There are a ton of reasons not to drink soda—it can erode your tooth enamel, weaken your muscles, make you hungrier, and so much more. Did you know, however, that sugar-filled soft drinks can even shave a few years off your life?
Yet despite knowing the countless risks associated with our favorite sodas, most of us are still going to have a can of Coke every once in a while. If you know that you’re not going to cut out cola altogether, it’s worth figuring out how you can sip smarter—learning the science behind which habits are going to do the most damage can help you make more informed decisions.
Here are some of the life-shortening soda-drinking habits to steer clear of for a longer, healthier life. For more science-backed ways that soda could be hurting your body, check out these Dangerous Side Effects of Drinking Soda Every Day.
If you’re drinking two or more cans a day, you could be in serious danger. A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that drinking two or more glasses of soft drinks significantly increased participants’ risk of death from all causes.
The same study found that drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks increased all-cause mortality—i.e. the risk of dying for any reason—a shocking 26%, while sugar-sweetened soft drinks increased mortality by 8%. That basically means that diet sodas are more than three times as dangerous as full-sugar sodas.
Just because diet sodas are dangerous, doesn’t mean you should load up the sugar. A study published earlier this month found that high-sugar diets can make you age faster. You’re better off sticking with healthy, low-sugar alernatives to get your soft drink fix.
Food dyes can do some real damage. Studies have found that some artificial colors including yellow-5 and red-40 can hurt your DNA and might trigger cancer formation, so check the ingredients, and generally try to stick to sodas made with natural colors.
Nutrition experts say that the worst time to drink soda is right before a workout because it will keep you from hydrating properly. This could make it harder for you to reap the life-extending benefits of exercise.
BPA may not be in most plastic bottles anymore, but many aluminum cans still contain this dangerous chemical in their epoxy lining. Drinking from the can could be exposing you to this blood-pressure-raising toxin, putting you at increased risk of heart disease.
When you drink caffeinated soda late at night, researchers have found you’re messing with your sleep patterns, throwing off your circadian rhythm. Sleep quality is closely tied to longevity, so skip the late-night cola for a longer life.
For more, make sure to check out these 13 drinks that dietitians say melt belly fat.