Strange Waters

Soda and the American diet.

For centuries, people have believed that effervescent water possesses healing power. Naturally carbonated water was thought to cure ailments from gout and nervous diseases to constipation.

When ground water comes in contact with a source of carbon dioxide, like limestone, and is subjected to hard pressure, carbon dioxide mixes with the water and produces carbonation. In New York City in 1832, John Matthews combined marble dust with sulfuric acid to get the same results. Marble chips left over from building St. Patrick’s Cathedral were used to produce an estimated 25 million gallons of soda water. The world of beverages would never be the same chips left over from building St. Patrick’s Cathedral were used to produce an estimated 25 million gal­lons of soda water. The world of beverages would never be the same.

Before long, pharmacies throughout the country opened soda fountains. Initially, pharmacists mixed various medicines and antidotes with soda water as a cure for a variety of ills. Shortly thereafter, flavor­ings were developed, and soda fountains became social gathering places. From soda fountain, to vending machine, to the original 6.5-ounce contour Coca-Cola glass, to aluminum cans, to 16-ounce plastic bottles, to 64-ounce double Big Gulps, pop has gone through several ingredient and packaging makeovers.

Soda has exploded into an integral part of the American diet. The average American drinks about 555 cans of soda per year, or about one gallon a week! The United States is the highest per-capita soda consumer in the world. But rather than being the healthy elixir we once thought, doctors, den­tists, nutritionists, and statisticians now link this soda fetish with multiple health concerns. Take the Western obesity epidemic, for example. There is a proven connection between drinking soda and gain­ing weight.

“In their landmark study: Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California, researchers from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) and the California Center for Pub­lic Health Advocacy (CCPHA) discovered a strong correlation between soda consumption and weight. Based upon data from more than 40,000 interviews conducted by the California Health Interview Sur­veys (CHIS), researchers found that adults who drink a soda or more per day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight than those who do not drink so­das, regardless of income or ethnicity. The science is clear and conclusive: soda is fueling California’s $41 billion a year obesity epidemic,” says CCPHA executive director Dr. Harold Goldstein, an author of the research brief. “We drink soda like water. But un­like water, soda serves up a whopping 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-ounce serving.”1

Americans drank four times more milk than soda in the 1950s. Today the ratio is almost reversed­ coinciding directly with a dramatic rise in obesity. In the past 30 years, teenage obesity has more than tripled. Research conducted with 548 children in Massachusetts         found that their odds of obesity increased 60 percent for every additional sweet drink consumed per day. “‘Soda pop is a quintes­sential junk food,’ said Michael Jacobson, who heads the Center for Sci­ence in the Public Interest, which lobbies for govern­ment restrictions on foods it considers unhealthy. ‘It’s just pure calories, and no nutrients. It’s like a bomb in our diet.’”2 When you consider that one of every five calories in the Ameri­can diet is liquid, you can see why!

Whether it is diet, decaffeinated, or regular, soda is also associated with bone loss. Katherine Tucker of Tufts University tested the effect of soda on bone density in more than 2,500 individuals younger than 60. Along with fellow researchers, she found that in women, “consumption of carbonated cola bever­ages was associated with lower bone mineral den­sity at all three hip measurement sites. The results took into consideration the women’s age, calcium and vitamin D intake, menopausal status, and use of cigarettes or alcohol. ‘The more cola that women drank, the lower their bone mineral density was,’ the authors wrote. The researchers did not find an association between non-cola carbonated drinks and bone loss, which they attribute to the fact that colas contain phosphoric acid, which is not found in non-cola drinks. Diets low in calcium and high in phosphorus can promote bone mineral loss, the re­searchers wrote.”3

Soda was originally labeled a “soft drink” in con­trast with alcoholic beverages, which are called hard drinks. But soda is far from soft in terms of how it affects the body. With a pH of 2.5 and often made with phosphoric acid, soda has been linked not only to lower bone density but to the erosion of tooth enamel as well. Marion Nestle, professor of Nutri­tion, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, says, “Adolescents who consume soft drinks display a risk of bone fractures three to four­fold higher than those who do not.”4

Soda intake also impairs the immune system. In his book A Physician’s Guide to Natural Health Prod­ucts that Work, James Howenstine, M.D., states, “In an interesting experiment the sugar from one soft drink was able to damage the white blood cells’ abil­ity to ingest and kill gonococcal bacteria for seven hours.”5

Thirst is usually the signal that motivates us to drink. Thirst indicates our need. Unfortunately, soda doesn’t satisfy this need. We have “drunk strange waters” in our attempt to satisfy our thirst (2 Kings 19:24, KJV). But the body is thirsty still. Wisdom says, “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country” (Proverbs 25:25, KJV). From a far country God’s voice is crying out to us, “let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17, NKJV).

1 “Bubbling over: New research shows direct link between soda and obesity.” UCLA CHPR. 9/17/09. http://www. 5/11.

2 Hellerman, Caleb. “Nutritionists: Soda making Americans drink themselves fat.” CNN Health. 9/18/07. http://articles.­drinks-hfcs-soda?_s=PM:HEALTH. 5/11.

3 “Soft Drinks and Bones.” E-News Tufts University. 9/25/03. Tucker. 5/11.

4 Nestle, Marion. Food Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), p. 200.

5 “The Health Hazards of Drinking Coca-Cola and other Soft Drinks.” Organic Consumers. 2/16/05. http://www.or­ 5/11.

Rise Rafferty works for Light Bearers Ministry writing monthly articles pertaining to health education. James and Risë have been married for 23 years and have two children. Their son, Jeiel, is 19 years old and their daughter, Kierra, is 14 years old. Risë really enjoys encoura­ging and inspiring others to live healthfully, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.