Soda Pop - Obesity and Hyperactivity in a Can
Soda pop is often the most common source of young people’s sugar intake. The average teenage male drinks an estimated 868 cans of soda pop each year. Overall, Americans are consuming twice as much soda pop as they did 25 years ago. And they’re spending $54 billion a year on it. That’s twice what we spend on books.
Soda is the subject of bans at schools for good reason, not just for the sugar content.
Weak Bones and Mineral Loss and Free Radicals
Soda drinkers are less likely to get sufficient vitamin A, calcium, or magnesium.  Sugar depletes magnesium, and the high levels of phosphoric acid in soft drinks can combine with calcium and magnesium in the gut to cause a loss of these vital minerals.
Doctors are now seeing young people engaged in sports break their femur – also known as the thigh bone and the strongest bone in the human body – and some are questioning if the phosphorus in soda pop has weakened the bones more than anyone expected. Phosphoric acid gives that tangy aftertaste. Ever used Naval Jelly for removing rust? That's phosphoric acid at work. There is some research suggesting cola consumption increases the amount of calcium measured in urine, meaning cola triggers calcium leaching out of bone.
Researchers at Rutgers University discovered in 2007 that beverages made with high fructose corn syrup contain high levels of reactive carbonyls, a free radical linked to tissue damage, the development of diabetes, and the occurrence of diabetes complications. Reactive carbonyls are elevated in the blood of individuals with diabetes and linked to the complications of that disease.
The Plastic Connection
A chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make plastics hard, and in 2008, Health Canada banned it from baby products. News reports prompted many people to trade in their polycarbonate #7 water bottles for glass, stainless steel, or “BPA-free” plastics. However, maximum exposure to BPA is thought to come from the linings of canned food, especially acidic foods like soda pop and tomato sauce.
Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi officials confirmed that BPA is used in the linings of their beverage containers.
Evidence is accumulating that ongoing exposure to BPA might be contributing to a boatload of medical maladies. Effects at even low BPA exposure appear to include: prostate cancer, breast cancer, early puberty onset, alterations in gender-specific behavior, decreased sperm count, affects on fertility, affects on obesity and insulin resistance, behavioral effects including hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, impaired learning and other changes in behavior. BPA mimics naturally occurring estrogen, a hormone that is part of the endocrine system, the body's finely tuned messaging service.
Ninety-five percent of Americans were found to have BPA in their urine in a 2004 biomonitoring study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A much anticipated British study came out in September, 2007, looking at whether the colored dyes added to so many soft drinks, fruit drinks, and junk food, trigger hyperactivity in children. The connection has been suspected for decades.
Scientists from Southampton University tested more than 300 children, aged 3 and 8, by giving them fruit drinks containing a common mixture of food colorings and preservatives (sodium benzoate). This was a double-blind-placebo-control study; the mixtures were designed to reflect what a typical child might eat in the course of a normal day. It is the largest trial of its kind to date.
Results clearly demonstrated an increase in hyperactivity. Most importantly, the study confirmed deterioration in behavior occurs in children in the general population, not just in those identified as suffering from hyperactivity.
As reported in one of Britain’s largest newspapers, The Guardian, September 6, 2007:
”Parents are to be warned of the dangers of giving their young children drinks, sweets and cakes containing specified artificial additives, as a result of new findings being made public for the first time today which confirm their link with hyperactivity and disruptive behaviour. “The government's Food Standards Agency is taking the significant step of issuing revised guidance to consumers recommending that they steer clear of products containing certain E-numbers if their children are showing signs of hyperactivity or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). “The release of the new public health advice follows the results of the biggest UK study into the links between hyper-activity and chemical food additives, which was commissioned by the government and published today in the medical journal the Lancet.
“But the move has confounded experts and health campaigners, who say the government had missed an opportunity to take a tougher line by banning the additives completely instead of placing a huge burden on parents. Adults are being advised to check for additives by scrutinising labels, yet many sweets and cakes are sold loose without labels, as is ice cream.
