7 Surprising Health Dangers of Soda

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

Cheap and easy to find, soda is a diet staple for nearly half of Americans on any given day. While awareness is on the rise about the sweet drink’s link to obesity, there are harmful effects that go beyond your waistline—whether you opt for the diet or full-sugar variety. From osteoporosis to cancer, you may want to consider this list of non-weight-related health risks before purchasing your next soft drink.

  • Doctor looking at spinal X-ray
    Osteoporosis
    Regularly drinking cola-based soda is linked to having lower bone density, likely due to the high levels of phosphate found in soft drinks. Your body needs a balance between calcium and phosphoric acid to keep your bones healthy, and all the phosphate found in soda may disrupt this relationship. Researchers hypothesize that excess phosphoric acid leaves your body actually tapping your bones for needed calcium, leaving you at a deficit and weakening bones over time.
  • senior woman holding painful hand
    Arthritis
    Consistent soda drinking is also associated with a heightened risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis for women, regardless of your other dietary or lifestyle choices. The risk is significant, too. According to one study, a soda per day could leave you 63% more likely to develop this painful, chronic condition. The link is likely rooted in soda’s processed sugars, which trigger the release of inflammatory agents. If you’re concerned about your joint health, opting for water is a smart choice.
  • Understanding Heart Disease Treatment Options
    Heart Disease
    Regular soda consumption puts you at a higher risk of developing heart disease and related issues. One large-scale, long-term study found that men who averaged a serving or more of sugary soda daily had a 20% higher risk of having or dying from a heart attack. And the risk is real for women, too. Another similarly designed study showed females who consumed more than two sodas daily had a 40% greater risk of heart attacks or heart disease-related death.
  • Woman checking blood sugar on finger
    Type 2 Diabetes
    If you regularly drink soda, you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. One study, which followed 90,000 women over eight years, found those who drank one or more servings of soda daily were twice as likely to have developed type 2 diabetes during the study. With similar results generated by numerous independent research studies, the evidence behind this link remains strong. This means choosing a naturally sweetened drink may be one of the easiest ways to avoid this debilitating disease.
  • blood-pressure
    Vascular Health
    Whether it’s regular or sugar-free, soda consumption is linked to high blood pressure and a heightened risk of experiencing a vascular event, like a stroke. Research has revealed a link between the caramel coloring (which is why diet soda is still dangerous) and inflammation and plaque buildup in your arteries, both of which are risk factors of stroke. If you’re concerned about your vascular health, or if you’re at-risk of stroke, avoiding soda can be a powerful step in a healthy direction.
  • Female doctor with illustration of kidneys over tablet
    Kidney Function
    Soda puts your kidneys at risk, too, especially if you’re a woman drinking two or more diet versions daily. One study, which tracked soda drinkers and non-soda drinkers, showed people who fell into this category experienced a 30% decline in kidney function compared to their soda-free peers—even when researchers took other health factors into account, like obesity and smoking. With one in three Americans already at an increased risk of developing kidney disease, any reduction is soda is a step in the right direction.
  • man-in-scanner
    Cancer
    Drinking darker sodas, specifically those tinted with a type of caramel coloring called 4-MeI, may be exposing you to harmful levels of a known cancer-causing chemical. Research shows this coloring agent is a potential carcinogen—a substance capable of causing cancer. In fact, one study reported that more than half of Americans between the ages of 6 and 64 drink enough soda to increase their cancer risk. If you’re concerned about your risk level, try lowering your dark-colored soda intake.
7 Surprising Health Dangers of Soda

  1. 7 Secrets to Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy. Cleveland Clinic. http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/04/7-secrets-to-keeping-your-kidneys-healthy/ 

  2. 8 Food Ingredients that Can Cause Inflammation. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/foods-to-avoid-limit/food-ingredients-... 

  3. Caramel Color in Soft Drinks and Exposure to 4-Methylimidazole: A Quantitative Risk Assessment. PLOS One. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118138 

  4. Colas, but Not Other Carbonated Beverages, Are Associated with Low Bone Mineral Density in Older Women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/4/936.full 

  5. Consumption of Sugar Drinks in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db71.htm 

  6. Could Drinking Too Much Soda Lead to Osteoporosis or Kidney Failure. Columbia University. http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/could-drinking-too-much-soda-lead-osteoporosis-or-... 

  7. Do You Drink Soda Every Day? Cleveland Clinic. http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2013/03/soda-do-you-drink-it-every-day/ 

  8. Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Public Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1829363/ 

  9. Say No to That Diet Soda? National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/news/kidneyCare/spring10/DietSoda 

  10. Sodas, Tea and Coffee. Which Can Lower Your Bone Density? Cleveland Clinic. http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/09/sodas-tea-and-coffee-which-can-lower-your-bone-density/ 

  11. Soft Drinks and Disease. Harvard School of Public Health. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/soft-drinks-and-disease/ 

  12. Sugar-sweetened soda consumption and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25030783

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Feb 21
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