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Soft Drinks Are Not So Soft…

Soft drinks are the second biggest seller in Australian supermarkets, just behind cigarettes, but truckloads ahead of fruit, vegetables, and even bread and milk. If you doubt me just go to your local supermarket and see how much shelf space is devoted to the ever-popular ‘soft drink’. Usually the more space there is, the greater the seller.

No matter what I say to people, they still want to drink the stuff. When I see someone with a diet soft drink I just want to go up to them and shake them and tell them how bad those drinks are for their health. But even when I do make comment to my friends who still drink the hazardous liquids, they explain that it is their only vice. That’s when I throw up my hands in horror and walk away!

So I decided to put together this rather interesting voyage of what happens to your body when you drink a soft drink, including that black, orange, blue, yellow or pink stuff. By the way, the following times may vary on whether you have drunk the soft drink with food or not. If you have your soft drink with food the times are longer, but if you drink it without food it is a rush to the blood system like no other.


Within the first 10 minutes of drinking a soft drink 10 teaspoons of sugar and not necessarily normal sugar but high fructose corn syrup is the norm, hit your system. This is 100 per cent of your recommended daily intake, and the only reason you don’t vomit from the overwhelming sweetness is because phosphoric acid cuts the flavour. Wait till you hear what phosphoric acid does to you.

Within 20 minutes of drinking a soft drink

Your blood sugar spikes and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat. The continuing insulin burst, over time, eventually creates insulin resistance and finally diabetes can be the result.

Within 40 minutes of drinking a soft drink

Caffeine absorption is complete; your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, your blood vessels dilate and your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream.

Around 45 minutes after you have drunk the soft drink

Your body increases serotonin production, which stimulates the pleasure centres of your brain – a physically identical response to that of heroin, but not as strong. So you might think this is a good thing but, in reality, too much of a good thing, too many times a day, can cause anxiety and depression.

After 60 minutes of drinking a soft drink

You’ll start to have a sugar crash. A sugar crash typically shows signs of lethargy and weakness; hunger may also become noticeable, as well as sadness, which of course brings on the need for another sugar fix.


The average Australian drinks more than 180 litres of soft drink each year, so before you grab that next can of soft drink, consider this: one can of soft drink has about 10 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup or some other man concocted sugar, 150 calories or, 30 to 55 mg of caffeine, and is loaded with artificial food colours and sulphites. Not to mention the fact that it’s also your largest source of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), also known as just plain ‘corn syrup’. There are many studies that show this is a sweetener to avoid as much as possible.


The complicated process for making HFCS out of corn was developed in the 1970s. There are three different enzymes, two of them genetically modified, required to break down the cornstarch which is made up of chains of glucose molecules of almost infinite length. It is broken down into the simple sugars glucose and fructose – mostly fructose, hence the name. Conventional wisdom is that fructose is better for diabetics than sugar, but every cell in the body can metabolise glucose, while all fructose must be metabolised in the liver. Studies show the livers of rats on a high-fructose diet look like the livers of alcoholics: cirrhotic and fatty. It doesn’t only affect the liver though; studies have also shown an increase in colorectal cancer in women associated with diets high in HFCS, and there is a growing number of studies that point to HFCS being a major player in the obesity epidemic.

Since studies have revealed that the effects of high fructose are most severe in the growing body, it’s important to think carefully about whether you give your children soft drinks made with HFCS.


I find it ironic that these drinks are called soft-drinks, when there is nothing soft about the ingredients within them.

Phosphoric Acid:

This can interfere with the body’s ability to use calcium, leading to osteoporosis or softening of the teeth and bones. It also neutralises the hydrochloric acid in your stomach, which can interfere with digestion of protein especially, making it difficult to utilise nutrients.

Sugar and HFCS:

It is a fact that refined sugar increases insulin levels, which can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, insulin resistance and eventually diabetes, weight gain, premature aging and many more negative side effects. In each can of soft drink there is over 100 per cent of the recommended daily intake (RDA) of sugar. Refined white sugar and HFCS are so bad for your health in so many ways.


This is the most likely sugar substitute used in diet soft drinks. There are over 100 different health side effects associated with aspartame consumption including brain tumours, birth defects, diabetes, emotional disorders, epilepsy/seizures, multiple sclerosis like symptoms, addiction, carbohydrate cravings – the list is endless. It is ironic that you’re drinking the diet soft drink because you want to lose weight or not gain weight, but the sweetener is making you want to eat. Doesn’t make sense to me.


Over consumption of caffeinated drinks causes jitters, insomnia, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, elevated blood cholesterol levels, vitamin and mineral depletion, breast lumps, birth defects, and perhaps some forms of cancer. (See Changing Habits Changing Lives for more information on caffeine.)

Tap Water:

Avoid drinking tap water because it can carry any number of chemicals including chlorine, trihalomethanes, lead, cadmium, fluoride and various organic pollutants. Tap water is the main ingredient in bottled soft drinks. Most tap water is acidic which contributes to an acidic environment in the body leading to conditions like gout and arthritis and creating conditions in the body suitable for disease.

Sodium Benzoate:

Sometimes called benzoic acid, this chemical is used as a preservative in most soft drinks, but new research shows that it causes cell damage. The research shows that the preservative could switch off vital parts of DNA, causing serious cell damage in humans. Once the cell is damaged, it might eventually lead to degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and cirrhosis of the liver, the research states. Obviously, the over-consumption of soft drinks is one of the leading causes fuelling the world-wide obesity epidemic.

