The danger of soda–and the benefit of coffee

Happiness is a warm mug
Call me smug. But I have to smile a little when studies come out that talk the same trash that I talk–whether it’s about the USDA, statin drugs, or (my personal favorite) sugar.

It’s especially nice when this trash talk comes with a constructive takeaway. That’s one reason why a recent study on the danger of soda–and the benefit of coffee–was so exciting to me.

So indulge me while I take a brief moment to share the details of this research with you.

This was a very large study and one that involved over 200,000 people. The analyses were based on “extreme” exposures, which researchers defined as 4 or more cups or cans per day.

Results showed that people drinking four or more cups or cans of soda daily had a 30 percent higher risk of depression compared to non-soda-drinkers. People who reported drinking the same amount of fruit punch fared even worse, being 38 percent more likely to struggle with depression.

What’s more, the risk appeared to be higher for people who drank four or more cups or cans of diet soda daily, as opposed to regular soda–suggesting that sugar isn’t the only villain at play here.

Scientists still aren’t certain about the biological mechanisms behind this association. But I have a few good guesses.

Artificial sweeteners–many of which are known neuro-excitotoxins–probably have something to do with it. And in the case of sugar sweetened beverages, chronic insulin and blood sugar spikes undoubtedly play a role.

Meanwhile, this study also found that drinking four cups of coffee per day was associated with a ten percent lower risk of depression than drinking no coffee at all.

This isn’t the first time researchers have noticed this phenomenon. The famous Nurses’ Health Study–among others–reported a connection between coffee and lower depression risk, too.

But this is the first prospective study on the link between sweetened drinks and depression. Not that its results should come as a surprise.

I’ve always been a hater of any beverage other than water or herbal teas. (Alcoholic beverages excluded from this discussion.)

And I’ve warmed to the idea of coffee because the research is fairly compelling. (Unless we’re talking about the junk that passes for “coffee” at places like Starbucks.)

But all of these other beverages that people consume? They drive me nuts–as do the quantities at which people consume them.

And no, I’m not just talking about high fructose corn syrup. As this study shows, diet soda isn’t a healthy alternative–a fact that I’ve mentioned more than once recently.

Just in the last year, plenty of research has surfaced exposing the danger of artificially sweetened drinks. Including one study, which showed that diet soda drinkers have a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events than people who don’t drink soda.

There are plenty of good reasons to trade in your can of Coke or Diet Coke for a glass of water. Or even a mug of good old-fashioned black coffee.

A better shot at happiness is just one of them…

American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting. Abstract 2257. Released January 8, 2013.