Water is a large part of human body: babies about 78%, one year old 65%, adult men about 60%, and adult women about 55%.  Our lean muscles are about 75% water by weight, our bones are about 22% of water, and our body fat contains 10% of water. Even small changes in the amount of water in our body can make a difference; therefore, the thirst mechanism in our brain, normally, signals the body to drink water when the body is dry.

We lose water daily, thus, we need to drink about 8-12 cups of fresh filtered water a day (each of 8 oz.) to replenish one lost through sweating (about two cups), breathing (two cups), urinating and bowel movement (six cups), and to keep all the body compartments with adequate amount of water. We lose even more water when we drink coffee and caffeine-containing soft drinks, alcohol, and when we exercise in a hot and dry weather.

Why Your Body Does Not Need Soft Drinks?

Beside of the carbonated water, soft drinks does not contain any ingredients that would be required for human body functions.  Moreover, all the ingredients interfere with human body functions causing them fail over time.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients of the Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, as an example, as it is prepared in the US:

  • Carbonated water
  • Aspartame (or NutraSweet/Splenda, which is the same)
  • Caramel color (E150d, most likely GM)
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Caffeine (46.5 mg. in a 12-oz can, but less caffeine, 34.5 mg., in a regular-coke can)
  • Potassium benzoate (to protect taste)
  • Natural flavors
  • Citric acid

Guess how many sodas do we drink?  – 450 pints, or 206 liters per person per year now according to the National Soft Drink Association (NSDA). Soft drink companies spend billions of dollars on advertising, also targeting children through movies, cartoons, and, videos, playgrounds, toys, and amusement parks, and through contests, sweepstakes, clubs, plus radio, magazines, and the internet. As a result, soft-drink companies earned over $57 billion in sales in 2008 in the US.

A typical cola addict is a twelve-year-old child whose drug is a soft drink from a vending machine in his school. Thousands of children like him are sent to attend special classes sponsored by their schools to be warned about the dangers of drugs, tobacco and alcohol. However, they are not warned about the other drug – the soft drinks.

Aspartame – a synthetic sweetener in soft drinks – is a potent neurotoxin (nerve poison) and endocrine disruptor connected to lymphoma and leukemia as was shown in a research in 2005. Aspartame is the main ingredient in sweeteners Equal and NutraSweet. The FDA approved aspartame for use almost 30 years ago, in 1981, and it is sold under different brand names such as NutraSweet, Equal Measure, and Spoonful. Aspartame can be found in over 6,000 products: sodas, juice drinks, flavored waters, iced teas, jams, chewing gum, diabetic food, Metamucil fiber supplement, Fiber One breakfast cereal, and even in chewable vitamins and over-the-counter prescriptions such as Alka Seltzer Plus and several Tylenol medications.

FDA has recorded numerous consumers reports on migraine headaches and dizziness, insomnia, depression, joint pain, memory loss, hives, rash, abdominal cramping, hallucinations, seizures, and even deaths related to aspartame consumption.  Over 900 studies have been published on aspartame.  In 1998, a study showed that dietary aspartame bounds to protein in body cells, and it was found in liver, kidney, and blood. It accumulates over time without being excreted, causing more damage and hazard by contributing to formaldehyde-compounds formation. In human body, aspartame brakes down into formaldehyde that is a known cause of birth defects and allergies. It was also listed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen in 1987,  it has been shown to cause both lymphoma and leukemia in lab rats and in humans.

In May of 2009, an article shared a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute investigating the association between formaldehyde and lymph cancer.  It was noticed when cancer cells are exposed to aspartame they became more mobile. The original studies done by the G.D. Searle company also pointed out that lymphomas and primary brain tumors as well as tumors of multiple organs were related to aspartame. All of this signifies that aspartame is a powerful carcinogenic substance.

Many of the common yet shocking symptoms associated with aspartame according to FDA’s records include:

  • Tumors
  • Eye problems such as protruding eyes, retinal detachment, blindness, and bleeding eyes
  • Partial paralysis
  • Spasmodic Torticollis (involuntary spasms in neck)
  • Unsteady gait
  • Skin problems and lesions
  • Obesity
  • Genetic damage and birth defects
  • Depression

The  ADI limit of aspartame per day is 40 mg/kg of body weight, or 2400 mg/60 kg of body weight, above which, that is, a higher dose creates a higher toxicity in the body.  For kids and adolescents this ratio is lower, since the aspartame’s toxicity is more hazardous for their growing brain, kidney, and liver.

