If you're cutting back on sugar, you already know that ginger ale is a bad choice. Ditto for tonic water, apple juice and sweet tea. These drinks, and many others like them, fall under one category: sugar-sweetened beverages. To keep things simple, let's just call them SSBs.
You know SSBs. They're the sugary sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks and other saccharine sippables on display at your local gas station. Oh, you were looking for water? Try checking behind that purple stuff.
You also know, I imagine, that SSBs aren't exactly diet-friendly. Consumption of these sugar-laden drinks, in fact, has been linked to obesity, diabetes and other metabolic issues. Even drinks sweetened with fructose, or fruit sugar, can impede your fat-burning goals. But it's not just your metabolism that gets hammered by sugar. Your heart may also be on the line. And no, I'm not talking about your romantic life.
Sugary Sodas and Your Heart
According to a recent review in the journal Nutrients, a person's risk of heart disease rises by 10% to 20% for each additional SSB consumed a day. Which means that opting for say, sugar free tonic water over cola can really add up over time.
More evidence against sugar: in the Nurses Health Study, which followed 88,520 women for 24 years, researchers found that two SSBs a day (compared to one SSB a month) increased a woman's risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) by 35%. True, the data is observational. But 35% isn't trivial.
These figures might convince you, but if your'e like me, you want to understand why sugar might be bad for your heart. Let's explore that topic now.
What Sugar Does to Your Body
Drinking sugar is linked to obesity, and obesity is linked to heart disease. So there's one potential connection between sugar and heart disease. But there's more to this story. Take the Framingham Heart Study, which followed 6,039 people over four years. Results? Drinking one or more SSB per day was linked to high blood pressure and high triglycerides. Both CHD risk factors.
Also, a high sugar diet is correlated with high circulating levels of an inflammatory particle called C-reactive protein. In other words, sugar appears to cause inflammation, and inflammation is linked to the development of atherosclerosis - a clogging of the arteries synonymous with heart disease.
Now for the good news. To satisfy your thirst, there are, in fact, alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages.
Sugar Free Alternatives
Okay, it's not all good news. Many sugar free sodas on the market contain artificial sweeteners - aspartame and sucralose, for instance - that have been linked to metabolic disorders like diabetes. No thank you.
Luckily, there's a sugar free sweetener that doesn't carry these risks. Yep, you guessed it: stevia.
Stevia not only comes from a living plant, but it's also a promising antidiabetic agent. Instead of hindering your metabolism, stevia may enhance it.
When it comes to your metabolism, and even your heart, sugary cola and sugary ginger ale get a bad rap. And for good reason.
But stevia cola and stevia ginger ale are different. These stevia sodas taste great - and they taste great without the side effects of sugar.
And that, my friend, is called a win-win.
We are not medical doctors and cannot give medical advice. As always, we suggest consulting your doctor if you have any questions regarding your stevia consumption and any affects it may have on any pre-existing conditions.
Brian Stanton is a professional health and science writer. His job, in other words, is to translate complex science into simple English.