If there's any good news about the effect of soda on your teeth, it's that you can keep the damage in check by drinking soda only rarely and taking measures to protect your teeth any time you indulge in a serving of the fizzy stuff. Dentists recommend drinking soda only with a meal, since the food will help to absorb and dilute the acid, and using a straw to minimize the soda's contact with your teeth. Always brush your teeth as soon as possible after drinking soda, and if you can't brush right away, drink some water to help wash the sugar and acid away from your teeth.
Of course, once you've swallowed that sip of soda, you'll want to consider its effect on the rest of your body, too. The sugar and calories in regular soda are the most obvious concern, and with good reason. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says that carbonated soft drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet, contributing to weight gain, obesity and Type II diabetes.
And public health officials worry, not only about what ingredients soda puts into our diets, but also what it pushes out. Kids who drink soda regularly drink less milk, water and fruit juice, and heavy soft drink consumption is associated with a lower intake of essential vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
A University of Minnesota study found that people who drink just two or more sugary sodas per week were nearly twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer as non-soda drinkers. While the exact cause and effect are unclear, study participants who drank mostly fruit juice instead of soda did not have the same risk.
Many soda drinkers believe that switching to diet solves the problem. But just as the acid in diet sodas causes damage to your teeth, it can also have a negative effect on other parts of your body. The phosphoric acid in soda has been associated with lower bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis because it interferes with the body's ability to absorb and use calcium. Both regular and diet sodas also frequently contain caffeine, as well as artificial colorings such as Yellow No. 5, which has been linked with attention deficit disorder in young children.
Your best bet? Put down that soda and pick up a glass of cold, refreshing water, right from the tap.