#402 3/30/2010 DROP THE POP
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Actually, I think all addiction starts with soda. Every junkie did soda first.

Chris Rock

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Top 10 Reasons to Give Up Soda

By Steve Edwards

If you're looking for a scapegoat in the obesity epidemic, look no further than soda. It's the single greatest caloric source in the world, accounting for somewhere between 11 and 19 percent of all the calories consumed worldwide. It's cheap, addictive, and readily available, which generally means that it will take some willpower to avoid. But don't despair, as we at Beachbody® are here to help. We present: our top 10 reasons to give up soda. Drumroll please . . .

Soda Cans

  1. Soda may cause cancer. According to a report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, consuming two or more soft drinks per week increased the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by nearly twofold compared to individuals who did not consume soft drinks. As reported, the study "followed 60,524 men and women in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years. During that time, there were 140 pancreatic cancer cases. Those who consumed two or more soft drinks per week (averaging five per week) had an 87 percent increased risk compared with individuals who did not."

    Then why, you're probably asking yourself, is this number ten on our list and why is soda even still on the shelf? Not that I'd challenge the ability of such large corporate power to hide such a thing but, in this case, the study slit its own throat. As one of the researchers noted, "soft drink consumption in Singapore was associated with several other adverse health behaviors such as smoking and red meat intake, which we can't accurately control for," meaning that we have no way of knowing, for sure, if soda was the culprit. Still, it doesn't hurt to know that when you drink soda it lumps you into a fairly unhealthy user group.1

  2. It's not just about calories. Calories grab headlines, but recent science is showing that diet soda users are still in the crosshairs. A 2005 study by the University of Texas Health Science Center showed that there's a 41 percent increased risk of being obese—and a 65 percent increased risk of becoming overweight during the next 7 or 8 years—for every can of diet soda a person consumes in a day. Admittedly, this one should be higher on the list, but I wanted to make sure the article-skimming crowd knew the score up front: that diet sodas are very much a part of the problem.

  3. Soda Bottle SilhouetteIt's the water . . . and a lot more. Okay, so that was a beer slogan, but soda is also made up mainly of water, and when you're slinging as much of it as they are, and you need to sling it cheap, sometimes you can't help but run into problems with your supply chain. In India, Coca-Cola® has found itself in hot water, and not the kind they thought they were purchasing rights to. Two of their factories have been closed, but one continues to run amok. According to a report in The Ecologist, "They accuse the company of over-extracting groundwater, lowering the water tables and leaving farmers and the local community unable to dig deep enough to get to vital water supplies."

    "Since the bottling plant was opened in 2000, water levels in the area have dropped six metres, and when a severe drought hit the region earlier this year the crops failed and livelihoods were destroyed."2

  4. BPA: not just for water bottles anymore. Nalgene® and other water bottle companies took the heat when the dangers of bisphenol A (BPA) were made public a couple years back. While these companies went to great lengths to save their businesses, the soda companies somehow flew under the radar and continue to use it in their products. A recent Canadian study has found that BPA exists "in the vast majority" of the soft drinks tested. Most of these were under the national limits set for toxicity, but some were not. And remember how much soda the average person consumes, meaning odds are most soda consumers are at some risk.

    "Out of 72 drinks tested, 69 were found to contain BPA at levels below what Health Canada says is the safe upper limit. However, studies in peer-reviewed science journals have indicated that even at very low doses, BPA can increase breast and ovarian cancer cell growth and the growth of some prostate cancer cells in animals."3

  5. Can convenience. As in the 1950s colloquial: can it. Speaking of the 1950s, those were the happy days when most of our soda was consumed at soda fountains, obesity was a term hardly anyone had heard of, and the most feared epidemic was one of atomically mutated insects taking over the world. Now instead of hoofing it down to the corner confectionery for one soda, we fill out trucks with pallets of shrink-wrapped cans or bottles and quaff the stuff by the six-pack. Not to mention how out of balance this ensures our diets will become, it wreaks havoc on the world around us. The bottled-water industry (which is mostly owned by the soda industry) famously uses 17 million barrels of oil a year, and the aluminum industry uses as much electricity as the entire continent of Africa. Not only that, aluminum mining accounts for a ton of toxic chemicals that is left behind for every ton of the metal produced.4