One independent, peer-reviewed study published in the British Medical Journal, The Lancet, demonstrated a strong link between soft drink consumption and childhood obesity. They found that 12-year-olds who drank soft drinks regularly were more likely to be overweight than those who didn’t. In fact, for each additional daily serving of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumed during the nearly two-year study, the risk of obesity jumped a whopping 60 per cent. Here’s another fattening fact if you’re struggling with weight issues: Just one extra can of soft drink per day, can add as much as 6.8 kg to your weight over the course of a single year!

Other statistics on the health dangers of soft drinks include:

  • One soft drink per day increases your risk of diabetes by 85%
  • Soft drink drinkers have higher cancer risk. The recommended limit for benzene in drinking water is 5 parts per billion (ppb), researchers have found benzene levels as high as 79 ppb in some soft drinks; and of the 100 brands tested, most had at least some detectable level of benzene present
  • Two or more soft drink a week doubles the risk of pancreatic cancer
  • One soft drink a day increases chance of blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes

Link Between Consumption of Soft Drinks and Pancreatic Cancer

The link between soft drinks and pancreatic cancer was discovered by scientists from the University of Minnesota and the National University of Singapore. The study was published in The Journal of the American Association for Cancer Research 2009.
The study followed more than 60,000 men and women over a 14 year period, of those 140 people died from pancreatic cancer
Dr Mark Pereira from the University of Minnesota believes there could be a link to the amount of soft drink consumed. The research took into account other factors such as smoking, age, weight and intake of red meat. It is believed the high levels of sugar in soft drinks boosted insulin levels. Lots of insulin is secreted when you consume these beverages in high volumes and insulin has been shown to promote the growth of cancer cells.

Link Between Consumption of Soft Drinks and Heart Disease

And don’t think that diet versions of soft drinks are any better!

A study on 3000 men and women over three years revealed that a single soft drink a day increases the chance of heart attack. Those who drink at least one a day are up to 60 per cent more likely to develop obesity and high blood pressure leading to attacks and strokes. While the blame has always been on sugar-laden soft drinks, new research from Harvard Medical School is the first to say that diet drinks with artificial sugar have the same effect. They said the results were not due to soft drink consumers generally having a less healthy lifestyle; they had adjusted the analyses for fat intake, dietary fibre consumption and total calorie intake. Smoking and physical activity was also taken into account.

Marketing to the Masses

The marketing of soft drinks to the masses has been less then scrupulous. In the 40’s and 50’s it was marketed to young Mums to feed to their babies. The headings stated ‘For a better start in life start cola earlier!’ It then goes onto to say ‘Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies who start drinking soda during their formative period have much higher chance of gaining acceptance and ‘fitting in’ during those awkward pre-teen and teen years. So, do yourself a favour. Do your child a favour. Start them on a strict regime on sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness’.

These days the message has not changed, but we are not so naive to believe the health benefits for babies, but sadly we believe the health benefits for ourselves. Diet drinks have now added vitamins and antioxidants Subliminal messages are throughout video advertising for soft drinks including ‘wild health’ and ‘a little added goodness’.

This advertising has worked well not only on the general population but on health officials as well, many schools around Australia no longer have soft drinks in their fridges, they now have diet soft drinks as they believe that is the healthy alternative.

If you are still drinking soft drinks diet or otherwise then stopping the habit is an easy way to improve your health. Pure water is a much better choice, or, if you must drink a carbonated beverage, try sparkling mineral water with a squirt of fresh lime or lemon juice.

The elimination of soft drinks is one of the most crucial factors in dealing with many of the health problems you or your children may be suffering.

The research shows that diet drinks can make you fat, rot your teeth, erode tooth enamel, stimulate the appetite and trigger cravings for sweet food. This actually means that people who consume diet soft drink put on more weight than if they had regular soft drinks.

The research says you’re more likely to lose weight if you avoid these drinks altogether.

Why do we need research to tell us the obvious!!!!


For Young Children
  • 1/4 cup juice (make sure you look for one without too many additives)
  • 3/4 cup mineral water
  • Ice

Mix all ingredients in a glass.

For Older Children and Adults

Iced tea and flavoured waters have become very popular as an alternative to soft drinks. I make up my own teas and flavoured water. Following are some recipes.

Iced Green Tea

  • 2 TBS bulk green tea (black tea or white tea)
  • 1/4 cup raw organic sugar or Rapadura sugar
  • 500 ml hot water (just boiled)
  • 1 litre cold water
  • Jjuice of one fresh lemon
  • 2 litre stainless steel or glass jug
  1. Place the green tea in a kettle, pour approx 250ml hot water over the tea and steep 10 minutes
  2. Place the sugar in a glass or stainless steel, jug add the rest of the hot water, dissolve the sugar
  3. Add the steeped tea to the jug, then add the cold water and lemon juice
  4. Refrigerate, ready to serve

This is a very popular drink in my house. My children are all older teenagers and they come home from school or work to a glass of ice cold tea. I make up one of these jugs at least once a day, using different teas all the time. You can adjust the sugar as you desire. Some people put no sugar in the tea, but it is all a matter of taste. It is also important that you use good quality sugar or a good quality sweetener of your choice, but nothing artificial.

There are so many wonderful tea houses around that you can really become inventive with making this tea, using not only the three basic teas of black, white and green, but also using different combinations; for example vanilla pod and black tea, Japanese green tea, or even some herb teas are wonderful as a cold drink.

Making this tea from scratch and knowing exactly what goes into it means you can monitor what goes into your body as well your kids’ and know that you are serving a healthy alternative to the poisonous concoctions of chemicals in soft drinks.

NB: I will often use the tea leaves twice, I find there is enough strength in the tea to pour hot water over the tea and let it brew overnight until I have to make up my next batch. I always have tea brewing these days to keep up with the demand.

Cyndi O’Meara

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