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Exercise and Soft Drinks—A Dangerous Combo

Exercise and Soft Drinks—A Dangerous Combo

Quenching your thirst with a soda can increase risk of kidney injury.

In 2017, when Coke created an ad campaign using an animated virtual soccer player, Alex Hunter, from a digital game called FIFA 17, it made us wonder—are real athletes and team owners getting smart about the health risks of drinking sweetened beverages? Seems not. That same year, Major League Baseball (the whole shebang!) announced a multi-year partnership that names Coca-Cola as the Official Soft Drink of MLB.

Well, a new study in the American Journal of Physiology shows just how harmful such endorsements are, not just to fans who fall for the sweet talkin’, but for athletes everywhere. Researchers from the University of Buffalo looked at the effect of drinking a beverage with high fructose corn syrup and caffeine on the health of someone who is working or working out in a high-temp environment (could be an agricultural site, a playing field outdoors, the gym or at work). In four, one-hour segments, the study’s participants worked out, took breaks and drank 16 or more ounces of the soft drink.

The results? Participants who drank soft drinks had higher blood levels of creatinine and a lower glomerular filtration rate—markers for acute kidney injury. They also had elevated blood levels of vasopressin, which raises blood pressure, and were mildly dehydrated.

Prove you’re smarter than MLB and say no to (fake)quenching your thirst with soda. Water will do—and maybe for extended workouts or hot weather jobs, try water with electrolytes added (sodium, potassium, calcium). And grab a piece of fruit.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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