Recent studies conducted at Princeton University showed that artificial sweeteners, e.g., NutraSweet present in Diet Coke, are considerably sweeter than natural sugars, making your body crave sugar even more due to the absence of the natural sugar.

Splenda sweetener, used in Diet Coke, or Pepsi One, Diet Rite, and others, is the trade name for sucralose — a synthetic compound containing aspartame. British scientists discovered it accidentally when seeking a new pesticide formula in 1976. It is true that Splenda molecule is comprised of sucrose (sugar), except that three of the hydroxyl groups in the molecule being replaced by three chlorine atoms.  Independent researchers insist that Splenda has more in common with pesticides. That’s because the bonds, holding the carbon and chlorine atoms together, are rather of a chlorocarbon property than a salt, and so most pesticides are chlorocarbons.

Once it gets to the gut, sucralose (Splenda) goes largely unrecognized in the body as food. That is why it has no calories. The majority of people don’t absorb a significant amount of Splenda in their small intestine. The paradox is that your body tries to clear unrecognizable substances by digesting them so, it’s most likely, the healthier your gastrointestinal system is, the more you absorb the chlorinated molecules of Splenda that might work as an endocrine disruptor. The manufacturer’s own short-term studies showed that sucralose caused shrunken thymus glands and enlarged livers and kidneys in rodents.  Observational evidence showed side effects of Splenda, including skin rashes/flushing, panic-like agitation, dizziness and numbness, diarrhea, muscle aches, headaches, intestinal cramping, bladder issues, and stomach pain.

A Duke University study, commissioned and funded by a sugar-industry lobbying group, found that doses of Splenda of between 100 and 1000 mg/kg, which contained sucralose at 1.1 to 11 mg/kg (when the FDA’s Acceptable Daily Intake is 5 mg/kg), reduced the amount of good bacteria in the intestines of rats by up to 50%, thus, contributing to increases in body weight.  The recent findings also agree that composition of intestinal bacteria plays a major role in body-weight regulation. Splenda increased the pH level in the intestines, caused histopathological changes in the colon.  It also decreased total anaerobes and bifidobacteria (good bacteria), thereby increasing the expression of the intestinal chemical transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and two CYP450 isozymes (CYP3A4 and CYP2D1) at levels associated with reduced bioavailability of drugs and nutrients.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is currently used in regular sodas, in cookies, candy bars, and all baked products in preference to sugar. It is associated with poor development of collagen in growing animals, especially in the context of copper deficiency. High-fructose corn syrup derived from cheap corn is more economical because the domestic U.S. and Canadian prices of sugar are twice the global price, and the price of corn is kept low through government subsidies paid to the corn growers. Soft-drink makers such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi use sugar in their drinks in other nations/countries, which refuse buying the HFCS-contained version.  In U.S., however, Coca-Cola and Pepsi companies switched to corn syrup since 1984.

High-fructose corn syrup is produced by milling corn to produce corn starch and later processing starch to yield corn syrup that is almost entirely glucose. Then by adding enzymes to it they change most of the glucose into fructose. Since fructose must be metabolized by the liver, animals (including humans) on high-fructose diets develop liver problems similar to those of alcoholics. Critics of HFCS say it is a “toxic chemical concoction” contributing to weight gain by affecting normal appetite functions. Genetically modified (GM) corn, which is not the corn farmers used to grow some 40 years ago, makes up one of the largest portion of all genetically engineered crops  about 80% in the US. When a label on a product you buy does not contain word “organic”, that means the corn syrup, most likely, is made from the GM corn.

Caramel Color in soft drinks (code E150a, E150b, E150c, E150d) can be produced from the genetically modified corn, thus, containing the genetically modified material not detectable by a polymerase chain-reaction.  Many carbohydrates that are not derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can also be used to develop a non-GM caramel color.

Phosphoric acid, used in cola and many soft drinks to acidify their taste, is associated with calcium loss, thus, lowering bone density in epidemiological studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study, which using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) provided a sound evidence that drinking cola lowers bone density. A total of 1672 women and 1148 men were studied between 1996 and 2001. Using a food frequency questionnaire including the number of servings of cola and other carbonated beverages in diet, and differentiating between regular, caffeine-free, and diet drinks, the study developed significant statistics showing that women who consume cola daily have lower bone density. Although, total phosphorus intake was not significantly higher in daily cola consumers vs. non-consumers, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratios were lower.

