Beer vs. Soda

Both alcohol and soft drinks affect your liver. Alcohol's most pointed-out negative effect is it's link to liver disease. Also, beer is linked to reckless behavoir when consumed in large amounts. However, is alcohol consumption worse than drinking soda? Soft drinks are, as you will see further in this article, proven to cause far more adverse effects than alcoholic beverages; this makes one wonder why it is legal for all ages of people to drink soda while there are campaigns against the consumption of alcohol altogether. Though nothing is good to consume in excess, we may have our regulations backwards when it comes to the beverages we choose to endorse. Beer has some of the same negative effects that soda does, but it has been linked to positive health benefits as well, whereas pop is just simply... well... bad for you. So why are Americans hooked on it?

The United States is ranked 13th in the world for beer consumption with about 21 gallons per person per year (1). However, the US is ranked 1st in soda consumption with each individual drinking over 50 gallons per year: almost double the amount as the 2nd ranked country (2).  Clearly, the fact that beer is illegal to drink under the age of 21 affects the amount consumed nationally. Because no age restriction is enforced for soft drinks, millions of dollars are spent every year on soda advertising. The TV spots, internet ads, billboards and sponsorships are everywhere constantly. Athletes, concerts, and festivals are routinely sponsored by the likes of Mt. Dew and Pepsi for example. On the other hand, alcohol advertising is one of the most highly regulated forms of marketing. Beer companies must be extremely careful about when and where their ads are seen. The push for soft drinks and the demonization of alcohol is pondersome though becuase soda isn't much better for you than beer.

Drinking just one daily 12oz. can of soda (160 calories) is linked to gaining about 16 pounds annually. A human liver cannot handle the 30 teaspoons of sugar that an average soda contains so it does the only thing it can do - turn the sugar into stored fat. In addition, most soft drinks contain phosphoric acid which interferes with the body's ability to process calcium and so leads to osteoporosis. Phosphoric acid is also linked to digestive interference that blocks the absorbtion of nutrients. Vitamin D deficiency, for example, is a huge problem in the US (3); this can be linked with not getting enough sun exposure, but couple the amount of time children spend inside watching TV and the amount of phosphoric acid they consume, blocking the utilization of vitamins, and you have a scary combination.

You may be thinking "yeah but that is for regular pop, I drink diet." Well, you may be surprised at how much worse diet soda can actually be than regular; it's even linked to MORE weight gain than with regular soft drinks. When you drink something sweet your body prepares for caloric intake, but with diet sodas there aren't any calories to process. This urges your body to seek food even if you weren't hungry before drinking the diet drink. In 2008, researchers at Purdue University tested this theory on rats and found that the ones on a diet of artificial sweeteners, like saccharin found in diet soda, gained more weight than the rats eating real sugars. Also, artificial sweeteners like aspartame are linked to over 92 health side effects including tumors, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and emotional disorders. To read more about the dangerous chemicals in both diet and regual soft drinks, read an article previously posted on this blog entitled Preservatives - getting more than you bargained for.

Whereas the list of negative health effects for soda seems to go on forever, beer actually can offer something positive. A study reported by Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who had two alcoholic drinks a day were less likely to gain weight (4) . This is important when considering how being overweight, especially in the abdomen, puts an individual at higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. The study found that the women who gained the most weight were those who drank no alcohol at all. One theory is that the women who gained the most weight did so because they chose soft drinks over the alcohol.

Let's compare soda and beer a little more closely now. Though beer has empty calories just as soft drinks do, the calories in beer are mostly from complex carbohydrates whereas soda is filled with simple carbs. Therefore, the emptiness of the calories is greater in soft drinks and those simple carbs are more likely to lead to diabetes. Also, the CO2 levels in beer are much lower than in soda, making soda consumption more likely to lead to brittle bones and teeth. In another study, beer is linked to lower colesteral levels for those who have one drink a day as well.

