I've been drinking soda - mostly of the Pepsi variety - for many years. As recently as eight years ago, I was up to over a liter a day! And I wasn't drinking the diet stuff - or the name-brand stuff - either. It was all Shasta and "Ralph's" generic brand (I was in California at the time). Then I started dating someone, a nice guy who lost a lot of weight due to aerobic kickboxing. I tried it, lost about 15 pounds, and started eating healthier. One of the things I started doing was kicking the sugary soda habit. I switched to diet, and it helped me lose the pounds. While that relationship went nowhere, at least I lost some weight as a result (thanks, Eric, wherever in San Francisco you are today).
I further cut down my soda consumption a few years later, after moving back to Maryland. I forced myself to drink more tea, and only drink - get this - three cans of soda a day. That's still a lot. A whole lot.
Now the time has come to try and cut the stuff out of my diet as much as possible - I'm hoping a few cans a week. What's spurring this on? A few things. For one, soda in any format really isn't healthy anyway. But what really did it was a recent report that suggests a link - not necessarily a cause and effect, but a link nevertheless - between diet soda and strokes and other vascular diseases. Mind you, there are flaws in the study, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta points out:
While I could be healthier than I am, I do have some things going for me: I don't just eat crap. And I'm getting a lot more exercise these days than I used to - gym, soccer, yoga. One has to keep one's figure, right?
But all of the information about how much soda and sodium consumed came from the participants' own reports, not from a controlled setting. It's possible that they remembered or stated their habits incorrectly, or did not maintain those habits consistently over time. Researchers also do not know about the specific brands and flavors of diet and regular sodas consumed.
. . .
A 2007 study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that people who drink one or more soft drinks a day are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a heart disease precursor, than people who drink less than one soda a day.
Still, that study also only showed an association, and did not prove that sodas cause metabolic syndrome. There could be something else about people who drink soda regularly that directly leads to risk factors for heart disease. [Gupta & Cohen 2011]
That said, no doctor - who isn't employed by Coca-Cola - will tell you that drinking so much soda is good for you. There can really only be benefits to cutting back. And while I don't intend to stop drinking diet soda altogether, I would like to cut back a good bit. And so, for a while at least, I'll be reporting on just how successful my quest to cut back on the fizzy drinks really is, what I replace it with, where will I get my caffeine!? (Not coffee, a drink I cannot stand) Oh, and maybe I should cut back on caffeine?