. Scientists theorize that these super-sweet substances have led to taste distortion. They have redefined “sweet.” This causes diet soda drinkers to desire highly sweetened and therefore, highly caloric foods, which lead to weight gain.
Behavior modification is another possibility. Consumers of diet sodas may overindulge in other areas of their life, believing that they’re saving a lot of calories by drinking a diet beverage. For example, they’ll go ahead and get the candy bar out of the vending machine since they’re chasing it with a Diet Coke. While the diet soda doesn’t cause the weight gain per se, it’s an enabler to bad behavior.
My final argument against diet soda comes from the San Antonio Heart Study. The study’s bottom line— individuals who consumed over three artificially sweetened beverages a day were twice as likely to be overweight or obese.  The researchers ended their paper with this statement:

“Such an association does not, by itself, establish causality. But it raises a troubling question, which can be answered only by further research: are [artificial sweeteners] fueling—rather than fighting—the very epidemic they were designed to block?”

Next week…the benefits of java.

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