  6. Man Drinking a SodaThe Frankenfood factor. Whether you consume diet or regular soda, you're getting all of the genetically modified food you need and more, via high fructose corn syrup or aspartame. Both of these are under plenty of scientific as well as anecdotal scrutiny. Findings aren't pretty but, so far, this multibillion-dollar industry has kept these sweeteners on the shelves while alternative sweeteners meeting cost requirements are explored. Since it's almost impossible to read health headlines without finding one of these ingredients in some type of controversy, I'll just use one example:

    "The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition and food safety advocacy group, called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review the claims, which stem from research conducted by the European Ramazzini Foundation in Italy.

    The foundation reported that rats who consumed aspartame in exceedingly large quantities were more likely to develop cancer. CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson considers this an important finding that should not be overlooked." 5

    I know, there I go again with the cancer. But some people need to be shocked in order to take action. For me, seeing the Diet Coke® and Mentos® experiment was all I needed to swear off the stuff.

  7. Foreign news cares how much soda we sell in our schools. How bad is your country's problem when the whole world is watching its daily actions? "Nearly one in three children and teenagers in the U.S. are overweight or obese and health experts say sugary drinks are part of the problem." Yep, bad. The world is well aware of the problems soda is causing and is looking to us to lead. And we certainly are trying. Are you with the program?

    "Under the voluntary guidelines, in place since 2006, full-calorie soft drinks were removed from school canteens and vending machines. Lighter drinks, including low-fat milk, diet sodas, juices, flavoured waters and teas were promoted in their place."6

    And, while great and all, it appears that no one got the memo about diet sodas.

  8. Diet? Um, that's just like your opinion, man. When it comes to soda, treat the word "diet" as a slogan. A study at Boston University's School of Medicine linked diet soda with increased risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. To be more specific, the study "found adults who drink one or more sodas a day had about a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome," which is a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around the waist, low levels of "good" cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other symptoms that lead to heart disease and/or diabetes. And, for those of you only concerned about how you look in the mirror, "Those who drank one or more soft drinks a day had a 31 percent greater risk of becoming obese."

  9. Soda outkills terrorists. A study out of the University of California, San Francisco, shows that soda has killed at least 6,000 Americans in the last decade.

    From ABC News: "The new analysis, presented Friday at the American Heart Association's 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, offers a picture of just how horrifying the damage done by excess consumption of sugary drinks can be.

    Using a computer model and data from the Framingham Heart Study, the Nurses Health Study and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers estimated that the escalating consumption between 1990 and 2000 of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages, which they abbreviated as 'SSBs,' led to 75,000 new cases of diabetes and 14,000 new cases of coronary heart disease.

    What's more, the burden of the diseases translated into a $300 million to $550 million increase in health care costs between 2000 and 2010."7

  10. It's the "real thing" . . . not exactly. Should having the number one caloric source in the world come from something that's entirely manmade be a metaphor for a dying world? It doesn't have to be this way. After all, there's nothing in soda that we need. In fact, there's nothing in soda that even comes from the earth except caffeine, and that's optional. It's a mixture of altered water (injected with carbon dioxide gas), artificial flavors (yes, "natural flavor" is artificial), artificial color, and phosphoric acid, along with its sole caloric source that is a by-product of genetically modified corn production and offers virtually no nutritional value. It's about as real as The Thing.

Related Articles
"Cola: Real Thing or Real Junk?"
"Nutrition 911, Part VIII: Pop Goes the Diet—The Worst Food in the World"
"Nutrition 911, Part XIV: Energy Drinks—Do They Really Give You Wings?"

Steve EdwardsQuestions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, April 5th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Gluten: What, Why, and How?

By Omar Shamout

If you didn't know any better, you might be forgiven for thinking a "gluten" was the muscle you flex while doing squats and lunges in the gym. In fact, gluten is a grain protein found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley that acts as a sort of glue holding the flour together, and providing structure. Sounds like a good thing, yet a quick visit to the diet book section of Amazon.com reveals so many "gluten-free" guides that you'd think it was as evil as trans fat or MSG. So what's the big deal over such a tiny little protein that performs such a noble function? Let's break down the substance into an easily digestible diet of what, why, and how.

