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What is in Soda and Why is it so Addictive?

Nearly half of all the people in the USA drink soda every day and Americans consume around 240 pints of the fizzy stuff each year. That’s a staggering 7.5 billion gallons down the throat and into the nation’s digestive systems each year.

Let’s have a look at just what is in the most popular kinds of soda, like Coke and Pepsi, why they’re so addictive and how caffeinated drinks affect you.

Strange Soda Ingredients

A can of Coke is a bizarre mixture of extremely high levels of sugar (or the even worse high fructose corn syrup), corrosive phosphoric acid, ‘natural’ caramel coloring, and a well known drug that has a powerful effect on your brain chemistry – caffeine.

Sugar or HFCS

A standard can of Coke has around 10 teaspoons or 39 grams of sugar or high fructose corn syrup in it. And that’s just the smaller cans. A 20 oz bottle has 17 teaspoons or 65 grams of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, strongly associated with diabetes and many other diseases.sugar in soda

Do we really have to ask why there is such an epidemic of obesity across America with such a pervasive source of fattening sugar in our diets?

Phosphoric Acid

The phosphoric acid found in Coke makes it one of the most acidic beverages available, with a pH rating of 2.5. For comparison, battery acid that eats through skin has a pH of 1. Pure water has a pH of 7 and your blood needs to be maintained between 7.35 pH and 7.45 pH for proper cellular function.

While a healthy digestive system can buffer the acidity of cola, it does so at a cost – by drawing on your body’s calcium phosphate stores. This can eventually leech minerals from your bones and is why long term soda drinkers are at a higher risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

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Caramel Coloring

The ‘natural’ caramel coloring in sodas like Pepsi and Coke is made by reacting sugar with sulfites and ammonia under high temperatures. Byproducts created with this process include the compounds 2-methylimidozole and 4-methylimidozole, which are known carcinogens, but the FDA still allows this product to be used widely.Soda addictive ingredients

Why is Soda so Addictive?

Aside from the carbonated water and flavorings, the last ingredient in cola, caffeine, is the reason why it is so addictive.

Caffeine is the world’s most popular psychoactive drug and it’s reported that more than 80% of Americans have it in some form every day.

Soon after you drink something like Coke with high levels of caffeine in it, it is absorbed through your small intestine and into your bloodstream.

Caffeine is both water and fat soluble and is easily able to cross the blood-brain barrier to affect your brain cells directly.

The caffeine molecule is actually quite similar to another molecule that is present naturally in your brain called adenosine. It’s adenosine’s job to slow down nerve cell activity along neural pathways, but when caffeine is present it blocks adenosine receptors.

This can increase alertness, but excess adenosine molecules in your brain stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the old flight or fight chemical adrenaline.

For some people this feels like energy. For others, it’s more like anxiety. Regardless, your body wasn’t designed to be in flight or fight mode constantly and when caffeine’s effects wear off you’ll often feel exhausted.

Over time, your brain attempts to compensate by growing more adenosine receptors and decreasing the number of receptors for norepinephrine, another stimulant like adrenaline. This explains why caffeine addicts tend to need more and more of it over time and feel so bad when they don’t get it.coke addictive

Giving Up Soda

Fortunately, unlike many other addictive substances, caffeine addiction can be beaten relatively easily. Caffeine withdrawal headaches are commonly reported, but certain herbs and supplements can greatly minimize these. There are also now some far healthier alternatives to soda that taste similar but potentially do your body good.

When you go for around 14 days without having caffeine, and support your adrenal gland through the process, then the levels of adenosine and norepinephrine receptors in your brain are believed to return back to their baseline levels and you are unlikely to feel the same ‘need’ for soda anymore.

The exact method I used to give up soda is covered in detail here.

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About the author

Jim Dillan

Jim Dillan is health and wellness researcher, writing about natural nutrition, improving your physical and mental well-being and moving to a healthier lifestyle. His website Superfood Profiles has detailed articles on superfood health benefits, hair and skin treatments and healthy recipes.

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  • candace

    I would love to know how you quit soda successfully! Thank you!

    • Jim Dillan

      Hi Candace and thanks for your comment.

      If you’re receiving the Hacking Your Kitchen for a Healthier Life email series we will have much more information on this soon –

      Best Regards,


  • Darren Tyler

    Jim, I would love more info on breaking my coke addiction. Over the last 2years I have been having boughts of illness which have been blamed on stress and anxiety. However today I had three cans of coke and a coffee and have felt the same effects. Obviously there is a link between my anxiety and too much caffeine.

    • Jim Dillan

      Hi Darren,

      Stress and anxiety brought on by too much caffeine can definitely have a negative effect on your health unfortunately. It’s even worse because even though you know it’s not good for you the caffeine can be quite addictive. These pages have exactly how I gave up both soda and coffee without withdrawal problems and similar tasting but much healthier replacements. I really hope they can help you too –

    • Pootinkie

      Darren don’t be a quitter.
      Try drinking 2-3 bottles of imported Coke, the one with real sugar, don’t drink the one with high fructose corn syrup. You will see the benefits almost immediately.

      My recommendation:
      Canned Coke = bad
      Imported bottled Coke = good

  • kellu

    Hi. Was wondering how you quit drinking soda successfully? Thanks for your help.

    • Jim Dillan

      Hi Kellu,

      Here’s the exact method I used –

      Hope this helps.

    • Pootinkie

      Kellu, don’t be a quitter. Drinking 2-3 cans of soda a day prevents type 1 & type 2 diabetes. Daily consumption of soda also stimulates the halogen fluid within your liver thus keeping it healthy and cancer-free. This is a known fact in the medical community.

      • Gael Breton

        How much did Coca Cola pay to subsidise this comment ?

        • Pootinkie

          That’s crazy talk… I do not work for Coke. Just trying to clear up some common misconceptions, helping people shed the ignorance when it comes to Coke. :)

          • Gael Breton

            I guess that’s how they do it in North Korea.

          • Pootinkie

            Mehh big surprise… all my comments deleted. So much for freedom of speech. I’m just trying to educate you sheep about the benefits of soda.

  • jfjg

    helpful advice

  • Pootinkie

    I am a doctor and these are all lies. Drinking more soda will actually normalize your sugar levels. You can cure Type II Diabetes by consuming 3-4 cans of Coke daily, this process make take up to a year so keep drinking soda.

    • weejii

      U r a grade a cunt! About cure diabetes!

      • Pootinkie

        It’s helpful advice, I’m just trying to educate the ignorant masses. Anyways… it’s true soda cures type 2 diabetes. Read up on the American Journal of Medicine, the results are in.

  • questions girl

    in school my group is doing a project on junk food and seeing the ingredients in that junk food that may or may not cause diseases