Give up this dangerous habit in 2015

If you only give up one thing in the New Year, give up soda.  And it’s so easy to do.

Maybe you grew up calling it pop or even tonic, like me in New England. But thankfully, no matter what you call it, the stuff just isn’t as popular as it once was.

In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, 62 percent of Americans today actively try to avoid soda. But that also means almost 40 percent of Americans probably still drink too much of it. And it’s amazing to see how little soda you actually need to drink before your risk of Type II diabetes starts to spike. I’ll tell you more about that risk in a moment. But first, let’s back up…

Most popular brands of soda actually started out as bottled “medical blends” of plant extracts. The original “Coca-Cola” formula contained coca plant extract. “Root beer” in the late 1800s contained sassafras or birch roots.

And pharmacists designed many of the first carbonated beverages. For example, the pharmacist John Pemberton designed the original formula for Coca-Cola. Another pharmacist, John Hires, developed Hires root beer. (And yes, appropriately enough, Dr. Pepper also came from pharmacist.)

But in the 1900s, the government increasingly began to regulate commercial food products and their various ingredients. So most soda ended up mainly as sugar- water, with proprietary flavorings.

Then, starting in the 1960s, food manufacturers introduced “diet” sodas that contained artificial sugar substitutes such as saccharin, cyclamates, and aspartame. But, as you know, these “sugar-free” sodas carry all the same health risks as regular soda. In fact, they cause the same–if not higher–rates of obesity and Type II diabetes. In one study I told you about last year, men and women who drank diet soda ran a much greater risk of developing Type II diabetes than those who drank regular soda.

Researchers haven’t quite figured out exactly how and why these “sugar-free” sodas cause so many problems. But we do know exactly how and why the body handles regular soda so poorly. It’s all about the sugar…

You see, your body absorbs calories from sugar incredibly quickly into the blood. Then, it rapidly converts these calories into body fat. By contrast, your body slowly absorbs calories from dietary fats. So–that’s one reason why low-carb diets work better than low-fat diets.

Without a doubt, it’s important to slow down food digestion. As I recently reported, cinnamon helps reduce blood sugar because it appears to slow the digestion and absorption of carbs. (Of course, many other natural products work in the same way.) So, if you slow down digestion, your blood sugar never reaches the high levels that trigger more insulin and metabolic reactions.

But as you probably know, most regular sodas on the market today don’t actually contain “regular” sugar or sucrose. They contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The name itself is very deceptive. It makes it sound like this gunk is “high” in fructose, the natural sugar found in fruits. Of course, your body absorbs fructose slowly because it comes trapped in the food biomatrix. This retards digestion. Also, your body appears to handle fructose differently metabolically.

HFCS, on the other hand, is just about as unnatural and dangerous as they come. It derives from corn syrup, which is made up of mostly glucose–the most fast-acting sugar of all.

Then, they artificially add “some” fructose to the corn syrup. Ironically, corn syrup contains little or no fructose normally. So, it’s only “high” in fructose compared to corn syrup alone. (Technically, I guess you can call any amount “high” when you compare it to zero.)

Soda companies used this gimmick to mislead consumers. It made HFCS sound somewhat “natural”…because it’s supposedly “high” in fructose, a natural sugar.

But many folks now realize the many dangers of HFCS.

Without a doubt, we can blame HFCS for much of America’s weight gain. For example, researchers at Princeton University found that rats fed HFCS gained 47 percent more weight compared to rats fed an identical number of calories but without any HFCS.

In another study at the Imperial College of London, researchers found that drinking a single 12-ounce soda per day increased the risk of diabetes by 22 percent compared to those who did not drink sodas. Researchers believe that HFCS may initiate a series of metabolic events in the body, which leads to diabetes.

Of course, soda causes many other health problems beyond weight gain and diabetes. In fact, scientists now recognize that too much sugar–not too much salt, as I’ve been saying for years–causes high blood pressure. I will tell you more about that finding in a Dispatch later this month.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about disturbing research linking soda to Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, poor dental health, and cancer.

Meanwhile, give up the soda, whether “sugar-free” or with sugar.


  1. “High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristics of obesity in rats: increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels,” Pharmacol Biochem Behav.2012; 97(1): 101-106

2. “Consumption of sweet beverages and type 2 diabetes incidence in European adults: results from EPIC-InterAct,” Diabetologia 2013; 56(7): 1,520-1,530