Illustrated by Clay Hickson.
As proven by the fact that NYC's soda ban was officially stopped in its tracks this summer, we love that sugary, bubbly goodness. But, it's clear that soda isn't exactly the greatest for our health. And, two recent studies reveal just how many steps it takes to counteract those negative health effects: a cool 12,000 per day.
In the first study, published this week in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 22 participants ages 18 to 25 all consumed two 20-ounce bottles of lemon-lime soda every day for two weeks, which added about 75 grams of fructose and 60 grams of glucose per day. The participants were divided into two groups: one walked fewer than 4,500 steps per day, while the other walked at least 12,000 steps per day for two weeks. Then, for another two weeks, the participants switched groups, so that everyone experienced both levels of physical activity. Unsurprisingly, when participants were more physically active, they didn't see the notoriously awful health effects of drinking soda. Here, that meant protecting participants against fructose-induced changes in glycemic control that are associated with developing type 2 diabetes.
That 12,000 number seems to be the key. The same team also published another study earlier this year with a similar design. This one, which appeared in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, also had participants drink two 20-ounce sodas per day and take either 4,500 or 12,500 steps. This time, drinking the soda during the low-activity period was associated with significant changes to their cholesterol and other markers of cardiovascular health. But, again, taking over 12,000 steps per day was enough to prevent those effects.
However, there's a big difference between taking 4,500 steps (just over two miles) and 12,000 steps (about six miles). These studies don't address that gray area in between, where most Americans actually live. Also, these findings don't necessarily apply to everyone's soda-consumption habits: While there is data suggesting that we consume about 150 grams of sugar in a day, a recent poll showed that more than half of U.S. adults say they don't drink any sugary soda. And, of course, this clearly doesn't apply to diet sodas that don't have fructose or glucose in them, although those have their own issues. So, go ahead and choose your poison.