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5 Surprising Reasons to Finally Give Up Soda

09/24/2014 08:22 am ET | Updated Nov 24, 2014
  • David Zinczenko The New York Times best-selling author of Eat It to Beat It!, Eat This, Not That and The Abs Diet, and the Nutrition and Wellness Editor at ABC News

Our love affair with soda is slowly changing from infatuation to a love/hate relationship. We know it isn't good for us, we know that diet soda has its own dangers -- but it's hard to put down. More and more Americans are trying to kick the habit, though. According to a July 2014 Gallup poll, 63 percent of Americans are actively trying to avoid soda. That's up from 51 percent in 2004.

Maybe these surprising facts will help you cut the cola cord once and for all.

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1. It Builds Up Fat Around Your Organs
Yep, we're talking dangerous fats that are hard to detect with the naked eye, meaning, you might not know you're in risk of certain health problems because you won't see the changes in your own body. Danish researchers conducted a study of the effects of non-diet soda by asking participants to drink either sweetened soda, milk containing the same amount of calories as the soda, diet soda, or water every day for six months. Total fat mass remained the same across all beverage-drinking groups, but the drinkers of regular soda saw a drastic increase in harmful hidden fats, like liver and skeletal fat.

2. Switching to Diet Doesn't Help You
It's a logical assumption; switching from a sugar-based soda to a non-sugar-based soda would help your health. While calorically speaking that might be true, diet sodas contain their own dangers and side effects. In a shocking study, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center monitored 475 adults for 10 years and found that the participants who drank diet soda saw a 70 percent increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn't drink any soda. So much for the idea that diet soda helps you diet.

3. Some Contain Toxic Flame Retardants
Europe and Japan have already banned the toxic flame retardant brominated vegetable oil (BVO) out of their bubbly beverages, but it's still going strong in several North American soda products (specifically, the citrus-flavored ones). Originally created to make plastics flame-retardant, BVO has since been used to keep the flavoring in fizzy beverages from separating from the rest of the drink. While none of us want a layer of flavor floating at the top of our drink, it's hardly a fair trade off for the potential side effects. As of May 2014 Coca-Cola and PepsiCo had both announced that they were working to remove BVO from their products, but they can still be found in Dr. Pepper/Seven Up, Inc products like Squirt, Sun Drop, and Sunkist Peach and Fruit Punch flavors.

4. It's Polluting Our Water
It's simple: our bodies cannot breakdown artificial sweeteners (isn't that enough of a reason to avoid them?) so they leave us and travel through our waterways. Water treatment plants don't catch them either, allowing them to flow out into rivers and lakes. Swiss researchers found acesulfame K, sucralose, and saccharin - all of which are, or have been, used in diet sodas -- in water treatment plants, lakes, and rivers across the country when they did a survey in 2009. When 19 drinking water treatment plants were tested, sucralose showed up in every single one.

5. It's Aging You, Quickly
You're spending hundreds of dollars on anti-aging products, multi-vitamins, and a personal trainer to keep yourself young and fit, but you haven't kicked that soda habit yet? Well, get on board because here's what that sweet sip is doing to your body: lowering your bone density, eroding your teeth, and causing kidney problems. Diet and regular sodas contain phosphoric acid to ward off the growth of bacteria and mold and give it that tang that keeps you coming back. It's also what's causing all those health problems. A 2010 study published online in the FASEB Journal found that high levels of phosphate caused mice to die a full five weeks sooner than mice with normal phosphate levels. Yum.

Drink This: For an easy, flavorful way to swap out your daily soda, try mixing a splash of 100-percent juice with some seltzer or sparkling water. You'll still get the sweetness and bubbles you crave, but none of the additives.

Eat This, Not That! -- the best-selling series devoted to food swaps and smarter eating -- is back with all new research and better than ever. Here's a sample that'll help you shed pounds without sacrificing flavor, next time you're craving that bubbly beverage.


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