“… Professor Jim Stevenson, who headed the Southampton study, said: "We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of children…”
“Dr Andrew Wadge, the FSA's chief scientist, said: "We have revised our advice to consumers: if a child shows signs of hyperactivity or AD/HD then eliminating the colours used in the Southampton study from their diet might have some beneficial effects." “A spokesman for the Hyperactive Children's Support Group said: "This research confirms what many of us have known for 30 years. But we seriously question the implementation of the new advice. Is it practical to expect parents to quiz headteachers about additives in school meals, or to ask parents about the contents of party bags?"
Other concerned parties were quick to pile on:
“… Such additives are derived from industrial textile dyes and are used entirely for cosmetic purposes; to make junk food appealing. These additives are completely unnecessary and are banned under organic standards. … The FSA's reaction is totally inadequate. It is surely time for the agency to take a lead role in addressing this issue through new policies to prevent the use of food additives unless they are required for food-safety reasons.
“As with the issues of pesticide residues and genetically modified food, the FSA is still giving the benefit of the doubt to the food industry over artificial food ingredients, even when there are rising public health concerns.”
Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, also chimed in:
“The overwhelming majority of our additive intake today has been part of the diet of humans for generations: yeast, salt, sugar, baking powder. But thousands of other additives, derived from both natural and synthetic sources, have recently become commonplace in western eating. What are these substances doing to our bodies and our minds? We are just beginning to find out. …
“The packaged food industry and the fast food industry are dependent on the use of such additives to prevent spoilage, to allow the transport of products long distances, and to maintain uniformity. Any finding that such additives pose a threat to human health will threaten the financial health of these industries. And that is why so few large-scale studies have been conducted. The absence of adequate information greatly benefits the producers of industrial food. In the United States there is an extremely cozy relationship between the food industry and the government agencies that are ostensibly regulating it.”
Back in the United States, the Feingold Association, an advocacy group concerned with children and diet, reminded its members that food colorings are not just in soda and fruit drinks:
“Children also consume food dye in their toothpaste, their shampoo (through the scalp), their hand lotion (through their skin), their cereal, their juice drinks, their mac 'n cheese, etc. In fact, in 1977 the National Academy of Sciences did a huge study on 12,000 people and determined that most people in the United States eat up to an average of 317 mg of food dyes per day. The amount children in the UK consume is likely to be close to that.
“As far as we know, the reason that they did not use BHA, BHT, or TBHQ, is that these preservatives have already been removed from most food for children in the UK. Possibly, therefore, the children consume much more sodium benzoate than American children.
A Norwegian study in 2006 showed that teenagers who drank the most soda (an average of four or more glasses a day) scored highest on measures of behavioral difficulties, hyperactivity, mental distress and overall mental health problems. The researchers pointed out that children with high soda consumption are more likely to skip meals and eat less nutrient-dense foods than children with lower consumption, thus making them more likely to develop nutritional deficiencies. "These findings make a strong comment about the need to make soft drinks less available in schools, homes and events for kids," said lead researcher Lars Lien. "Together with all the other compelling evidence of detrimental effects of sugar, I think the evidence from this study strengthens the call to make changes as a society."
Preservatives and DNA Damage
Sodium benzoate is a preservative. It prevents mold and thereby gives a product a long shelf life. Because so many food “products” are no longer fresh, preservatives are widely used in the processed food industry. It is most often found in soft drinks, vinegar, and mouthwash.
Sodium benzoate has already been the subject of concern about cancer. When mixed with the additive vitamin C in soft drinks, it forms benzene, a carcinogenic substance.  Benzene damages bone marrow and can cause anemia because of a decrease in red blood cells. It can also cause excessive bleeding and depress the immune system. Recent surveys have found unlawfully high levels of benzene in some soft drink brands. 
Professor Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology at Sheffield University, rang a loud warning bell about it in 2007. He tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells in his laboratory. What he found alarmed him: the benzoate was damaging an important area of DNA in the "power station" of cells known as the mitochondria.
