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I quit drinking soda completely at the beginning of the year, but slipped up once in June. On a very long day, the temptation of a Diet Mountain Dew caffeine boost was too much to resist and I went for it.
It shouldn't have been a big deal, as I tend to lean toward the 'everything in moderation' line of thinking rather than absolute rules, but then I felt ill. Just over an hour after downing that strange-colored sweetness I crawled in bed with a headache and nausea, convinced I was coming down with the flu. Later in the day the feeling passed, and in reflection it became clear the soda was the trigger for that bit of misery.
The incident is why this particular infographic caught my eye.
Created by Niraj Naik of The Renegade Pharmacist, it explains what happens to your body in the first hour after consuming a can of Coca-Cola:
- In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.
- 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment.)
- 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
- 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
- 60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
- 60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
- 60 minutes: As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.
Niraj is passionate about educating people about how what they eat effects their bodies. After working in the UK as a pharmacist, including some time spent working for Asda Walmart (a subsidiary of our U.S. Walmart chain), he quit to take care of his own health and help others do the same.
Sharing his views on cola, Niraj told us:
"When I worked as a community pharmacist I had some great success at helping people get off long term medication. Especially blood pressure medication, statins and diabetic medication. Many of them would consume fizzy drinks on a daily basis. A few on several medications would consume 2 to 3 cans a day. In one case a guy was on every heart drug under the sun and taking big doses. After I was going through his average diet (no pharmacist in the UK is obliged to do this, but they really should be rather than just dishing out pills), I discovered that he was drinking up to 15 cups of coffee a day with 2/3 big spoonfuls of sugar in every cup. I was even more shocked to find out his doctor had not even asked him about what he ate or drank and just stuck him on strong meds for life.
So I created my own system to help my patients where I would write little shopping lists for people based on their conditions. My first advice to them would be to do a simple swap. Replacing fizzy drinks with water with fresh lemon or lime juice. In many cases just doing this would have a dramatic effect on their health. So this indicated to me that fizzy drinks and sugar were big issues relating to blood pressure and metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Then I did a lot more research and discovered that there were other scientists and doctors who backed up my claims. The BBC TV documentary called The Men Who Made Us Fat is especially good and gives all the evidence to back up my claims."
I will be adding this series to my must-see list, and am looking forward to watching it after recently viewing Fed Up (available on Netflix). Although I thought of myself as pretty well informed I found the documentary to be eye-opening, and I'm starting to question the 'everything in moderation' mentality.
I personally won't be drinking soda again after it made me feel completely ill, but now I have to decide if I fight to make it a hard and fast rule that my kids can't either, or if I let them have it on occasion. Unfortunately, I think banning it completely is truly the healthiest way to go.
Infographic shared with permission from Niraj Naik, The Renegade Pharmacist
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.