A Breakdown of What’s Really in your Cola and how it affects your Health

A Breakdown of What’s Really in your Cola and how it affects your Health

Mackenzie Thompson

by Mackenzie Thompson

Life Saver, AMC

posted on Mar 10, 2015, at 6:27 pm


IT’S NOW COMMON KNOWLEDGE: Drinking too much soda has become an unhealthy staple in many American diets. What many fail to realize, however, is exactly what ingredients are in the fizzy beverages that is actually contributing to the negative health side effects. Drinking excessive amounts of soda has been associated with weight gain, poor dental health, heart disease and diabetes.

cans of soda and soft drinks

Here, we break down the 3 main ingredients in the typical 12-ounce can of soda: sugar, sodium and caffeine to see how they potentially impact health.

• Sugar Rush
Corn syrup, malt sugar, dextrose, glucose, syrup, corn sweetener, honey and molasses.

What do these words have in common? They are all names for added sugars on processed food labels. According to the American Heart Association, there are essentially two types of sugars: natural and added. Natural sugars are found in fruits, which are also known as fructose, and milks, which is known as lactose. Added sugars have typically been processed, and like the name implies, added to foods and beverages to enhance flavor.

The AHA states that the top 3 sources of unhealthy added sugars in the American diet are sourced from regular soft drinks, table sugars (such as sugars added to coffee), and candies. The amount of calories added to the typical 12 ounce can of carbonated soda measures up to a shocking 132 empty and unhealthy calories.

According to Ervin, added sugars alone have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease alone in American adolescents. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, foods and beverages with added sugars should only make up 5-15% of the diet, yet the consumption among Americans remains much higher.

• Something’s Salty
Although there isn’t that much sodium in sodas, sodium may be playing a role in the reason behind why soda has been associated with high blood pressure. According to a study published by Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association by Ian Brown, blood pressure rose an average of 1.6 mm Hg (systolic) and 0.8 mm Hg (diastolic) in the participants. This may not seem like much, but when one considers the multiple cans of soda the average person drinks in one day, the numbers begin to add up. Brown proposes a link between sugar and sodium consumption and increased blood pressure.

• Caffeine Crash
Caffeine, a plant product found in a variety of foods including coffee beans, teas, and chocolates, are added into many popular soft drinks. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, which in turn often helps people become more awake or attentive. Caffeine also increases heart rate, body temperature, blood flow, blood sugar levels, and production of urine.

Excess caffeine consumption (more than 1000 mg per day), on a regular basis is associated with problems with conception, changes in bowel habits and increased heartburn.

Among sodas, Mountain Dew has the highest amount of caffeine (54 mg) compared to other popular brands. Not falling far behind is Mello Yello, Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper. Concentrations of caffeine are higher in popular energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster – as high as 32 mg of caffeine per ounce!

A little soda in moderation is not necessarily bad, but it’s important to remember that soda is almost entirely empty calories; meaning soda has no nutritional value. In other words, you are better off eating a fast food meal – simply because the meal contains nutrients. Instead of grabbing the second or third soda of the day, consider fresh juice, herbal teas, or milk.

We want to know: Have you ever tried to give up soda?


Ervin, R. Bethene, et al. “Consumption of Added Sugar among US Children and Adolescents, 2005-2008. NCHS Data Brief. No. 87.” National Center for Health Statistics (2012).

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a lover of world travel, photography, design, style and Chinese cooking. She is passionate about working towards a purpose, recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Media and Marketing, and is currently residing in Manhattan.

Contact Mackenzie at mackenzie.thompson@advmedcert.com

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