Soda is a popular beverage that many people enjoy on a regular basis. However, there is an ongoing debate about whether drinking soda in moderation – such as 1 can per day – is part of a healthy lifestyle. In this article, we will examine the potential health impacts of drinking 1 soda per day.
Soda Nutrition Facts
First, let’s look at the basic nutritional makeup of soda:
- A 12-ounce can of cola contains about 150 calories, all from added sugar. The total carbohydrate content is 39 grams, which is entirely added sugars.
- Soda is made up of carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, and caffeine.
- It contains no protein, fiber, vitamins, or minerals. Essentially soda is a source of added sugars and caffeine with little nutritional value.
So in terms of nutrition, a 12-ounce can of soda mainly provides empty calories and excess sugar without any health benefits. Drinking just 1 can per day would add 150 empty calories and around 39 grams of added sugar to your diet.
One of the biggest concerns with soda is its high added sugar content. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) per day for men.
One 12-ounce can of soda contains well over this limit, ranging from 39-47 grams of added sugar depending on the brand. Even without any other sources of sugar, just 1 can of soda per day would take someone over the recommended daily limit for added sugars for optimal health.
Consuming excessive added sugars from soda has been linked to several health risks including:
- Weight gain and obesity
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Fatty liver disease
- Tooth decay
Studies show that frequent soda consumption is associated with weight gain, with each daily serving increasing the risk of obesity by 60% in children and 26% in adults. The added sugars in soda flood the liver with high amounts of fructose, which gets converted to fat. This fat accumulation in the liver is a key driver of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The added sugars in soda may also increase diabetes risk. Drinking 1-2 cans per day has been associated with a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, people who consumed more than 1 soda per day had a 63% higher risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and excess abdominal fat that increase risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Therefore, the high amounts of added sugars in soda can have detrimental health effects even at an intake of 1 can per day by promoting weight gain, fat accumulation, and chronic disease risk.
In addition to added sugars, the caffeine in soda deserves consideration. A 12-ounce can of cola contains around 34 mg of caffeine. The daily upper limit for caffeine is 400 mg per day for healthy adults.
Some of the potential health impacts of excess caffeine include:
- Nervousness and restlessness
- Gastrointestinal issues like stomach pain and diarrhea
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Dependency and withdrawal symptoms
Consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine per day does not appear to have adverse effects in most healthy adults. Drinking 1 soda containing 34 mg of caffeine is unlikely to cause issues by itself.
However, many people consume caffeine from multiple sources including coffee, tea, energy drinks, cocoa, chocolate, and certain medications. Just 1 soda in combination with a few other caffeinated beverages could easily exceed the daily limit for some individuals.
Those who are pregnant, trying to conceive, or sensitive to caffeine may need to limit or avoid soda altogether to keep their total caffeine intake within a safe range.
Impact on Hydration
Soda is essentially water with added sugars, flavors, and carbonation. But despite its high water content, some sources say that soda is dehydrating rather than hydrating.
There are a few reasons why soda may negatively affect hydration:
- The high sugar content causes an osmotic effect, pulling water into the digestive system to dilute the sugars.
- Carbonation can make you feel full, decreasing thirst and desire to drink more liquids.
- Caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, increasing urine output.
- Phosphoric acid could potentially interfere with the body’s ability to retain water.
Experts commonly recommend avoiding soda when you are thirsty and opting for plain water instead to optimally hydrate the body. While an occasional soda is unlikely to significantly affect hydration, relying on soda as your main source of fluids could potentially disrupt normal water balance in the body.
Soda has an acidic pH around 2.5. For comparison, battery acid has a pH of 1. Drinking beverages with an acidic pH over time can potentially impact bone and tooth health.
Frequent consumption of acidic sodas has been associated with:
- Lower bone mineral density
- Higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures
- Enamel erosion
- Dental cavities
One study found that drinking cola daily was associated with 4% lower bone mineral density in women. Other research shows greater risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures in people who drink more soda.
The high acidity of soda can also damage tooth enamel over time leading to dental erosion. People who drank 4 or more colas per day were five times more likely to have tooth erosion compared to those who drank less than 1 per day.
So although drinking the occasional soda is unlikely to harm bone or dental health substantially, frequent consumption may contribute to adverse effects like osteoporosis, fractures, and cavities.
Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. The most common sweeteners used are aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and saccharin. The FDA has approved these for use, considering them safe for consumption.
However, there is conflicting research on the health effects of artificial sweeteners:
- Some studies link consumption to increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and stroke.
- Other research shows little to no harm, and even potential benefits for weight loss.
This debate on artificial sweeteners is far from settled. There are also differences between various sweeteners. While evidence overall does not clearly show serious harms, there are some concerns over regular consumption of certain sweeteners like aspartame.
More research is needed on the long-term health impacts. Since diet sodas still contain caramel coloring and phosphoric acid, they share some of the same concerns regarding bone health and dental issues as regular soda.
Other Health Impacts?
