A graphic recently hit viral status, and it’s all over a can of soda. This reported graphic claims to illustrate what effects a can of soda has on your body 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 45 minutes and 60 minutes after drinking it. CBS Atlanta credits it to The Renegade Pharmacist, who based the information on an article posted online in 2010.
“Really, this is fascinating information,” says Jane Sadler, MD a family physician on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland. But Dr. Sadler cautions that the “accuracy of the information may be somewhat in question and the writing a little embellished.”
The image covers the excessive amount of sugar that hits your system after drinking soda, the spiking of blood sugar, the process of caffeine absorption, dopamine production, phosphoric acid and, ultimately, a sugar crash.
Dietitian Raynelle Shelley MS, RD, LD, BC-ADM, CDE says that at least part of the graphic may be accurate.
“It is true that at about 20 minutes the body does release enough insulin to cover the sugar, depending on your disease state,” says Shelley. “It is also true that triglyceride storage will occur if sugar calories are in excess of the body’s current needs.”
And the alarm raised by the graphic might emphasize that sodas should be an occasional treat, not a routine fluid option, an argument that Beth Kassanoff, MD, an internist on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, supports.
“The caffeine can certainly cause fluid and calcium loss and the high sugar content can increase the body’s blood sugar,” says Dr. Kassanoff. “Plus, excess soda intake may be limiting the amount of water intake for patients and will contribute to weight gain.”
Squabble About Sugar
The amount of sugar in a can of soda is the main focus of these health claims. Shelley says that an athlete consuming a can of soda is not going to experience the same effect as the average American who may be going through a drive-through, sitting at a desk or watching TV.
The amount of calories a person is burning is important to determine what the body uses or wastes.
Dr. Sadler explains that an occasional can of soda is absolutely fine and caffeine is a natural healthy anti-oxidant. She feels the claims are somewhat anecdotal, not necessarily true or reliable.
“The truth is that natural sugars may be healthier than artificial sweeteners based on what we know about gut bacterial changes with artificial sweeteners,” says Dr. Sadler. “I do agree that a large amount of any sweetened drink or food source can create a sugar shock to the body and is discouraged.”
Dramatizing the Effects of Soda
Jeffrey M. Schussler, MD, FACC, FSCAI, a cardiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital, agrees with Dr. Sadler, that the claims may not be entirely accurate.
“Graphics such as this tend to sensationalize and demonize one small issue and miss the big picture,” says Dr. Schussler. “No physician would ever suggest that a diet heavy in soft drinks is good for you, but drinking the occasional soda is not likely to cause any dramatic ill effects.”
Perhaps that is the main reason the graphic has gone viral — its dramatic nature. Unfortunately, not everyone will take the time to find out the truth of the health claims.
“It is a shame that there is not such attention devoted to the damage that a single cigarette does to a person,” says Dr. Schussler, board certified in cardiovascular disease, interventional cardiology, and cardiac computed tomography. “Far more people are injured by a cigarette a day than by a soda a day.”
About the author
This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.