Your Body On Soda

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
by Trinh Le, MPH, RD
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Your Body On Soda

So you want to stop drinking soda! You know it’s not great for you, and the reasoning makes sense: Sodas are a concentrated form of simple sugar that provides empty calories, which can lead to weight gain and poor health. Naturally, this doesn’t happen in one day, but regularly drinking sugary beverages can send your blood sugar and mood on a roller-coaster ride (and it’s not always fun!).

If you’re curious about how soda affects your body, read on to see what happens to your soda from the time it hits your tongue until, well, you get the picture!

If you’re interested in cutting down on sugary beverages, participate in our Better Beverage Challenge today!

About the Author

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food RD by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. For more, connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.


61 responses to “Your Body On Soda”

  1. Avatar MFPblogsucks says:

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  2. Avatar Dom Suda says:

    Glad I don’t do soda.

  3. Avatar wilsonfx0306 says:

    I drank soda every single day for 10 years. I was always overweight, and if I didn’t have my daily dose of pepsi, no one would want to be near me because of my mood. Soda controlled my life. It has been 2 years since I quit, and the change in my body continues to impress me. To start, I rapidly lost 20 lbs, and overall my mood and energy are always balanced. I would never go back to that addiction again.

    • Avatar Jessica says:

      I know exactly what it’s like I drank full fat coke for 7 years usually up to 5 tins a day and getting off it was super hard I had physical withdrawals ie headaches and shakes but like u said never in a million years would I drink it again !!!! 🙂

  4. Avatar Tina Holt says:

    I drink Pepsi max it is suppose to be sugar free but don’t no how true it is

    • Avatar Amy Weber says:

      Pepsi Max is sugar free, but it has artificial sweeteners (either aspartame or splenda). that is actually worse for you than regular, I’m learning. Fake sugar makes your brain think that your body is getting Sugar. When you don’t get Sugar, you begin to crave Sugar until you get some. I’ve totally noticed that when I drink something (diet soda, Crystal Light, whatever) with fake sugar, I’m looking for sweets the rest of the day. If you drink something that is made with Real Sugar (or HFCS), your body says Ahhh, sugar. I’m full now, and doesn’t keep craving more sugar.

  5. Avatar Alison Maney says:

    Great diagram! This is the first time the whole soda-through-your-body journey made sense to me.

  6. Avatar Mike says:

    So what ad shows up on the article….a Soda ad of course…

  7. Avatar Krystal says:

    Could we see a diagram on how this would work for DIET soda instead? I feel diet soda is just as bad as regular soda. Definitely would like to see how it affects the body as well. Thanks!
    And fantastic diagram here! Really helps.

    • Avatar Pat Blum says:

      Interested in the diet soda question also

    • Avatar MW says:

      I’m interested in seeing this for DIET soda too….I don’t drink that much, but my husband does. I have a feeling it’s contributing to weight gain, since it’s sending a “false” sugar-in-the-body signal…

    • Avatar capcomm says:

      I would like to see that too, especially since I have heard that the “false sugar signal” thing is a myth.

    • Avatar Stuart Atkinson says:

      These “studies” as they call them are statistical lies, basically they run a batch of studies on a random sampling of people and see who drinks more diet soda… then they go “Oh look of these 100 3 people got cancer but in these 100 that drink more diet soda 5 people got cancer THAT MEANS DIET SODA CAUSES A 2% INCREASE IN CANCER!!!!”.

      Idiots, morons and promoters of “common sense” as the way to find out what is true rather than actual logical thinking and empirical tests. I have a physics degree if I wanted I could make a proposal for a research program using 4 or 5 hospitals & gps to get a random sampling of patients clinical data (obviously those who sign to be part of the study) and I could plot this vs NASA’s reported incident cosmic radiation intensity that is focused above where I live. Then I could take a control sample of a group in London and if I compared the relative blood pressures and found that Yorkshire had a higher cosmic radiation level, yet Londoners have higher blood pressure I could go “COSMIC RADIATION LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE!!!”.

