If you’re needing to start kick your day with a can of soda or two, and then find that you need that kick all over again to keep on going, you are addicted to soda.
So, what makes soda so addictive? Both regular and diet?
A few factors come to mind. Sugar, caffeine, the sound of that snap opening when opening that can and the fizz factor.
According to Gary Wenk, who is the director of the Neuroscience Undergraduate Programs at Ohio State University and who also wrote the book ‘Your Brain on Food,’ becoming addicted to soda is all in the design of the beverage. Soft drinks are designed with just the right amount of sweetness, caffeine and carbonation to make you crave a continuous gulp of it.
The sugar kick. A 12 oz. can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar which is equal to 10 teaspoons or over 3 tablespoons of sugar. The rush one gets from all that sweetness activates the rewards center in our brain in the same way that drugs do. All that sugar releases the brain chemical dopamine and gives us a sense of euphoria.
But what happens is that the feeling of euphoria is gone almost as fast as it happens, leaving the brain craving more.
And if you are drinking diet sodas, it leaves the brain thinking its getting the real thing but doesn’t and increases the craving for more hoping for the ‘real thing.’
Cordialis Msora-Kasago, who is a registered dietitian nutritionist and the spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that the more soda you drink, the bigger the reward and as with most things that are rewarding you develop a liking to it and then crave even more of it.
Then there is the caffeine kick.
Caffeine is a stimulant. It stimulates our brain and our brain likes anything that stimulates it, Wenk says.
Dr. Marilyn Cornelis, who is an assistant professor of Preventative Medicine at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, says one of the most widely consumed
psycho-stimulant in the world is caffeine. When you couple sugar with caffeine you get a double high which contributes to the desire to have it more often.
Now the fizz factor. Carbonation makes any drink more addictive, according to Wenk.
The fizz adds a small amount of acidity and when combined with sugar it intensifies the euphoric feeing of reward. This acidity also does something else. It somewhat blunts the sweetness of the sugar just enough to make you want more of it.
Kicking the soda addiction is important to your health especially if you are having more than one can a day. It can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, increased risk of stroke and dementia.