A Word About Soda

A Word About Soda

I recently saw a countdown of ‘healthy soda’s’. I personally don’t call any soda a health drink but are some better than others when it comes to gut health?

Yes, avoid those with high fructose corn syrup. Despite what the FDA claims there is a large body of evidence linking high fructose corn syrup to health detriment so while I wouldn’t necessarily avoid cane sugar I do avoid high fructose corn syrup. Dr. Mark Pimentel is not a fan of high fructose corn syrup and I know when my daughter was a toddler it would send her through the roof with irritability in about twenty minutes so it has not been in my house in any great quantity for a very long time while we do not avoid any soda with cane sugar on occasion.

Fructose is a valuable nutrient. It is not the fructose that is the problem but the excessive amount that is found in manufactured foods.

Fructose found in fruits and vegetables is slowly absorbed into the blood stream, its absorption blunted by soluble fibre in these foods. HFCS and crystalline fructose disrupt liver metabolism, which, along with excess glucose, spikes blood sugar levels and exhausts our pancreas. Overwhelming amounts of fructose and ensuing spike in blood sugar levels that are derail our body’s metabolism and immune system.

Manufactured sugars like manufactured drugs are not our body’s friend.

Fructose is a simple sugar – or what is called a monosaccharide. It is found in 3 main forms: in fruits and some vegetables, as a component of sucrose (a disaccharide made up of glucose + fructose), and as a naturally occurring fructose polymer (a string of fructose molecules) called fructans (found in wheat and some vegetables).

While glucose readily passes through the gut membrane barrier, fructose needs the assistance of a transporter system – the main one is called GLUT5.

Fructose absorption across the gut membrane is further facilitated by glucose. When glucose and fructose are present within the gut in a one-to-one ratio, then fructose absorption is at its maximum efficiency. Sucrose (table sugar), which is chemically structured with equal amounts of glucose and fructose, is usually absorbed completely by the small intestine. Women were found to exhibit a higher prevalence of fructose maldigestion versus men.

While glucose can be utilized (metabolized) by just about every cell in the human body, fructose cannot and glucose can be burned off pretty fast. Fructose needs to be processed and stored in the liver as a back-up energy source called glycogen. Once the liver’s storage capacity is filled, then excess fructose is converted by the liver into various products; one main product is triglycerides. Triglycerides are further converted by the liver into very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), which are released for storage in fat cells and muscle.

The processing of excess fructose by the liver is not an energy-free task. There are consequences to be paid for making the liver work harder.

The malabsorption of fructose is dose-related (and glucose-dependent) – meaning that you may be able to get away with eating small amounts of fructose but as you increase the concentration of fructose ingestion, you will increase the malabsorption.

Many manufactured foods may actually contain a high ratio of fructose and little or no glucose. When the glucose molecule is not present at the same time as the fructose molecule, little, if any, fructose, will be absorbed, and will, therefore, pass to the large bowel.

The sheer volume of fructose consumed is a problem, the average American is eating 80 grams of fructose each day.

When fructose meets bacteria, a feast begins. Bacteria rapidly ferment the fructose in varying proportions of a variety of gases such as hydrogen, methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and short-chain fatty acids. Each species of bacteria gives off one of these gases and, depending upon which species is overabundant in your colon, dictates the nature of your excess gas. Excess fructose that finds its way to the bowel does more than just feed the bacteria – it also draws along with it excess water (an osmotic effect), which has a laxative action on the bowel, causing diarrhea.

The reason some people can handle excess dietary fructose without suffering its ill effects on their bowels may be due to the nature of their colon bacteria. Their predominating probiotics may prove to be protective. Research into the use of certain strains of “good bacteria” for the treatment of IBS symptoms helps confirm this speculation. Kefir will help reduce fructose content in fruits with high levels. It will also reduce any sugar so that is why kefir is a great help for both prevention and control of diabetes.

Some fruits also have lower levels of sucrose.

As fruits ripen, their sucrose content usually rises sharply, but some fruits contain almost no sucrose at all. This includes grapes, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, figs, pomegranates, tomatoes, avocados, lemons and limes.

No one is going to avoid soda for life especially during summer outings and I rarely demonize any food because that is usually a straw man argument but most processed foods are not gut friendly to say the least and they contribute little to nutrition.

Drink any soda in moderation, don’t assume newer sugars are safe, and try to choose those with cane sugar while avoiding high fructose corn syrup.

There is also tons of info on how probiotics, kefir, how different sugars work, which ones are healthy and which to avoid in my book Immune For Life. It helps dispel myths and rumors about sugars, of which there are thousands upon thousands of types of sugars including those which you can’t live without for the immune system, macrophage activation, receptor binding, and cell signaling. Many of these sugars have never been seen until recently, a decade or so ago and they will provide scientific fodder for decades.


Soda’s Ranked By How Healthy They Are