Caffeine in popular soft drinks (69 mg in a 12-oz. Diet Pepsi Max can) is a possible contributor to low bone-density due to the known effect of caffeine on calciuria (loss of calcium with urine).  Cola consumption has been associated with chronic kidney disease and kidney stones in a medical research. The preliminary results suggest that caffeinated soft-drinks consumption may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease.  Studies have shown that regular soft-drink users have a lower intake of calcium, magnesium, ascorbic acid, riboflavin, and vitamin A.  The caffeinated soft drinks are also criticized for causing physical dependence. Caffeine stimulates the adrenal gland without providing nourishment, which can lead to adrenal exhaustion, especially, in children.

Caffeine and its metabolites (paraxanthine, theobromine, and theophylline) are easily transferred across the placenta, with embryonic concentrations being just slightly lower than maternal levels.  However, the amount of caffeine that may seem mild to the mother, may be much more substantial for the embryo. It affects the embryo growth and heart development. Overall, an observation of a study has shown that exposure via dam of placenta to a single dose of caffeine, which results in circulating levels that are equivalent to 2 cups of coffee consumption in a human, can induce both acute effects on the embryo and long-term effects in adulthood. Recent data suggest that caffeine exposure during early pregnancy is associated with an increased miscarriage rate.

Benzene, categorized as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is associated with soft drinks.  Although, not being added to the drinks directly, the compound benzene is formed by a reaction of two preservatives in soft drinks −ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and sodium or potassium benzoate. Benzene is formed markedly in the presence of light and/or heat. Chronic exposure to benzene is associated with leukemia, aplastic anemia and other blood diseases. Children may, especially, be sensitive to benzene because their bone-marrow cells are highly active. Scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others have found that some soft drinks sold in the U.S. contain concentrations of benzene above the U.S. legal limit for drinking water. Therefore, scientists urge you and local school officials to cease the sale and marketing of certain soft drinks in public schools until they are shown to be safe and free of the toxic substance benzene.

Following is a list of soft drinks that contain both ascorbic acid and sodium or potassium benzoate (thus, benzene):

Diet Pepsi, Wild Cherry, Fanta Orange, Hawaiian Punch, Mug Root Beer, Pepsi Vanilla, Sierra Mist, Sunkist, and Tropicana Lemonade, and others.

On February 15th, Beverage Daily reported that recent tests had shown that some soft drinks contain benzene at levels “above the legal limit for water set by the US and Europe.” According to Beverage Daily, independent tests at a laboratory in New York have found benzene levels in a couple of soft drinks containing two-and-a-half and five times the limit for drinking water set up by World Health Organization, which is more permissive than is the U.S. standard. On March 4th, the Times of London reported that just 100 of the 230 soft drinks tested for benzene met the standard for British water, “with some containing up to eight times the legal limit.”

Sodium benzoate, besides of its contribution to the benzene formation in soft drinks, was found to break down mitochondrial DNA in living yeast cells. Research published for the British government’s Food Standards Agency in 2007 suggested that sodium benzoate (E211) is linked to hyperactive behavior and decreased intelligence in children.

If the information on soft drinks in this article is new to you, I bet you think, “I have to start reading the ingredients on the labels of my drinks and foods.”  Make sure that source of your reading material comes from a trusted independent journalist who receives no money to write about his/her companies’ products.”



1. “Splenda Alters Gut Microflora and Increases Intestinal P-Glycoprotein and Cytochrome P-450 in Male Rats”

Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 71: 1415–1429, 2008; Mohamed B. Abou-Donia, Eman M. El-Masry, Ali A. Abdel-Rahman, Roger E. McLendon, and Susan S. Schiffman.  Departments of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Pathology, and Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA

2. “Caffeine Use in Children: What we know, what we have left to learn, and why we should worry.”

Jennifer L. Temple, University at Buffalo, Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Buffalo, NY 14214.  Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 June.

3. “Embryonic caffeine exposure induces adverse effects in adulthood”
Christopher C. Wendler, Melissa Busovsky-McNeal, Satish Ghatpande, April Kalinowski, Kerry S. Russell, and Scott A. Rivkees
FASEB J. 2009 April; 23(4): 1272–1278.
doi: 10.1096/fj.08-124941.

4. “First Experimental Demonstration of the Multipotential Carcinogenic Effects of Aspartame Administered in the Feed to Sprague-Dawley Rats”

Morando Soffritti, Fiorella Belpoggi, Davide Degli Esposti, Luca Lambertini, Eva Tibaldi, and Anna Rigano.  Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center, European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences, Bologna, Italy

5. “Caffeine in Pregnancy”

Michael G. Tordoff and Mari A. Sandell

Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.  Michael Tordoff, Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19104.  Functional Foods Forum, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland