Yes or no to soft drinks?

Soft drink consumption has become a highly visible and controversial public health and public policy issue. They are viewed by many as a major contributor to obesity and related health problems and have consequently been targeted as a means to help stifle the rising prevalence of obesity, particularly among children. Such drinks have been banned from schools in Britain and France, and in the United States, school systems as large as those in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Miami have banned or severely limited soft drink sales. Many US states have considered statewide bans or limits on soft drink sales in schools, with California passing such legislation in 2005. A key question is whether actions taken to decrease soft drink consumption are warranted given the available science and whether decreasing population consumption of soft drinks would benefit public health.

Legislative and legal discussions focusing on soft drink sales often take place on political and philosophical grounds with scant attention to existing science. Our objectives are to review the available science, examine studies that involved the use of a variety of methods, and address whether soft drink consumption is associated with increased energy intake, increased body weight, displacement of nutrients, and increased risk of chronic diseases.

On average, Americans consume more than 50 gallons of carbonated soft drinks each year, according to the 2005 USDA report, “Contributions of Nonalcoholic Beverages to the U.S. Diet.” Although the ingredients in carbonated drinks are deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration, these beverages may cause side effects, especially if you consume them on a regular basis. Familiarizing yourself with the possible side effects of carbonated drinks can help you make informed nutrition choices. You may already know that regularly drinking certain carbonated drinks, like soda and energy drinks, can contribute to weight gain, but it’s not just the sugar and calories in these beverages that can cause problems for your health. Many carbonated drinks also contain acids that can damage other parts of your body like your bones and your teeth. It is also commonly associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain. 

Legislative and legal discussions focusing on soft drink sales often take place on political and philosophical grounds with scant attention to existing science. Our objectives were to review the available science, examine studies that involved the use of a variety of methods, and address whether soft drink consumption is associated with increased energy intake, increased body weight, displacement of nutrients, and increased risk of chronic diseases.

       Negative Effect of Excessive Soft Drink


Regular and diet carbonated soft drinks can harm your teeth.

Your mouth contains bacteria that feed on sugar, producing chemicals that can break down the hard enamel of your teeth. A cavity forms when erosion of the enamel exposes the soft, inner core of your tooth. When you drink sweetened, carbonated soda, the sugar remains in your mouth, promoting the processes that lead to tooth decay.

The acid in these carbonated drinks further increases the likelihood of developing cavities, because these chemicals also gradually erode the enamel of your teeth.

 Every time you take a sip, the acids attack your teeth, breaking down enamel and increasing your risk of tooth decay. Each sip starts a new attack, and each attack lasts about 20 minutes. According to the Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center, soft drinks have become one of the most significant causes of tooth decay. Children and teenagers are especially susceptible to these acid attacks because their tooth enamel is still developing.

The best way to protect your teeth from tooth decay is to avoid excess exposure to acids, like those in soda. If completely cutting acidic soft drinks out of your diet is not an option, limit your intake and rinse your mouth out with water after drinking a soda. This helps remove any lingering acids that can prolong enamel erosion. Brush and floss teeth twice a day and see your dentist for deep cleanings and fluoride treatments regularly


Carbonated beverages contain dissolved carbon dioxide, which becomes a gas when it warms to body temperature in your stomach. Consuming carbonated soft drinks may cause repeated belching as your stomach stretches from the accumulation of carbon dioxide gas.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio notes that when the acid in soda combines with carbonation, it can lead to belching and increased reflux into the throat. This is because the carbonation in soda causes your stomach to expand, which pushes stomach acid upward into your esophagus.

Food and stomach acid may come up your food pipe as you belch. This results to heartburn and a sour taste in your mouth.

Eliminating carbonated beverages from your diet is the best way to avoid the heartburn. Choose noncarbonated beverages that are less acidic, such as coconut water or iced herbal tea. If elimination is not an option, avoid lying down after you drink a soda and drink one within three hours of going to bed. Avoid soda when you’re experiencing symptoms of acid reflux to avoid worsening of symptoms.


Consuming sugar-sweetened, carbonated drinks adds calories to your diet, which may increase your risk of overweight and obesity. In a meta-analysis of 88 studies, we examined the association between soft drink consumption and nutrition and health outcomes. We found clear associations of soft drink intake with increased energy intake and body weight. Soft drink was associated with lower intakes of milk and other nutrients increased risk of medical problems.

Lenny Vartanian, Ph.D., and colleagues note in the April 2007 issue of the “American Journal of Public Health” that the risk of overweight and obesity linked to carbonated beverage intake is higher for women than men, and for adults relative to children and adolescents.

Overweight and obesity are significant risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoarthritis.


Consumption of carbonated soft drinks can adversely affect your overall nutrient intake. Drinking these beverages may reduce your consumption of proteins, starch, dietary fiber and vitamin B-2, also known as riboflavin.

People who drink carbonated beverages also tend to eat less fruit and drink less fruit juice compared to those who do not drink sodas.


If you are a woman, consumption of cola-type, carbonated drinks may reduce your bone strength.

In an October 2006 article published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” nutrition scientist Katherine Tucker, Ph.D., and colleagues report that women who consume regular and diet cola tend to have weaker hipbones compared to those who do not drink these beverages.

The authors note that the degree of bone weakness correlates to the amount of cola consumed.

To protect your bones, The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends limiting your consumption of soft drinks. Those with osteoporosis should not drink more than five cola drinks per week. In addition to reducing soft drink intake, adults under 50 should take in 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day, while adults age 50 and over should aim for at least 1,200 milligrams.

This is a long-standing concern. Soft drinks were listed in a strong recommendation to restrict added sugar consumption by the American Medical Association in 1942. At the time, each person in the US consumed 90 8-oz (240-mL) carbonated soft drink servings per year. By the year 2000, there were over 600 people working. Several basic issues have sparked debate in the intervening years. Is there a connection between these drinks and excessive energy consumption? they supplant other foods and drinks, and therefore nutrients; whether they lead to diseases like obesity and diabetes; and whether soft drink marketing activities constitute commercial abuse of children

Finally, there is now enough scientific evidence to explain the physiological effects of carbonated drinks on the gastrointestinal system, as well as a framework for more studies into the pathophysiological aspects of the issue. However, studies are required to back up any arguments about the gastrointestinal system’s benefits from carbonated drinks. More epidemiological and mechanistic studies are also required to assess the potential risks of cavity gastric distress from their intake. Results were affected by research: experiments using more powerful approaches had larger effect sizes (longitudinal and experimental vs cross-sectional studies).Several other factors also moderated effect sizes (e.g., gender, age, beverage type). Finally, studies funded by the food industry reported significantly smaller effects than did non–industry-funded studies. Recommendations to cut public in take strongly supported by the available science.


USDA: Contributions of Nonalcoholic Beverages to the U.S. Diet

“American Journal of Public Health”; Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis; Lenny R. Vartanian, Ph.D., et al.; April 2007

Brigham and Women’s Hospital: The Best and Worst Foods for Your Teeth