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Friday, February 11, 2011

My Coke (Zero) Habit

Growing up, and through college, med school, and internship, I drank plenty of regular pop/soda -- and I say pop because as a product of the Midwest, that's what it is -- pop, not soda.  As an intern on call, I carried a 20-ounce bottle of Coke in my pocket.

Sometime around the end of internship, as I thought about all the empty calories that I was getting from soda, I decided to give it up.  Since then, it's been a rare treat at a social event, limited to about four ounces, which is enough to fulfill my craving.

Then I started training for the Ironman.  Life became work, sleep, train, eat, work, sleep... you get the idea.  I was tired.  A cup of green tea was my pre-workout fuel, but then the Coke Zero can became a fixture on my desk at work during morning clinic.  I loved it -- the taste, the fizz, the caffeine, everything about it.  Next thing I knew, I was drinking nearly a liter a day of Coke Zero.

Now, I've read Skinny Bitch, and I know there's concern about aspartame.  And I know that putting processed crap into the body just isn't a good idea.  But I love this stuff.  I've cut back to one can, maybe two, per day.

A can a day can't be bad, right?  Not according to the most recent data on the subject. 

A recent abstract presented at the International Stroke Conference this week suggests that heavy consumption of both diet and regular soda in patients over age 65 is associated with a 61% increased risk of vascular events, including stroke and heart attack.  The risk remained even after adjusting for other risk factors.

The study is not perfect -- it was a small observational study of 2500 patients at one site and looked only at older patients.  While diet soda consumption has been linked to diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, this is the first study to link soda to vascular events.

So what about a 35 year-old vegan triathlete cardiologist with a one-can-a-day habit?

As I look across my desk at the empty soda can, I think it's time to give it up.  I may continue to drink diet soda at social gatherings, but as a daily habit, it's just not necessary.

UPDATE:  April 1, 2012 -- As of January 1, 2012, I have not had a sip of diet soda.  I'm done with it and I feel better for it.  Read about it here.


amanda said...

I used to have the same habit! I know it might seem bland, but sparkling water really helped me kick the habit. The fizziness is perfect for my craving. And every now and then I buy some Zevia sodas. I know not everyone is a stevia fan, but the lemon-lime and orange Zevias are pretty tasty.

N Sharma said...

I too have "had" the habit... Thank god the hospital I work at now only has Pepsi products... Ttly different taste! So, now I drink a lot less too... My theory about these articles... They are biased as the subjects in the "metabolic syndrome" study were overweight to begin with. I haven't seen the 65yo+ study, but I wonder if they drink diet _____ because most of them are diabetic or obese... Just saying...:)

Administrator said...

I used to drink a ton of coke, then had one of those bone density scans at our hospital's "health fair". It wasn't very accurate, I know, but my result was off the charts (in a bad way). I had recently heard how sodas can leach calcium, so that was enough to get me to stop. I quit drinking sodas and it was probably the hardest thing I've done. But, after about 2 weeks, I stopped jonesin' them.

Then, after 1 month, I tried one and it tasted horrible. Now, 4 years later, I only drink water, milk and orange juice. So it can be done. Here's a hint...tell everyone you're giving them up, so you'll have some kind of public accountability. Tell your staff and patients. They'll keep you honest.

I like your blog and will add it to mine. You're right, fixing your lifestyle is the key to better health.

Anonymous said...

A success story for you: I consumed 2-6 cans of regular Coke through high school, college, and my first year of medical school. Literally I was ADDICTED and LOVED the stuff. After spending a summer seeing diabetic patients, I switched to Diet Coke and consumed 2-6 of those a day, including through a pregnancy and fellowship. Then during my second pregnancy, the sight of my beloved pop made me sick to my stomach. Birthed the baby and still am totally turned off by it. I have about 4 ounces of noncaffeinated root beer as a treat once every 2-4 weeks, but otherwise the sight of all other caffeinated cola-like pop disgusts me. I feel fantastic! - I work fulltime as an MD who has some vicious calls and delivers her own OB patients, and am nursing a baby still 1-2 times a night, and I can do it without the caffeine. I have maybe 1-2 coffees a week as a treat - not for the caffeine. Although it makes my legs tingle and I feel **happy** afterward.

I think it was the 3 week rule that did it (based on the idea that it takes 3 weeks to kick a food habit, I think), but for me it was the 9 month rule because I literally was drinking daily pop for almost 16 years! UGH. And all the thought of all of those chemicals going in makes me sad, given how hard I otherwise try to maintain a healthy diet. You can do it, though!

Anonymous said...

I had a bad diet coke habit for a long time. Gave it up as of Oct. 1, 2010. The first week was hard--some cracking headaches--but I haven't missed it since. Good luck!!

(oh, and mineral water/club soda can help when you want that bubbly action)

Valerie Goes Vegan said...

Hi Doc! I just found your blog and have been reading through it. I love it! You are a great inspiration!
I gave up diet soda at the beginning of this year (almost 5 months ago,) and I don't miss it at all now! I make room for the occasional real sugar soda (Coca-Cola Classic in a glass bottle? Yes, please!) and that's enough for me.
I hope you are able to give it up! I'll be following your blog. :)

Best video baby monitor said...

caffeine from coke and nicotine from cigarettes <-- the best to wake you up and think well but it will shorten your life

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