Dr. Katz shares if drinking soda is contributing to obesity.
My attitude about obesity is that everything in modern society that isn’t part of the solution is part of the problem. There’s a variable literature looking at the association between soda and obesity, but here’s my thinking on the topic–regular soda is a source of sugar and calories. The fundamental cause of obesity in anybody is too many calories in, too few calories out.
If you drink soda, that’s some of the calories in, and soda has nothing redeeming in it. It is a chemistry experiment gone bad and it’s a source of sugar and calories. Now maybe if you drink soda, the calories from soda are not being added to your diet; maybe they are replacing other calories. Well, then my attitude is, whatever calories they are replacing, almost any other calories would be better for you because other calories would come with nutrients.
So you are getting calories with no nutrient value, displacing calories that have nutrient value, and you are compromising the nutritional quality of your diet. That’s bad for you. The only alternative is okay, I’ll keep the sources of calories that are also sources of nutrients and add the soda. Well, now you are adding calories.
So, either way you look, soda has got to be a cause of either A, degrading the quality of the diet or B, contributing to obesity. I don’t think there is a third choice, and then, even diet soda I think is part of the problem because we very rightly speak about a sweet tooth, not a sugar tooth. The craving for sweet is just that–a craving for sweet, and like most cravings, the more you feed it, the bigger it gets.
When you feed a sweet tooth, you don’t placate it, you don’t make it go away; you turn it into a sweet fang. The more sugar, the more sweet you are exposed to, the more you need to feel satisfied. Artificial sweeteners do not solve that problem, they compound it, and we don’t really have any evidence that drinking diet soda spares you the effects of drinking soda. Yes, you are taking out the sugar and calories at that moment, but they tend to sneak back into the diet, and there’s even some research to suggest that drinking diet soda is specifically associated with increased risk of weight gain and obesity.
My advice is, don’t drink soda. I think it should go away, frankly; it’s not going to happen anytime soon, I realize. I haven’t had a soda in about 30 years. Drink water most of the time, and if you want a more flavorful beverage, juice from time to time is fine, and when you want a substitute for soda, my personal favorite would be something like Polar seltzers. Polar makes a line of seltzers, which are flavored with a fruit essence; there’s lemon, there’s lime. So, a hint of fruit, they’re fizzy, but there’s no calories, no sweetness, no sugar, no chemicals, but more interesting than just water.
And what you find, if you do rehabilitate your taste buds, you switch from soda to water, do it for long enough and go back and taste a soda, you’ll ask yourself, “What the heck is this?” It tastes like a chemistry experiment gone bad.
When I say I haven’t had a soda in 30 years, I guess there must have been some effort involved in the beginning because I grew up like every other kid drinking it and then said, “I don’t want to do this.” At this point, there’s no effort involved because it completely doesn’t appeal. I mean, it doesn’t look like a safe substance to consume, frankly.
About Dr. David Katz, M.D., M.P.H.:
David L. Katz M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M., F.A.C.P., is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care. He is a board certified specialist in both Internal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine/Public Health, and Associate Professor (adjunct) in Public Health Practice at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Katz is the Director and founder (1998) of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, Director and founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital (2000) in Derby, CT, and founder and president of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation.