Drinking sugary beverages like soda doesn’t provide you with any essential nutrients, but it can cause serious health issues such as weight gain, liver problems, and diabetes.
Eating too much added sugar is generally bad for your health.
Suggested read: Why sugar is bad for you
That said, not all sources of sugar are created equal—sugary beverages are definitely the most harmful.
This isn’t just about soda; it also includes fruit juices, super-sweet coffees, and any other drinks with added sugar.
Here are 13 reasons why soda is detrimental to your health.
1. Sugary drinks don’t satisfy hunger and can lead to weight gain
Added sugar, like the kind you find in soda, mainly consists of fructose. Unlike other forms of sugar, fructose doesn’t suppress your hunger or give you a sense of fullness like glucose does, which is the sugar you get from foods like bread or pasta.
Because sugary drinks don’t make you feel full, you’re likely to consume extra calories on top of your regular food intake. In one study, people who added sugary soda to their diet ate 17% more calories than usual.
It’s no surprise that research shows those who regularly consume sugary beverages tend to gain more weight than those who don’t. In a study involving children, each daily serving of a sugary drink increased the risk of obesity by a staggering 60%.
Simply put, sugary beverages are one of the main culprits behind weight gain in modern diets.
Summary: Drinking sugary beverages doesn’t satisfy your hunger and can lead to increased calorie intake, making them a key contributor to weight gain.
2. Too much sugar overloads your liver, turning it into fat
Regular sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are made up of two different sugars: glucose and fructose. While every cell in your body can process glucose, only your liver can handle fructose.
Sugary drinks are the most convenient and common way to consume an overload of fructose. When you have too much, your liver cannot convert the excess fructose into fat.
Some of this fat ends up in your bloodstream as triglycerides, while the rest stays in your liver. Over time, this can lead to conditions like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Summary: Half of the sugar in drinks like soda is fructose, which can only be processed by your liver. Consuming too much can overload your liver, leading to fat buildup and potentially nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
3. Sugar increases dangerous belly fat
Consuming a lot of sugar, especially fructose, can lead to an increase in belly fat. This type of fat, known as visceral fat, wraps around your organs and is particularly harmful.
Having too much belly fat is linked to severe health risks like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
In a 10-week study involving 32 healthy individuals, those who drank fructose-sweetened beverages saw a significant increase in belly fat, compared to those who consumed drinks sweetened with glucose, who only had an increase in skin fat—a less harmful type of fat.
Summary: Consuming high levels of fructose can lead to the build-up of harmful belly fat, which is linked to diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
4. Sugary drinks can lead to insulin resistance, a major factor in metabolic syndrome
Insulin is the hormone that moves sugar from your blood into your cells. However, when you consume sugary drinks, your cells may start ignoring insulin’s effects, making them resistant.
As a result, your pancreas produces even more insulin to clear the sugar from your bloodstream, leading to high insulin levels in your blood—a condition called insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is often considered the main issue behind metabolic syndrome, a precursor to conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Animal studies have shown that excessive fructose consumption causes insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels. Even moderate fructose consumption increased insulin resistance in the liver in one study involving young, healthy men.
Summary: Consuming too much fructose can make your body resistant to insulin, a key factor in metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
5. Sugary drinks are a major contributor to type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a widespread condition affecting millions globally. It results in high blood sugar levels due to a lack of effective insulin.
Given that consuming too much fructose can lead to insulin resistance, it’s not surprising that many studies have found a strong link between sugary beverage consumption and type 2 diabetes.
Even drinking just one can of sugary soda daily has been shown to significantly elevate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A recent international study that analyzed sugar consumption and diabetes rates in 175 countries found that for every extra 150 calories of sugar consumed per day—roughly the amount in a single soda can—the diabetes risk increased by 1.1%.
To put it another way, if everyone in the United States added just one can of soda to their daily diet, we could see an increase of 3.6 million more people with type 2 diabetes.
Summary: There’s a wealth of data supporting the idea that high sugar intake, particularly from sugary drinks, is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
6. Sugary sodas offer zero nutritional benefits
Sugary sodas don’t provide any essential nutrients; they lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. What they do offer is a lot of added sugar and unnecessary calories.
Summary: Sugary drinks don’t have any beneficial nutrients; they only contribute extra sugar and calories to your diet.
7. Excessive sugar can lead to leptin resistance
Leptin is a hormone your body produces to regulate calorie intake and expenditure. It signals to your body when you’ve had enough to eat.
Both extremely low and high levels of leptin are linked to issues of hunger regulation, earning it the nickname “the hunger hormone.”