So what's with the overload of soft drink advertising we see? Clearly soft drinks can be dangerous to drink. Yet, soda advertisers bombard all forms of media with images of their product and especially target children. Remember the Coca-Cola ad that uses the polar bears? This is a clear effort to make their soft drink appear family-like and fun. Kids love the sugary taste and are high consumers of the beverage. Targetting children is a sure way to make them consumers for life. At the same time, beer is demonized when shown to children. Beer continues to be an occasional type drink, as it probably should be, but soda is an everyday lifestyle choice for most individuals. A soft drink with your combo meal is the standard. 

Deaths related to alcohol are more quick and easily spotted than the deaths from soda consumption; like a drunk driver killing a family or a man dying of liver disease. That is why many individuals have a hard time realizing the dangers of soft drinks while simple-mindedly spotting the dangers in beer. However, this article is trying to suggest that soda not only kills more people, albeit more slowly, but also reduces your quality of life. It is not this article's intention to convince more people to drink more beer (the health risks in drinking it are obvious and true), but to reduce their consumption of soda and even consider using beer as a substitute once in a while, in moderation. Your decision to drink soda over beer is not completely your own. Law has regulated our choices quite carefully and we are fooled into thinking it's for our own good. Re-consider how your beverage choices are affecting your life in the long-term. It's not even about living longer but living happier; and if you feel happy and healthy then living longer will be a pleasure. Take care of yourself and this one chance at life you have can be amazing.


Liberality said...

Very interesting post. I rarely drink soft drinks and I hardly ever buy them. My kids complained at me a lot as they were growing up. We had water, milk, tea, coffee (although the kids didn't drink tea or coffee when young), 100% fruit drinks, and on occasion I'd make lemonade. I drink wine on occasion but I don't like or drink beer.

Now we filter the water we drink but I didn't back then. I think it is interesting and telling that so many people drink diet soft drink beverages and don't realize that those drinks are worse than drinking regular soda. I am also amazed at people drinking bottled water. Water is okay but all those plastic bottles aren't good for our environment.

Arthur Gelsinger said...

Just what I need - Another excuse to drink more beer :)

All joking aside though, great article! It's amazing how this sort of hypocrisy goes unquestioned to the extent it does in our society; most people are probably in tune with the hypocrisy between alcohol and marijuana regulation, for example, but the discrepancy pointed out in this article is much more subtle... Good thing we have you to point out what we should be noticing for ourselves. Strong work!

okjimm said...

Ya.... I'm with Artie! Actually, Cakes....I pretty much quit drinking soda.... it was crimping my beer budget.

Spinal Cracker said...

Great article.

Mindbender said...

Well personally I feel it's all comes down to money. Here's a sweet drink that's bubbly fun to drink, and in many cases it's your only option. The ingredients are so cheap, that it makes for extreme profits. Then once the health issues arise, it only brings in more money to the elite. The CEO of Coke-a-Cola is most likely good friends with the CEO of Pfizer. Make more diabetics, sell more insulin.

Great article!

Jayna said...

Thanks everyone for reading and commenting!

Mindbender, I think you're right on with the link between Coke and Pfizer. Sad truth.

Thanks again!

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

OK, for full disclosure, I don't drink EITHER soda or beer. :) But since you covered all the reasons to not drink soda, what about the down side of beer?
One thing you did not cover is the resources that go into producing beer- how much land is devoted to hops production that could be used for something more universal, like grain, fruit or veggies? And what about all the grain that could go to food that is used for fermentation instead? What about all the refrigerants used to "cold filter" or cold transportation? And the addiction factor? I don’t drink for several reasons, the main one is that my best friend in high school was killed by a drunk driver, and then since then I have lost 2 other close friends from their own drinking, and my brother-in-law just lost his job, wife, kids b/c he can’t stay sober. I know, no hard data on this from me, just anecdotals, but it seems that the impact on society of alcohol and the health risks of soda should give us a reason to reconsider both.

Jayna said...

Thank you for reading and commenting Dave!

You raise several very good points, this is definitely a deeper subject than this article can cover. In the end, you're right that BOTH should be reconsidered. I just hope soda will become an occasional drink just as beer usually is.

Thanks again, I appreciate your comments.

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