"These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether. The mitochondria consumes the oxygen to give you energy and if you damage it - as happens in a number if diseased states - then the cell starts to malfunction very seriously. And there is a whole array of diseases that are now being tied to damage to this DNA - Parkinson's and quite a lot of neuro-degenerative diseases, but above all the whole process of ageing. The food industry will say these compounds have been tested and they are completely safe. By the criteria of modern safety testing, the safety tests were inadequate. Like all things, safety testing moves forward and you can conduct a much more rigorous safety test than you could 50 years ago."
Food colorings in soft drinks are there solely for cosmetic reasons – they make the product look appealing.
As word starts to reach the mainstream about the negative health affects of soda, more people are turning to “flavored water” which is seen by the global drinks industry as the latest “super-product.” By some estimates, flavored waters already make up 25% of the bottled water market.
"This is the beginning of the end for colas," says Mark Ritson, a marketing professor at the Melbourne Business School. "And Coca-Cola knows it. … All beverage companies are desperately getting into this market. They are offering a sweeter, 'better' alternative to water." 
Perceptually, flavored waters seem healthier than soda. But consumer beware: they are usually loaded with sugar and problematic additives.
A study by a group of British dentists into the corrosive effects of flavored sparkling water drinks was published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry in 2007.
" ’We are seeing an increase in children with tooth tissue loss associated with erosion,’ says Catriona Brown, a consultant paediatric dentist at the Birmingham Dental Hospital. Although the group looked at flavoured sparkling waters - carbonated water contributes more to erosion than still water - it wasn't the carbonation that caused the biggest problem with erosion, but the fruit flavouring and acids, such as citric and malic acid, that were added to the drinks. ‘We were surprised at how low the pH we found was,’ says Dr Brown. (The lower the pH, the more acidic something is.) Different flavourings made a difference, the dentists found - the worst was lemon-and-lime flavouring. ‘But they all showed acidic tendency,’ says Brown. ‘There is an indication that these drinks are potentially erosive and people should recognise that.’ "
The worst choice among the offerings in the soda pop shelves is the diet soda. “But I don’t want to gain weight,” you say. Think again. Diet sodas actually contribute to weight gain. This is a prime example of the triumph of marketing over knowledge. The findings of eight years of solid research on diet soda and weight gain was reported to the American Diabetes Association at its annual meeting in 2006.
Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, looked at eight years of data from 1,550 people aged 25 to 64. "What didn't surprise us was that total soft drink use was linked to overweight and obesity," Fowler reported. "What was surprising was when we looked at people only drinking diet soft drinks, their risk of obesity was even higher. There was a 41 percent increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day."
Other researchers have found that any kind of sweet taste signals body cells to store carbohydrates and fats, which in turn causes the body to crave more food.
Sweet tastes promote the release of insulin, which blocks the body's ability to burn fat. This is an adaptive response, because for millions of years sweet tastes have meant that blood glucose levels are about to rise, and when there is excess sugar, it ought to be stored for times when food is not readily available. Artificial sweeteners have the same effect on insulin: sweet diet drinks will increase insulin and thus the storage of fat. In diet sodas though, no sugar is provided by the beverage, so the consumer stores away glucose already present in the blood. Now that glucose is not available for energy. Blood sugar takes a dive, the person likely feels lethargic, and then feelings of hunger kick in. The consumer eats more, and gains weight. The consumer may reach for another diet soda or even a candy bar to get that pick-me-up feeling.
No published study has demonstrated that drinking diet soda will cause a person to lose weight.
There are a few other bad actors at work too. Diet soda often contains sodium, which exacerbates thirst. Caffeine is often added to provide that sugar rush - you are trading a sugar high for a caffeine buzz. But the complications of caffeine consumption and addiction are well documented - fatigue due to adrenal exhaustion, insomnia, chronic anxiety, hormonal imbalance, etc.
Aspartame and Splenda
Perhaps most importantly, diet soda contains a synthetic sweetener, most likely aspartame or Splenda.
One 12 ounce diet soda contains about 180 mg of aspartame, or 15 mg of aspartame per ounce, which equals approximately 4 and a half packets of NutraSweet.