      The fact remains that the processes for converting glucose and fructose as shown above are true, the pancreas reacts to the higher blood sugar and releases insulin to absorb the sugar. None of these things happen with aspartame or the ingredients of diet or zero calorie drinks because they are not glucose & fructose based. They don’t interact with the enzymes of the digestive process and are filtered by the kidneys then passed.

      Those are the facts, if anyone within a scientific community knows of some enzymes that do magically transform their chemical structure so they can be used in respiration reactions then they should publish a paper on that. However there is not and so they cannot and the media continues to spin it’s tall tales… Saddening.

      • Avatar Exadyne says:

        You’re 99% right. Aspartame will break down into d-aspartic acid, an amino acid, and as such, it will impact insulin – insulin also has to do with protein. Given aspartame is 200x the sweetness of sugar, and protein is roughly half as insulin reactive as carbohydrates, I’d imagine you’d get more insulin thinking about regular soda.

      • Avatar Exadyne says:

        I do love your fishing for p-value example of cosmic rays lowering blood pressure.

    • Avatar Karin Yehling says:

      Diet soda will react more with the brain than the gut. I think we’d be looking at a picture of the brain and what fake sugar does to it.

    • Avatar Bruce Spencer says:

      Just look up the Glycemic Index for the sweeteners used in the diet soda you are interested in,

    • Avatar Patient says:

      The default in my house is to diet soda so I clicked on this to see an analysis of diet soda only to see most of the ill effects are from sugar. So whatever, I won’t be forwarding this to my daughter. She would just self righteously point out that she drinks diet. I still suspect that diet soda is not benign.

  8. Avatar Sally says:

    This is really good info. I would be interested in the equivalent impact of diet caffeine free soda. Also, if fructose is stored as fat, should I be laying off the fruit and finding a glucose rich sweet treat instead?

    • Avatar elwyn5150 says:

      The article’s fun fact says that fructose is processed by the liver stored as fat.

      The bigger picture is that as long as you are using equal or more energy than you are consuming, you’ll have no weight gain or weight less.
      Also, there are probably going to be more nutrients in fruit than some rich sweet treat of junk food such as a donut.
      Also, generally speaking, fruits are low GI. So the sugar content of those enters the blood stream less rapidly than other things.

      • Avatar Tanya says:

        The author of the article was probably referring to fructose as an added sugar, not fruit in general. Eating a lot of fructose is harmful but it’s pretty hard to overeat fresh fruit to where it reaches the harmful levels of fructose in the form of corn syrup.

        • Avatar Azrael says:

          Carbs are carbs, no matter if its in fruit or not.

          • Avatar Karin Yehling says:

            not really. Sugar breaks down differently than high fructose corn syrup than rye than fruit etc. The body uses all of these differently; some you store more; some are used for energy; some are used for “brain food” but they’re not ALL used for the same thing

    • Avatar SweetDaddyPatty says:

      According to this article, yes.

  9. Avatar Albert Giesbrecht says:

    Soft drinks are sold in litres, why do you insist on using gallons in your article?

  10. Avatar drugswisdom says:

    You really didn’t even make soda sound that bad… I’m sure it gets a lot worse when it’s cumulative sodas over many years.

  11. Avatar Christine Barnett says:

    I sip soda over several hours. I know that I still consume the calories, but I wonder if it is easier on me because I don’t drink an entire can all at once.

  12. Avatar Sue says:

    How does your body process the new rock stars and monsters with 2 to 4carbs in them? They have eyerotherol and sucrose in them! I’d love to know!!!

  13. Avatar Saul Goodman says:

    Interesting, but I drink 0 calorie carbonated waters and a few 0 calorie sodas every once in a while.

    • Avatar Jesica Basha says:

      I heard recently that carbonated drinks can expand the size of your stomach allowing you to eat more and not feel as full. Which also can lead to weight gain.

      • Avatar Saul Goodman says:

        That could be true in certain circumstances, but I am drinking it and eating small portions so the drink actually acts as a filler to make me fill like I ate a full meal.