Wheat

What's the problem with gluten?

Unfortunately, about 1 percent of the world's population (roughly 1 out of every 133 people) suffers from a genetic gluten intolerance known as celiac disease, making it the world's most prevalent autoimmune disorder. Those affected with the condition suffer severe abdominal pain and discomfort when tiny, nutrient-absorbing projectiles in the small intestine known as villi come into contact with gluten, leaving them damaged and unable to function properly. Often, this intolerance leads to prolonged vomiting and diarrhea. Yikes! However, many carriers show no symptoms of the disease at all, and the only way to be diagnosed properly is through blood tests and an intestinal biopsy. Celiac disease should not be confused with a wheat allergy, where symptoms such as hives and itchiness recede once the allergen leaves the system.1

How do I cure celiac disease?

The only known cure for celiac disease is a 100 percent gluten-free diet. Naturally, this means getting rid of many of our favorite starchy foods. To lessen the blow, celiac sufferers are entitled to a tax deduction on the extra cost incurred when buying gluten-free foods. In this economy, that could really come in handy!2

What are the other medical benefits of a gluten-free diet?

In recent years, people without an intolerance have begun to take up a gluten-free lifestyle in an effort to lose weight. Others have put their faith in what is currently anecdotal evidence claiming that the omission of gluten improves conditions including but not limited to joint pain, osteoporosis, diabetes types 1 and 2, and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Down's syndrome, and autism. However, these cases are awaiting detailed medical studies, so until those take place, there is no conclusive evidence to support the gluten connection to these illnesses.3

Why are people without diagnosed medical problems going gluten free?

A large number of people have chosen to go gluten free without a medical reason, and swear by the benefits they experience on a daily basis, including increased energy and brain function, and fewer aches and pains. Whatever your motivation, it is crucial to maintain a balanced and well-rounded diet to avoid eliminating essential vitamins from your nutritional intake. For instance, it may be tempting to stop eating bread altogether, but starch-rich foods contain vital nutrients like B vitamins and fiber,4 which prevent the onset of other health problems such as anemia, nerve damage,5 high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and irritable bowels.

How do I go about it?

Gluten-Free for a Healthy Life by Kimberly A. Tessmer, RD, LDDieting should never be done on a whim, because you could be doing yourself more harm than good without even knowing it. If you want to substitute rice, corn, or potato-based products in favor of wheat and oats, just be sure to compensate your vitamin intake in other ways, such as supplements. For those serious about making the commitment to this lifestyle change, a comprehensive list of safe, questionable, and forbidden foods can be found in the book Gluten-Free for a Healthy Life by noted celiac dietician Kimberly A. Tessmer, RD, LD.

Why now?

Making the switch to gluten-free is easier than ever to do. Supply seems to have caught up with the increased public demand for gluten-free, well, everything. Food and beverage companies are now producing a wide array of sans-gluten products, including pizza, ice cream, and yes, even beer!

What's the bottom line?

While the jury may still be out on the long-term effects of a gluten-free diet for non-celiacs, it is quite possible to live and thrive without gluten as long as you consult a doctor or dietician first and plan out a well-balanced diet that doesn't ignore any of the essential food groups, including carbohydrates. If you think you might have celiac disease, do not self-diagnose, because your symptoms might be the result of a different illness altogether. As with anything in life, don't start because it's trendy, but rather because you've tried it out safely, and are satisfied with the results.

Related Articles
"8 Fantastic Fibrous Foods"
"Super Carbs: The New Wonder Foods for Weight Loss"
"9 Questions about Food Allergies"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, April 5th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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How to Avoid Dry Winter Skin

Woman with Lotion Jars

It's chilly out there and you may not realize that certain things we do contribute to our dry skin. For example, I happen to love blasting the hot water in the shower so I defrost like a snowwoman in the morning, and I love leaving the space heater on all day to stay cozy. However, both of these suck the moisture from skin and leave it itchy and dry.

Click here for some tips to keep your skin hydrated and protected even in cold weather.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Unthinkable Drinkables IQ!