In 1991 the National Institutes of Health listed 167 possible side-effect symptoms of aspartame. It is in soda pop, over the counter medicines, chewing gum, breath strips and many more edible products. The FDA receives more complaints about aspartame than any other food additive. But it has never been banned. The reasons for that lay in a tangled web of politics and money woven throughout the At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we order pure aspartame with which to make antigens. Note on the far right of the label - "WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm." (click image to enlarge)Unfortunately, all the current attention on obesity has caused many people to think that diet sodas are a better alternative than regular soda. Even the William J. Clinton Foundation has recommended diet soda as an alternative in schools. Unfortunately, this is an uninformed approach, given the well-documented dangers of sugar substitutes.
For those of us who live in hot climates like Arizona, diet sodas may present a special danger if they have been exposed to hot temperatures, such as sitting outside the back door of a convenience store in summer. There is some evidence that storing diet soda in elevated temperatures promotes rapid deterioration of aspartame into poisonous methyl alcohol (methanol) as well as formic acid and a brain tumor agent called diketopiperazine (DKP). Methanol is better known as wood alcohol, a deadly poison. According to the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network, when ingested, methanol breaks down into formaldehyde which is "known to cause cancer, accumulating slowly without detection in the body."
Methanol is a deadly poison that can cause serious tissue damage. Some of the symptoms of methanol poisoning are headaches; numbness of the arms, hands, legs, or feet; dizziness; depression; blurred vision; nausea; and stomach pain. The body lacks the specific enzymes necessary to detoxify it. A 12 ounce aspartame-sweetener soft drink is said to have about 10 mg of methanol.
Dr. H. J. Roberts, a physician and renowned aspartame researcher, explains that when the amino acids in aspartame are consumed in their natural state in foods, they are digested and released into the bloodstream slowly, buffered and balanced by other amino acids. However, especially when aspartame is consumed in beverages, the body is suddenly flooded with phenylalanine and aspartic acid, which can cross into the brain unimpeded and cause significant disturbances. Dr. Richard Wurtman, Professor of Neuroendocrinology at MIT, notes that an adult drinking four to five aspartame-sweetened soft drinks a day is getting enough phenylalanine into the brain to disrupt neurotransmitter function, which can produce can produce depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, headaches, high blood pressure, increased appetite and possibly seizures.
Sandra Cabot, MD, author and international lecturer, explains it this way:
"When you ingest the toxic chemical aspartame, it is absorbed from the intestines and passes immediately to the liver where it is taken inside the liver via the liver filter. The liver then breaks down (metabolizes) aspartame to its toxic components-phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. This process requires a lot of energy from the liver making less energy available for fat burning and metabolism, which will result in fat storing and elevated blood sugar levels. Excess fat may build up inside the liver cells causing ‘fatty liver’ and when this starts to occur it is extremely difficult to lose weight. In my vast experience any time that you overload the liver you will increase the tendency to gain weight easily. ... The Trocho Study in Barcelona (l998) showed that the formaldehyde converted from the free methyl alcohol accumulates in the cells and damages DNA with most toxicity in the liver but substantial toxicity in the adipose tissue (fat cells). ... So as far as product liability is concerned, you have companies selling an excitoneurotoxic carcinogenic drug to the population as a sugarfree diet product knowing full well this government-approved artificial sweetener is actually causing the obesity it's marketeers claim to be preventing. They also know that aspartame is addictive and that the methanol component is classified as a narcotic."
Dr. Morando Soffritti, received the Irving J. Selikoff Award in April, 2007 for outstanding contributions to the identification of environmental and industrial carcinogens
Dr. Morando Soffritti and researchers at Italy’s Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences performed several studies on aspartame. One study was conducted for 36 months using 1,800 rats. It concluded that aspartame is a multipotential carcinogen, with effects evident even at a daily dose of 20 mg/kg bw. Cancers produced included leukemia, lymphoma, kidney, and cranial peripheral nerves. This prodigious work was peer reviewed. Most recently, researchers gave aspartame to pregnant rats and to their offspring. Researchers found that after the dose was adjusted for the smaller body weights of the rats, there was a slightly increased risk of cancer among those rats which were given about 40 percent of what the FDA has deemed a maximum accepted daily dose of aspartame. And when life-span exposure to aspartame begins during fetal life, its carcinogenic effects are increased. 
