Shawnee Mission Community Health Update: Reaching for a soda? Grab some water instead

Soda consumption is linked to obesity.
Soda consumption is linked to obesity.

By Dr. Greg Sweat

Dr. Greg Sweat
Dr. Greg Sweat

You may have heard a recent story of a patient in a Monaco hospital who only consumed soda for the last 16 years. The doctors found she had dangerously low potassium levels and had developed an irregular heartbeat. However, after slowly reintroducing water into her diet, her potassium levels and heartbeat stabilized. Although an extreme case, what does even small, regular consumption of soda do to your body? And is diet soda really that much better?

Drinking soda has health impacts beyond what you would expect. As the summer races by, I have watched my children and their friends at dinner with us and at home. They all have different habits. Some always order water or just ask for a glass of water at our home. Some are always looking in the fridge for a soda or a sports drink or something that is not just water. We all need to pay heed to many recent studies regarding the soda consumption of ourselves and of our children.


Harvard School of Public Health recently reviewed 30 studies regarding obesity and soft drinks. Many studies demonstrated that overweight children and adults drink more sugary beverages than normal-weight kids and adults.

In a separate study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition in June 2012, individuals who drank large amounts of sugary beverages found that their metabolism changed after just four weeks, making it more difficult to burn fat and lose weight.


Hannah Gardener, PhD, of the University of Miami, presented findings at a conference in February 2013. Early results of the study demonstrated a 48 percent increase in stroke and heart attack risk among daily diet soda drinkers. Other studies revealed similar findings. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, published in March 2012 in the journal Circulation, found that consuming one sugar beverage every day created a 20 percent increase in a man’s risk of having a heart attack over a 22-year period.

Diet Soda

A study published just last week suggested that diet soda is only marginally better for you than regular soda in terms of health. While the artificial sweeteners used in diet soda may temporarily curb your sugar craving, your body isn’t sure how to respond to the “fake” sugar. When you consume real sugar, your body doesn’t know whether to process it as real or fake sugar and may cause your system to not release hormones needed to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure.

Soda consumption has also been linked to osteoporosis and diabetes. So, why not water? Try incorporating more water into your daily routine, as well as your kids, by making it fun. Add different fruits, vegetables and herbs – like berries, cucumbers or mint – to help flavor the water. Let each child come up with their favorite combination and have it be their special drink for snacks or mealtimes. The better health habits you practice, the more likely your children will adopt them as well.

This weekly sponsored Community Health Update is brought to you by Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
Greg Sweat, MD, is a long-time Prairie Village resident and Board-certified Family Medicine doctor at Shawnee Mission Primary Care, which has six locations throughout Johnson County. To find a doctor, call the ASK-A-NURSE Resource Center at 913-676-7777 or visit