Time to Come Down from America’s Sugar High

I hate going to the dentist.

And despite my dentist and her staff being pleasant people who are incredibly understanding of my bizarre anxiety about getting my teeth cleaned – it’s not a place I’ll ever feel excited to go.

On a trip there in May, the hygienist informed me that diet soda has more acidic properties than Mountain Dew. And, if you drink a sugary drink you should drink it as quickly as possible and then swish your mouth out with water or milk, because letting it sit on your teeth causes cavities (you might say, “duh,” but I thought my twice-a-day brushing was doing enough to prevent that – and I just had my first ever cavities filled, so apparently it’s news to me).

At that, I stopped drinking soda. All of it: diet, regular, lemon-lime. Done.

Just a few weeks later during a trip to the doctor, I discovered I had lost 12 pounds without changing my diet or exercise routine, aside from cutting out the soda. Woah!

In late July, the Associated Press ran a story about Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc. experiencing a decline in soda sales for the second quarter in North America. The story notes that according to Beverage Digest, “per capita soda consumption in the U.S. has been slipping steadily since 1998 amid concerns that sugary drinks fuel weight gain.”

But, it’s not just about weight gain. And, it’s not just about soda – though that’s certainly where a number of Americans are getting their increased sugar.

Researchers out of the University of Utah recently completed a study on the sugar levels in mice and gave the mice a diet which had 25% of calories coming from sugar (incidentally, that’s a “safe” recommendation by federal government standards – about the same amount of sugar you’d get from three cans of soda per day) and published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers found that increase in sugar in mice led to male mice producing less offspring and defending fewer territories than their counterparts. Worse yet, female mice died at almost twice the rate of their counterparts that were fed a different diet.  

So, it’s not just about weight gain, decreased fertility and lethargy. It’s about death.

And whether your sugar is coming from soda or eating cookie dough (which you really shouldn’t do anyway: salmonella!), it’s time to cut back. My personal motivation to cut down on sugar is a combination of weight loss, good health and avoiding that darn dental chair – what’s yours?