Soda is sold almost everywhere and can be found in almost every flavor or variety: vanilla, lemon-lime, berries and cream-with or without caffeine or calories. Soda seems to pervade our lives every day, especially on a college campus like Mills.
Freshwoman Emma Giboney says she drinks soda here at Mills, but never drank it back home in Seattle. She says it’s because soda is so accessible here, not to mention free at Founders Commons. However, Giboney only drinks soda at Mills “a couple times a week.” So before taking a sip of that conveniently refreshing Wild Cherry Pepsi, a glance at the nutrition facts may be in order.
All sodas are made up of basically the same ingredients, with artificial flavors added to enhance the beverages. Sodas contain carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, acids, and natural and artificial flavorings. Colors are also added, such as a caramel color to create the trademark hue of sodas such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
Out of all the ingredients, high fructose corn syrup is the one consumers should pay the most attention to. The huge boom in high fructose corn syrup consumption in the U.S. started in the 1970s when a way to create high fructose corn syrup in large quantities was developed, according to an article written in 2003 by certified culinary professional Linda Forristal, “The Murky World of High Fructose Corn Syrup.”
The process to create high fructose corn syrup, although complicated, is actually cheaper than paying for equal amounts of sugar. Since the taste is so similar, many companies use high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar, despite consumer health concerns.
A 2004 American Diabetes Association study on how sugar-sweetened beverages (sweetened by natural sugar or high fructose corn syrup) affected adult women’s weight gain and development of diabetes recorded some interesting results. Women who drank sugar-sweetened sodas gained the most weight out of the 51,000 women in the study, and 740 of those women reported getting diabetes after the eight-year study. This study linked consumption of high fructose corn syrup with developing diabetes.
Freshwoman Livia Bell doesn’t drink soda at all. Her reasoning is quite simple: “Because it melts your bones!” she said. “That’s what my mom told me all my life.”
Surprisingly, that idea may be accurate. According to a 2000 study called “Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks Are Harming America’s Health” by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, drinking too many soft drinks may increase the risk of osteoporosis, a disease that reduces bone mineral density. This is because drinking large amounts of soda can lead to deficient calcium levels and increased phosphate levels, causing calcium to be pulled out of the bones and lowering their density. This problem is clear when looking at the bone health of those who choose to open a soda can instead of a milk carton in comparison with that of others.
That same study highlighted some of the other health concerns connected with the ingredients of soft drinks. According to the study, artificial colorings such as Yellow No. 5 found in soft drinks may be harmful because they can “promote attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in some children.”
However, there are some healthier alternatives when it comes to soft drinks. Or at least not-quite-as-bad options.
Companies such as Hansen’s Natural Soda make many of the same flavors as popular sodas but have no caffeine, artificial colors, or preservatives. However, Hansen’s Natural Soda does still contain high fructose corn syrup.
Organic sodas are also another option. Blue Sky Beverage Company manufactures organic soda products that contain filtered carbonated water and organic cane juice: all without any high fructose corn syrup or caffeine.