We all know that soda is not so good for our health. This popular fast food drink has been linked to a higher risk of obesity and numerous other health problems. (We have a full list of them here.) But the weight gain from throwing back too many sweet, carbonated beverages isn’t necessarily just due to excess calories from sugar. In part, it may also have to do with how the sugar in soda affects your metabolism.
You might (reasonably!) Expect caffeinated sodas to speed up your metabolism. It’s true that caffeine is a stimulant that increases your metabolic rate, so sodas that pack a punch could theoretically boost your energy expenditure at rest. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t the primary metabolic effect most sodas have. Instead, Your added sugar can actually slow your metabolism down. (Related: 112 Most Popular Lemonades, Sorted By Toxicity)
How added sugar affects your metabolism
This is where things get interesting, though: Studies suggest that not all sugars are created equal when it comes to disrupting metabolism. Fructose, the sugar commonly used in lemonade recipes, seems to be a particular culprit. (The high-fructose corn syrup in most sodas contains around 55% fructose.) A 2012 study showed that people who drank fructose-sweetened beverages significantly reduced the number of base calories burned each day. Translation: Your metabolism slowed compared to people who didn’t drink fructose-sweetened drinks.
When fructose makes its way through your digestive system, it ends up in your liver, where it is converted into fat. This will increase your triglyceride levels. Both weight gain from having too many calories in soda and high triglycerides from too much fructose are hallmarks of metabolic syndrome. This accumulation of metabolic symptoms increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Sugary drinks are associated with a higher risk of illness.
In fact, some health experts have linked the rise in the obesity epidemic to a dramatic increase in soda consumption (and possibly an increase in fructose consumption). While the average American consumed around 15 grams of fructose (mostly from fruits and vegetables) in the 1800s and early 1900s, a 2008 study estimated the current figure at 55 grams per day, with the largest source being sugar-sweetened beverages.
High fructose diets from soda and other foods like candy, juice, and possibly beyond weight gain and slowed metabolism can be problematic. Since fructose triglycerides accumulate in the liver, they can damage liver function or cause fatty liver disease. And some studies have shown that high fructose intake can lead to high blood pressure.
Of course, all of this does not mean that having a soda here or there will put your metabolism on the slow train to weight gain or that you will face other health problems. But if you do decide to drink a can, enjoy it to the fullest – and leave one for it. Or check out our list of healthy soda alternatives!
Get even more healthy tips straight to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter! After that, read this next: