Incriminating evidence against pop

Whether you call it “soda,” “pop” or “Coke,” you probably should cut down on it.

This is Minnesota, and Minnesotans call it “pop.” And there is a lot of controversy over whether it causes obesity. Cause-and-effect relationships of food on health are difficult to prove, but most scientists seem to agree that pop can be a pretty bad additive to the diet.

Most regular pop is packed with so-called “empty calories,” often from high-fructose corn syrup. Some studies have suggested that this type of sugar fails to trigger satiation in drinkers; that is, if a person consumed the same amount of calories from a different source, he or she would feel fuller than from drinking the pop. This is one of the mechanisms suggested for pop’s contribution to obesity, along with others, such as psychological triggers to eat fast food. In addition, consuming these empty-calorie sugars increases triglyceride fats in the blood, which can contribute to heart problems and the development of diabetes.

Diet pop is another matter altogether. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener better known as Nutrasweet, can produce bad reactions in some drinkers, and its long-term health effects are unclear. Other flavoring chemicals and carbonation also are under scrutiny.

Many pops also contain caffeine, an addictive stimulant with varying effects on its users, from headaches and dehydration to heart palpitations. However, to be fair, diet pop certainly wins on the calorie count: Most are calorie-free. This tampers the “fat factor” of regular pop and makes diet options better for many.

Whether you’re addicted to Dr Pepper or Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola or Diet Coke with Lime, there are plenty of alternatives available. Many campus buildings offer juice and bottled water in vending machines in addition to pop. Next time you reach for that dollar to get a Mello Yello, consider fruit punch instead. Next time you finish a workout and go for a Sprite to “obey your thirst,” try Gatorade or good old water. It will quench your thirst faster and leave you with those extra calories to use on a meal at Sally’s.