Lauren Rabaino

Hey Sarah,

How bad is soda for you? How bad is diet soda for you? Is one worse than the other? What effects do they have on your body? For example, do they both make you gain weight? Do they leave your body wanting more?

Thanks for listening.

Computer science junior

Dear Tom,

I am really glad you asked this question because it’s a topic that I have been confused about for years. We have all heard the mixed messages from many different sources regarding the overall health drawbacks of soda and it’s really hard to figure out what information to believe. Due to the fact I am not a health professional, I didn’t feel quite qualified to write about my personal opinion on the matter. So I picked up the phone and did some research for you. Here is what I found from various perspectives of health care professionals.

What the physician says:

“Soft drinks, especially colas, cause an increase in phosphate levels and a decrease in calcium levels, which leads to a significant demineralization of bone mass,” says Dr. Andrea Clarke, a family and women’s health practitioner in Napa, Calif.

In other words, calcium is being pulled from your bones to match the phosphate levels in your blood stream.

“Multiple studies have been conducted on the relationship regarding bone health and soda intake and they have proven that soda consumption does indeed decrease bone density, especially for young women,” Clarke says.

A large intake of soda and decreased bone density could lead to early-onset osteoporosis.

What the researcher says:

There was a large four-year study performed in Boston which produced many surprising correlations.

“People who consumed more than one soft drink, even sugar-free varieties, were 44 percent more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease as opposed to those who didn’t drink a soda a day,” said Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, the study’s senior author and professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Some research suggested that artificial sweeteners may cause diet soda drinkers to crave more sweet, higher-calorie foods. Other studies have questioned whether the caramel content of soft drinks may play a role in insulin resistance. Earlier research found that people who were served an artificially-sweetened drink ate more pizza at a meal than those who had a regular beverage.

What the dentist says:

“Soda has shown to cause an absolutely huge increase in tooth decay,” says Dr. Donald DeVincinzi, D.D.S, from Napa, Calif.

Surprisingly, it’s not just the sugar in the soda that is harming your pearly whites.

“The acidity is strong enough to actually etch the enamel and cause teeth to feel rough and slightly porous,” DeVincinzi says. This explains why colas are known for their ability to stain teeth.

“Regular consumption is the main problem because it takes about one or two hours for the enamel to re-mineralize itself.”

The sodas that have the highest amount of acid are Coke and Pepsi with a pH of 2.63 and 2.49, respectively. Battery acid has a pH of 1.0. Mountain Dew has the largest amount of sugar with a whopping 11 teaspoons per 12-ounce servings.

What the nutritionist says:

“If you offer your body something that tastes like a lot of calories, but it isn’t there, your body is alerted and it will search for the calories promised but not delivered,” says Leslie Bonci, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Some soft drink studies suggest that diet drinks stimulate appetite and bring on a craving for carbohydrates.

“Normally, when a significant quantity of carbohydrates are consumed, serotonin levels rise in the brain,” Bonci says. This rise in serotonin causes a relaxed feeling after a meal and you feel satisfied. When aspartame is ingested with carbohydrates, that relaxed feeling never arrives and you don’t get the signal to stop eating.

Personally, I find that I crave saltier and somewhat greasier foods to go with my soda and I feel that I have experienced increased hunger after consuming multiple diet sodas in the past. I hope these varied perspectives will help quench your thirst on the matter. Let me know if you have any further questions.

Sarah Bailey is a nutrition senior, a Mustang Daily nutrition columnist and a member of PULSE. E-mail your questions to her at

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