  14. Avatar Carole says:

    So if sugar is bad for you, what kind of sweetner can I use in coffee? I’ve been using Splenda but understand that’s not good either. Drinking black coffee is not an option because I can’t stand that, but being pre-diabetic I know that I need to watch my sugar intake, so what’s a good alternative??? Great information by the way about sodas which I rarely drink.

    • Avatar Julie says:

      I use Coffee Mate Natural Bliss sweet cream in my coffee. Had 5 grams of sugar so no need to add more sugar. Sweetens it perfect and the creamer is all-natural, no artificial ingredients.

    • Avatar Stoker says:

      Splenda is fine for you. Certainly a much healthier alternative than sugar, especially true if you are pre-diabetic for God’s sake.

      A lot of the ‘alternatives’ to artificial sweeteners that people try to espouse are sugar in some other form.

      For example, that creamer you were just recommended below? Sugar. It has 5g of carbohydrates and all of them are from sugar. Sugar is the third ingredient in that product. If you put two Tbsp of that stuff in your coffee it is like putting 10g of sugar in it.

      For the most part much of the stuff you hear about food on the internet is well meaning but delivered in ignorance.

      I watch my carbs like a hawk and have maintained my weight for several years now and artificial sweeteners are a safe and valuable tool when used properly in your diet/cooking.

    • Avatar mikehardin63 says:

      Drink sugar in your coffee. You are talking about a teaspoon or two vs SIXTEEN in a can of soda. Sugar is fine in moderate amounts. Soda and candy don’t have moderate amounts.

  15. Avatar Monica Paola Rodríguez says:

    I would love to see that, too! Also, what’s the difference between Diet Coke and Coke Zero?

  16. Avatar Evolve for Wellbeing says:

    Yes, I agree with many of the other bloggers! Please post a diagram of what happens when a person drinks diet soda! Thank you!

  17. Avatar Stoker says:

    This has very little to do with soda, specifically. Nearly all of the information here applies to a large spike of simple sugars being poured into your system.

  18. Avatar Red Eyed Wolf says:

    Cool infographic. You should also add what happens when your body becomes insulin resistant because it can’t keep up with all of the sugar that you continue to consume. At 31 gallons of soda per person a year, we’re looking at belly fat, depression, low blood sugar, fatigue, brain fog, intestinal bloating, inadequate sleep, dental problems, frequent infections and slow healing wounds, sexual difficulty… Not to mention pre aging, inflammation, and higher risk of heart disease and stroke, those woke me up.
    And for those wondering about diet soda, it’s actually WORSE than regular soda. You’re better off drinking a regular soda if you’re going to drink soda at all. Ingredients in diet soda like sucralose and aspartame contribute to weight gain, destroy the good bacteria in your intestines, increase your risk of prediabetes, and have been linked to cancer, headaches and seizure.
    Complex carbs are the way to go!

  19. Avatar Cierra Belsan says:

    My family loves diet soda but I’m not sure what it effects as a whole? Would that help?

  20. Avatar David says:

    Me too. Uh…. The Diet Soda diagram.

  21. Avatar Tommy D says:

    So what if you drink a soda which as no ascertain or sugar or caffeine?

  22. Avatar Rene says:

    It’s sad that most will poor better ingredients in the vehicles we drive…. You will get the best out of what you poor into your vehicle…. NO SODA IS BEST! Try a flavored H2O….”Polar Water”……only one side effect…. Wellness…. Have a clean 2016!

  23. Avatar denise jackson says:

    Why the demonization of a single beverage?

    I have never experienced weight gain from diet soda. When I overeat calories, and under-exercise, I gain weight.

  24. Avatar Manjari Gupta says:

    I hate that movie theaters only have soda options.

  25. Avatar Felicia Pickrel says:

    I would like to have this as a poster for my classroom. I teach biology as well as anatomy/physiology. Any chance of getting it in poster form?

  26. Avatar Nicole Ortiz says:

    here ya go

  27. Avatar Bethany VandeVorde says:

    Just stick with water cut out all bread and I lost 5 pounds in a week. I eat only egg whites

  28. I oddly feel sleepy 30 minutes after I drink soda.

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