Beer vs Soda: Which is Worse?

June 26th, 2009

Bud Light vs Coke ClassicBeer and soda are two of the most popular and unhealthy beverages available today. They’re both associated with a long list of health risks, but which one is worse?

For the past two decades, Americans have been drinking just as much beer as they’ve been drinking coffee and milk. Soda consumption is even worse and typically doubles that of any other beverage. In fact, many people drink more soda than water. Needless to say, a majority of the population is harming their health by drinking a significant amount of these beverages. As such, choosing which one is worse is a matter of determining the lesser of two evils.

Bud Light vs Coke Classic

According to U.S. sales data, Bud Light is the most popular beer and Coke Classic is the most popular soft drink. Although it may not be entirely fair to compare a light beer to a regular soda, sales history indicates that anyone choosing between beer or soda will most likely be choosing between Bud Light and Coke Classic.

Calories and Weight Gain

Based on a 12 ounce serving, Bud Light contains 110 calories and Coke Classic contains 140. Most of the calories in Bud Light come from alcohol with a tiny portion of them coming from its 1 gram of protein and the remainder coming from refined carbohydrates. In contrast, all of the calories in Coke Classic come from sugar.

Most of the alcohol in beer is ultimately used to meet immediate energy needs. Although only a small portion of the alcohol is converted into fat, it contributes to weight gain by blocking the metabolism of body fat that already exists. In contrast, the sugar content of soda is likely to elevate blood sugar considerably, and in turn, cause a strong insulin release that will store the excess sugar as body fat. As such, soda has more direct potential to cause weight gain, and to add insult to injury, Coke Classic also happens to contain slightly more calories than Bud Light.

The consumption of beer or soda increases caloric intake, and as such, also increases the chance of the calories from any additional food or beverage consumption being stored as body fat. In addition, the calories from beer and soda, often referred to as empty calories, lack any notable amount of the nutrients needed by the body to sustain itself. Because of this, counting and restricting calories to compensate for alcohol or sugar consumption is one of the worst things you can do for your health.

The Sweet Misery of Soda

It’s primarily the effects of sugar that make soda such an unhealthy beverage. Sugar is highly addictive and can cause blood sugar fluctuation, mood disorders, poor digestion, suppressed immunity, weight gain, and tooth and bone decay. Long term, the effects of excessive sugar consumption can even lead to deadly diseases such as heart disease and cancer. As such, drinking soda on a regular basis can be a significant health risk, especially considering the many other sources of sugar and refined carbohydrates in the modern diet.

The Buzz Kill of Beer

In comparison to the dangers of sugar, alcohol is even worse. It causes many of the same issues as sugar, but in addition, can damage the brain, the nervous system, the intestines, and can even cause infertility and impotence. Based on this, frequent alcohol consumption is probably more of a health risk than frequent sugar consumption. If you doubt this, consider the typical health of a long term alcoholic.

Whipping a Tired Body with Caffeine

A 12 ounce serving of Coke Classic contains about 34 milligrams of caffeine which is actually a lot less than what some other sodas contain. It’s also significantly less than a cup of coffee. However, many people rely on caffeinated beverages such as soda for an artificial lift in energy. Caffeine provides this lift by forcefully stimulating the adrenal glands and provoking the “fight or flight” stress response. Because the fatigue that inspires most people to drink caffeine is often a result of overworked adrenal glands, caffeine makes the problem worse.

The blood sugar fluctuation caused by the high sugar content in soda often results in hypoglycemia. Because the adrenal glands play a large role in the regulation of blood sugar, this adds to the stimulation caused by the caffeine. Excessive alcohol consumption stimulates the adrenal glands as well, but most likely to a lesser extent than the sugar and caffeine from soda.

A Sensitive Issue with Gluten

The refined grain typically found in beer contains a protein called gluten that many people have difficulty digesting. Gluten intolerance can worsen the intestinal damage caused by alcohol, cause many of the symptoms associated with food sensitivities, and even lead to autoimmune disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and brain disorders. Grains are the most common cause of food sensitivities, and as such, significantly increase the health risks associated with beer. Fortunately, people who are sensitive to gluten can still enjoy an occasional beer if they’d like. Anheuser Bush makes a gluten free beer called Redbridge.

Another concern regarding the grain that beer is derived from is its quality. It’s often the lowest quality grain available which likely means that it’s been heavily sprayed with pesticides and is contaminated with mold toxins that make it unsuitable for food products. You can avoid this issue by choosing organic beer.

The Secret Ingredients of Beer

Much of today’s food is highly processed and contains a large number of ingredients including chemical additives. Fortunately, the FDA requires that the ingredients of these foods are listed on their packaging. This is important for people who have sensitivities or allergies and need to avoid ingredients that could lead to an uncomfortable or even fatal reaction. It’s also important for people who are health conscious and simply don’t want to consume unnatural and unhealthy additives.

With its political influence, the alcohol industry has managed to exempt itself from the FDA’s labeling requirements. As such, you won’t find an ingredient list on alcoholic beverages and will have no way of knowing what kind of additives and chemicals you may be drinking.

The Ingredients of Soda

Fortunately, we do know the ingredients of Coke Classic because they’re listed right on the can. Two of the primary concerns, which are found in most soft drinks, are phosphoric acid and high fructose corn syrup.

Phosphoric acid creates an acidic environment in the body that often requires calcium to be pulled from teeth and bones to buffer it. As such, excessive soda consumption increases the risk of tooth decay and osteoporosis.

High fructose corn syrup is a highly processed sugar that contains both fructose and sucrose. In comparison to other types of sugar, it’s more likely to cause blood sugar fluctuation and body fat storage. In addition, it’s also been found to contain mercury as a result of its processing.

Which is Worse?

Beer and soda are both a significant cause of the poor health that’s become so prevalent today. Does it really matter which one is worse? It’s like trying to choose between cancer and heart disease. Why choose between the disadvantages when you can choose to avoid them instead?

If you must know which is worse, then compare the health of a long term alcoholic to the health of someone who has a long history of excessive soda consumption. They’re both likely to be suffering from poor health and disease, but in my estimation, the health of the alcoholic is likely to be much worse.

The bottom line is that your consumption of beer and soda should be kept to an absolute minimum. If you’re going to indulge, simply choose whichever one will bring you the most enjoyment. There’s nothing wrong with consuming beer or soda within the limits of reasonable moderation, but keep in mind that even though it may only be slight, it will still come at a cost. When you do decide to enjoy some well deserved indulgence, savor every bit of it and don’t let guilt ruin the experience.

This article is part of Fight Back Fridays

Stay informed of new articles by email!