Becoming resistant to leptin—known as leptin resistance—is believed to be a key factor in weight gain.
Studies in animals have found that high levels of fructose consumption can cause leptin resistance. Interestingly, one study showed that when rats were switched back to a sugar-free diet, the leptin resistance disappeared, although further research is needed in humans.
Summary: High intake of fructose has been shown in animal studies to cause resistance to leptin, a hormone that controls hunger. Cutting out fructose might reverse the issue.
8. Sugary sodas could be habit-forming
There’s reason to believe that sugary sodas might be addictive. In animal studies, bingeing on sugar led to a release of dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, in the brain.
The same dopamine-driven pleasure sensations could also apply to humans since our brains are wired to seek activities that trigger dopamine releases.
Various studies suggest that sugar and processed foods in general can impact your brain in ways similar to hard drugs. For those predisposed to addictive behaviors, sugary beverages may stimulate a type of reward-seeking habit known as food addiction.
While more research is needed to confirm sugar addiction in humans, the consumption pattern for sugary drinks in many people resembles that of substances known to be addictive.
Summary: The effects of sugary drinks on your brain’s reward system could potentially lead to addictive behaviors.
9. Consuming sugary drinks raises your heart disease risk
There’s a well-established link between high sugar consumption and an elevated risk of heart disease.
Drinking sugary beverages can increase several risk factors for heart disease, including high blood sugar levels, elevated triglycerides, and harmful LDL cholesterol particles.
In long-term human studies, a strong association between sugar consumption and heart disease risk across various population groups has been found.
One study that tracked 40,000 men over 20 years found that those who had one sugary drink a day had a 20% higher risk of experiencing or dying from a heart attack than men who seldom had sugary drinks.
Summary: There’s a strong, consistent link between sugary drinks and the risk of heart disease, according to multiple studies.
10. Sugary sodas are linked to higher cancer risk
Given that cancer often occurs alongside other chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, it’s not surprising that sugary drinks have been associated with higher cancer risks.
One study involving over 60,000 adults found that those who consumed two or more sugary sodas per week had an 87% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those who abstained from soda.
Another study found a significant association between pancreatic cancer and sugary drink consumption in women, but not in men.
Additionally, postmenopausal women who consume large amounts of sugary sodas may have a higher risk of endometrial cancer, which affects the lining of the uterus.
Moreover, research has shown that those who frequently consume sugar-sweetened beverages are more likely to have a recurrence of colorectal cancer and a higher risk of mortality from the disease.
Summary: Multiple observational studies indicate that frequent consumption of sugary drinks is associated with an elevated risk of various types of cancer.
11. Sugary sodas are terrible for dental health
Soda is notoriously bad for dental health, and it’s not just the sugar in it that poses a problem. Sodas also contain acids such as phosphoric acid and carbonic acid, which contribute to an acidic oral environment. This acidity weakens tooth enamel and makes it more susceptible to decay.
When sugar is added to the mix, it provides an energy source for harmful bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria produce acids when they metabolize sugar, further exacerbating the problem and leading to dental issues like cavities and gum disease.
Summary: The acids in soda and the sugar that feeds harmful oral bacteria create a perfect storm for dental health issues.
12. Increased risk of gout among soda drinkers
Gout is a painful condition that occurs when uric acid crystals accumulate in your joints, often affecting the big toe. Fructose, a key component of sugar-sweetened drinks, is known to increase uric acid levels. Studies have shown a strong association between the consumption of sugary drinks and the risk of developing gout.
In particular, long-term studies have linked sugary sodas to a 75% increased risk of gout in women and nearly a 50% increase in men.
Summary: Regular consumption of sugary drinks is strongly linked with a higher risk of developing gout.
13. High sugar consumption is linked to an increased risk of dementia
Dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s disease, is a decline in cognitive function that primarily affects older adults. Research has indicated that elevated blood sugar levels are closely associated with a heightened risk of developing dementia.
Sugary drinks, known for causing quick spikes in blood sugar, could thus contribute to an increased risk of dementia. Studies in rodents have even shown that high doses of sugar can impair memory and decision-making skills.
Summary: Elevated blood sugar levels, which can result from consuming sugary beverages, are associated with an increased risk of dementia.
Consuming a lot of sugary drinks like soda can negatively affect your well-being in multiple ways.
The downsides include a greater likelihood of dental issues and elevated risks for heart problems and conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Frequently sipping sweetened beverages is also linked to gaining extra weight and becoming obese.
So, if you aim to shed weight, dodge long-term illnesses, and extend your lifespan, think about cutting back on sugar-loaded beverages.