Top 5 Foods to Avoid Series #4 – Soda and Diet Soda | Robert A. Erickson, M.D.

The majority of our readers already know that soda is bad because of the sugar or high fructose corn syrup content. Excess sugar is a risk factor for developing diabetes and obesity. Twenty-one percent of the sugar in the average American’s diet comes from soft drinks! But what about diet soda which has no sugar? Carbon dioxide gas is infused into all carbonated sodas, forming carbonic acid. In addition, phosphates are also added. These form phosphoric acid. This gives soda a pH of around 2.5 to 3, which is so acidic soda can clean corrosion off the battery terminals of your car! The pH of soda is 10,000 times more acidic than distilled water, which has a pH of 7.0. Now your body has a buffer system of acid-alkaline balance where your blood pH is kept at 7.4. In order to maintain that ideal blood pH the body will take calcium out of a person’s bones and teeth enamel to correct an overly acid condition. Overtime, this can lead to osteoporosis and rotten teeth.

The most serious health risk from sodas is not often talked about. There may be an increased risk of developing cancer. Sodium benzoate is a chemical additive which has been used for years by the carbonated drinks industry to prevent mold from developing in soft drinks. It is also commonly used in many foods as a preservative. Sodium benzoate is a derivative of benzoic acid. When mixed with acids or even Vitamin C, it turns into a carcinogenic substance called benzene. Benzene has been shown to cause liver and bladder cancers in humans, and has been associated with degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. In some diet sodas saccharin is used as a sweetener. It is a petroleum derivative that in animal studies has been associated with cancer development. Another non-caloric sweetener is aspartame (NutraSweet). This controversial artificial sweetener was approved in 1974 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe in the doses used in the food industry. Aspartame breaks down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol (wood alcohol). Phenylalanine can be harmful in patients who have a rare genetic disease called Phenylketonuria (PKU). Methanol is converted in the body into formaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical. In rat studies, aspartame has been shown to cause cancer, even when eaten at a 40% lower level (adjusted for weight) than that approved by the FDA for use in humans. Although aspartame has not been proven to cause cancer in humans, I would point out there is no way of proving what decades of ingestion of low doses of this chemical or the other chemicals mentioned could do to the human body. So there remains controversy about aspartame’s safety in spite of the government reassurances. My suggestion – drink the best quality water you can find and limit soda consumption to those rare special occasions.