By DeLane McDuffie

Soda CanPeanut butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. Laurel and Hardy. Wine and cheese. Steak and potatoes. Ben and Jerry. Bonnie and Clyde. Peaches and cream. Yin and yang. Lewis and Clark. Lucy and Desi. Bed and breakfast. Batman and Robin. Bread and butter. Fish and chips. Chip 'n' Dale. Starsky and Hutch. Jack and Jill. Ken and Barbie. Smoke and mirrors. Thelma and Louise. Some pairings and ideas make sense. The following did not. Match the beverage with its slogan or characteristic.

  1. Cocaine® - "The Legal Alternative": Probably one of the boldest marketing campaigns in recent memory, this energy drink boasts 350 percent (280 milligrams) more caffeine than a can of Red Bull® and an aftertaste "kick" that numbs (some say it burns) your throat to simulate the effects of the actual drug. Obviously, the FDA had a conniption fit and told the soda makers that they couldn't sell the product under that particular name. Subsequent monikers included "Censored" and "Insert Name Here." It was eventually pulled from shelves. But you can't keep a good epidemic down. The drink has made a comeback and can be purchased online and in select European and U.S. stores.
  2. Coors® Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water - Logo trouble: The year 1990 was a pivotal year in history. Nelson Mandela was freed after being imprisoned for 27 years. East and West Germany officially reunited. The Persian Gulf War began. And the Coors Brewing Company dove into the bottled-water business, slapping the market with a brand-new fleet of 6.5-oz. six-pack bottles and 28-oz. bottles. It would mark the first time since Prohibition that the beer company would sell something non-alcoholic. Coors had been using Rocky Mountain spring water in its brewing process for years, anyway. So far so good? Not really. Coors left its logo on the bottle, which apparently scared many customers away, being that it reminded them of beer. Beer sitting in the bottled-water section of the supermarket just doesn't look right to some, I guess. Or maybe consumers wanted more beer in their water. Whatever the case may be, sales eventually tanked.
  3. Maxwell House® Ready-to-Drink Coffee - An inconvenient convenience: It seems like 1990 was a year of experimentation. Marketed as "a convenient new way to enjoy the rich taste of Maxwell House Coffee," this 48-oz. carton was anything but convenient. One had to pour the coffee in a mug and then microwave it, since the coffee's original container couldn't be nuked. Because this coffee was not-so ready to drink, Americans decided that they were not-so ready to buy it.
  4. New Coke® - Arguably the biggest product flop ever: Back in April 1985, Coke, who had enjoyed a nice cushy reign atop its competition for years, decided to rock the proverbial boat and ditch its original cola formula in exchange for a sweeter flavor, New Coke. Although New Coke was the victor in an intense blind taste-testing campaign, the public wanted its Coke back. Now! Coca-Cola offices were inundated with angry mail, while seething callers kept the phones ringing off their hooks. The backlash was so massive that it forced Coca-Cola to return to the original, or "classic," flavor, only 3 months later. Even ABC TV news anchor Peter Jennings momentarily interrupted General Hospital to tell America the good news. Coke Classic was now back. Everyone was happy and on various sugar highs. And New Coke, later called Coke II, went to that big soda heaven in the sky.
  5. OK Soda - "carbonated tree sap": Still feeling adventurous and apparently not paying attention to the Pepsi® A.M. and Crystal Pepsi fiascos, Coke rehired the same marketing exec who was responsible for the New Coke misadventure to widen its appeal to the younger demographic. Through much research, the marketing firm discovered that "Coke" was the second most recognized word in the world and that "OK" was the most recognized. Why not combine the two, right? The ad campaign that followed declared that OK tasted like "carbonated tree sap" and even boasted a 10-point "OK Manifesto," of which the first point asked, "What's the point of OK? Well, what's the point of anything?" Well, the reaction of Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers to this "anti-advertising" advertising was . . . less than OK. OK Soda was discontinued in 1995, but still remains a cult classic.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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"You can add dental erosion and tooth decay to your list as well. As a pediatric dentist, the number one cause of decay I see in teenagers is excessive soft drink consumption - pop, sports drinks, etc. This is due to the acidic nature of the beverages, so even diet drinks are a problem."

– Pamela Erickson, Eagan, MN

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