Soda pop is often singled out as a prime contributor to obesity and diabetes. It’s well documented that regular consumption of drinks sweetened with fructose are associated with numerous health complications. But new research suggests that if you must drink sugary sodas, you may be able to offset the effects with physical activity.
Fructose and your liver
Many studies have linked drinking sodas sweetened with fructose to wild fluctuations in blood sugar that promote insulin resistance—a condition that prevents the body’s cells from using insulin to metabolize sugar. Insulin resistance progresses to type 2 diabetes.
Unlike other sugars, fructose can only be metabolized in the liver, where all those extra calories are converted to fat. To keep the fat from accumulating, the liver sends it into the bloodstream, which can lead to unhealthy cholesterol profiles. What’s more, at about 250 empty calories per 12-ounce serving, it’s no wonder people with a soda habit are often overweight or obese.
Sedentary soda drinking
Another thing previous studies have in common is their focus on sedentary people, likely because most people in modern society are indeed sedentary. But what about active people who drink soda? Dr. Amy Bidwell sought to answer that question with two studies she conducted at Syracuse University recently reported on in the New York Times.
Bidwell, who is now an assistant professor of exercise science at the State University of New York in Oswego, recruited 22 student volunteers who underwent health screenings and filled out diet questionnaires. To determine a baseline for everyday movement, they wore physical activity monitors for a week.
Fructose and physical activity
The volunteers were then separated into two groups. Half were instructed to cut their everyday movement in half. The others doubled their movements to the tune of at least 12,000 steps a day—about five and a half miles for the average person.
All the while, they all drank enough sodas to ingest the average American fructose intake—75 grams a day, or about 500 calories. Their diets were adjusted to compensate for those extra calories so they wouldn’t gain weight.
Swift health declines
After two weeks, they were tested again and then switched modes. Dr. Bidwell published her findings in two separate journals. Her report in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise focused on how just two weeks of sedentary soda consumption increased levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and blood markers for inflammation throughout the body.
Writing in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, she reported on how their fructose intake sent them into a state of insulin resistance and on the path to type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, when the volunteers switched from sedentary to active mode, their cholesterol and blood sugar levels went back to normal, even though they continued drinking sodas.
Burning soda calories
The takeaway from this research could be that if you insist on drinking sodas with fructose, you must be aware of how calorie dense and nutrition-free they are. Two sodas a day is about 500 calories. Here’s what you need to do to burn all that extra energy before it turns to bad cholesterol and fat:
- Brisk walking for 90 minutes
- Run at 6 mph for 45 minutes
- Do high-intensity Zumba for an hour
- Run stairs for 45 minutes
- Swim for 65 minutes
- Pilates or yoga for two hours
- Clean your house for 2 hours
- Work in your garden for 1.5 hours
New York Times