These studies were done on rats, but suggest a danger to unborn babies and especially to children, including the newly identified risk of breast cancer as the child ages. Dr. Philip Landirgan, Chairman of Community and Environmental Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, says, "Exposures occurred at relatively low doses. If a 20 kg child drinks two cans of diet soda a day the child is bringing into his body a 400 mg of aspartame. Just two cans of drink we're already exposing the child to a biologically significant dose. Parents of young children should think very, very carefully about giving drinks and other foods to their children that are sweetened with aspartame and for that matter other artificial sweeteners." As public awareness grows that aspartame is dangerous, a new artifical sweetener, Splenda, is replacing aspartame as the “sugar-free” additive of choice in soda pop.
Dr. James Bowen, researcher and biochemist, has reported:
"Splenda/sucralose is simply chlorinated sugar; a chlorocarbon. Common chlorocarbons include carbon tetrachloride, trichlorethelene and methylene chloride, all deadly. Chlorine is nature's Doberman attack dog, a highly excitable, ferocious atomic element employed as a biocide in bleach, disinfectants, insecticide, WWI poison gas and hydrochloric acid. In test animals Splenda produced swollen livers, as do all chlorocarbon poisons, and also calcified the kidneys of test animals in toxicity studies. Chlorocarbon poisoning can cause cancer, birth defects, and immune system destruction."
(FOOTNOTE: James Bowen, M.D., The Lethal Science of Splenda, May 2005, accessed at http://www.wnho.net/splenda_chlorocarbon.htm)
Benzene and Pesticides
Exposing soft drinks to heat can also raise levels of benzene. This chemical has been identified as a Class A carcinogenic by the Environmental Protection Agency causing both acute and chronic health effects. Its use as an additive in gasoline is now limited, but it is an important industrial solvent and precursor in the production of drugs, plastics, synthetic rubber, and dyes.
Many who served in the Gulf War drank diet sodas that had been exposed to hot temperatures in Kuwait and Iraq; questions have been raised whether soda pop played a role in the sickness called Gulf War Syndrome that plagued so many returning vets.
And in related news, there may be more chemicals in that aluminum can of soda than one would think. The sale of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo soft drinks have been banned in parts of India because the beverages contained pesticide residues more than 20 times the "acceptable" amounts.
Common sense tells you there is a problem with diet foods. Despite how much of them America has consumed in the last 15 years, obesity has become epidemic. Read the labels on so-called "health food" bars and you will find they too are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners. The belief that these bars and diet sodas are healthy for you demonstrates how clearly marketing hype dictates what people are willing to believe.
Teens Consume Twice as Much ‘Liquid Candy’ as Milk
Sodas represent a mixed bag of problems – the sugar, caffeine, acid, preservatives, food colors, empty calories. But let’s look a little more broadly at how they can undermine health. Researchers often suggest that soda use is indicative of an overall pattern of poor food choices. And that can show up in many different ways. One child many be diagnosed with AD/HD when she is actually suffering from severe nutritional imbalances that demand nutrient dense food. Another child may break his femur on the soccer field.
Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes, a bone-disease expert at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, said, "I’m particularly concerned about teenage girls. Most girls have inadequate calcium intakes, which makes them candidates for osteoporosis when they’re older and may increase their risk for broken bones today."
Truth is, soda is bad news, no matter how you look at it. Consumer beware.
So, where does that leave parents who want to break their kids of the soda habit? With an easy alternative! Use club soda; it is inexpensive, effervescent and does not have the sugar of tonic water. Then add some fruit juice for taste – this is like making a fruit-flavored sparkling water. A member of the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine staff successfully switched her kids over years ago to club soda with freshly squeezed citrus – you can always find fresh citrus at the grocery store. When you use lemon or lime, if it tastes a bit too tart, add a few drops of stevia or xylitol to taste, to balance the tartness with a little sweetness. Stevia and xylitol are truly natural sweeteners that do not spike insulin levels like refined table sugar, and do not have the dangerous make-up of the synthetic sweeteners.