There are a few other alleged health impacts of soda that have been studied:
- Kidney stones: Colas contain phosphoric acid which some accuse of increasing kidney stone risk. However, research finds no link between drinking colas and kidney stone formation.
- Reproductive issues: One study found a slight correlation between soda intake and decreased fertility in women. But overall evidence does not indicate sodas impair fertility or reproductive health.
- Cancer: There are concerns that caramel coloring in sodas may cause cancer. But there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that soda increases cancer risk.
- Gout: Soda consumption has been associated with higher risk of gout in some studies, while others found no increase. More research is needed on soda’s role in gout risk.
Overall the evidence does not clearly show that 1 soda per day substantially raises the risk of kidney stones, reproductive problems, cancer, or gout. Research is mixed and more high-quality studies are needed.
Effect on Overall Diet
There are a couple reasons why drinking soda could influence overall diet and nutrition intake:
- Displaces healthier drinks – Soda consumption may crowd out milk, water, or other more nutritious beverages.
- Increases calorie intake – The extra 150 calories per can of soda can lead to increased calorie intake and weight gain if not compensated for elsewhere in the diet.
- Leads to cravings & impulsive choices – The blood sugar spike and crash after drinking sugary soda may increase hunger and cravings for sweets.
Studies show that soda drinkers have poorer quality diets overall, with higher intakes of calories, added sugars, and saturated fat compared to people who rarely drink soda.
Cutting back on soda has been shown to lead to spontaneous decreases in calorie intake with no intent to diet. Therefore, the impact of soda on overall diet quality is important to consider.
Benefits of Cutting Back
Although having 1 soda per day is unlikely to pose major health risks for most people, cutting back can provide benefits including:
- Reduced sugar and calorie intake
- Lower diabetes and obesity risk
- Healthier body weight
- Improved hydration
- Less dental erosion
- Improved bone strength
- Better appetite control and food choices
Studies show adults who reduced their sugary beverage intake by 1 serving per day lost weight and improved their cardiometabolic risk profile. Children also saw health improvements when they decreased soda intake.
Replacing soda with water is ideal, providing hydration without any added sugars, calories, or acids. Overall, cutting back on soda can benefit your health by reducing excess sugar intake.
The Bottom Line
Having 1 soda per day is unlikely to significantly impact health or cause weight gain for most healthy individuals. However, research shows reducing intake provides benefits like improved nutrition, lower diabetes risk, stronger bones and teeth, and healthier body weight.
The main concerns with daily soda intake are:
- Excess added sugar intake
- Higher calorie consumption
- Displacement of healthier beverages
- Increased acid exposure to teeth
- Caffeine content in certain sensitive groups
While occasional soda drinking won’t do much harm for most people, minimizing intake is the healthiest choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is drinking 1 Coke a day bad for you?
One 12-ounce Coke delivers 140 calories and 39g of added sugar. This accounts for a significant portion of the recommended daily limits on calories (2,000 for adults) and added sugars (25-36g). Drinking 1 per day can lead to weight gain and increased risk of diabetes, fatty liver, and heart disease over time. While having an occasional Coke is fine, daily intake is not ideal.
Can 1 soda per day cause weight gain?
Yes, 1 soda per day can contribute to weight gain over time. The extra 150 calories per can equates to an extra 10-26 pounds of fat gain per year if not compensated for. Plus, the blood sugar spike and crash can increase hunger and cravings. Cutting out or decreasing soda intake is an effective way to maintain a healthy weight.
What happens if you drink soda everyday?
Drinking soda every day has negative effects on long-term health. Potential consequences include increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, enamel erosion, bone loss, kidney stones, and gout. Soda drinkers also tend to have poorer diet quality overall.
Is it OK to drink soda in moderation?
In moderation, soda is unlikely to cause major health issues. However, research shows even occasional soda intake is linked to negative effects like weight gain, metabolic syndrome, dental cavities and lower bone density in some individuals. While an occasional soda may be fine, minimizing intake is healthiest.
Can soda everyday affect dental health?
Yes, the acidic pH of soda can erode tooth enamel over time, especially when consumed daily. Frequent soda drinkers have higher rates of dental erosion and cavities. Even diet sodas are highly acidic. Cutting back on soda and swishing with water after drinking it can help protect dental health.
The Healthiest Beverage Choices
Instead of relying on soda for hydration or calories, focus on healthier beverage options:
- Water – Ideally plain or sparkling water with no sweeteners. Staying well hydrated with water is vital for health.
- Unsweetened tea – Both black and herbal tea provide antioxidants without any calories or sugar.
- Coffee – In moderation, coffee is linked to health benefits like reduced disease risk.
- Low-fat milk – Provides key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein for strong bones and muscles.
- 100% fruit juice – Look for low-sugar varieties and limit to a small glass per day.
- Vegetable juice – Offers an easy way to increase veggie intake.
- Smoothies – Make your own using milk/yogurt, fruit, and greens.
When a fizzy, sweet treat is needed, try naturally flavored seltzer or infusing fruit into water for a homemade soda alternative.