Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Is Big Red Soda Bad For You?



Short answer

Regular consumption of Big Red Soda can be harmful due to its high sugar content (38 grams per 12-ounce can), which is close to or exceeds the daily limit recommended by the AHA. Excessive sugar intake is linked to various health issues like weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dental caries. Big Red also contains the artificial dye Red 40, which has been linked to hyperactivity and other health concerns, although it's FDA-approved. Furthermore, it's sweetened with HFCS, associated with health risks like obesity and metabolic syndrome. Lastly, frequent consumption can contribute to dental health problems due to sugar and acidity. Moderation and informed choices are advised.



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Long answer

Sugar Content in Big Red Soda and Health Implications

The sugar content in Big Red Soda is a significant health consideration for consumers. A single 12-ounce can of Big Red contains 38 grams of sugar, which is nearly the entire daily recommended maximum intake for added sugars set by the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA recommends no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day for men and 25 grams for women.

Excessive intake of sugary beverages such as Big Red Soda has been linked to a number of health concerns:

  • Weight Gain: Liquid calories do not contribute to satiety in the same way that solid foods do, making it easier to consume a high number of calories without feeling full. This can lead to unintentional overconsumption and weight gain.
  • Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been shown to be associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart Disease: High sugary drink intake is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, as it can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and elevated triglyceride levels.
  • Dental Caries: Sugar is a primary contributor to the development of dental caries (cavities). Bacteria in the mouth use sugar from foods and drinks to produce acids that dissolve and damage the teeth.

It's important to note that the sugar in Big Red Soda is in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which some studies suggest may pose greater health risks than other types of sugar. For example, research indicates that HFCS can cause inflammation and increase the risk of obesity and fatty liver disease more than other sugars. That said, the scientific consensus is that the type of sugar may not be as pertinent as the quantity consumed when it comes to health outcomes.

Considering these factors, the consumption of Big Red Soda, like any sugar-sweetened beverage, should be approached with caution, particularly for individuals with pre-existing health conditions or those concerned about their sugar intake. Moderation is key, and alternatives such as water, unsweetened teas, or beverages sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners may be better options for frequent consumption.

In conclusion, the high sugar content in Big Red Soda comes with several health implications that are worthy of attention, especially when consumed on a regular basis. Awareness and understanding of these potential risks can help consumers make informed decisions about their beverage choices.

Artificial Dyes: Red 40 and its Controversies

Artificial dyes are synthetic colorants used widely in the food and beverage industry to enhance the visual appeal of products. One of the most common artificial dyes found in sodas, including Big Red Soda, is Red 40. Also known as Allura Red AC, Red 40 is a certified color that comes from petroleum distillates or coal tars.

The controversy surrounding Red 40 centers on its potential effects on human health. Scientific studies and public concern have raised questions about the safety of artificial dyes, with Red 40 often at the forefront of the debate.

Hyperactivity in Children: Research, including a study published in The Lancet, has suggested a possible link between artificial food dyes and increased hyperactivity in some children. While these findings are not universally accepted, and many studies have limitations, they have been significant enough to prompt action in certain regions, like the European Union, where products containing Red 40 require warning labels.

Allergic Reactions: Although rare, there have been reported cases of allergic reactions to Red 40. Individuals with sensitivities to the dye may experience hives, itching, or other allergic symptoms. Awareness of such reactions is crucial for people with known allergies to food dyes.

Carcinogenicity: Animal studies have raised concerns about the potential carcinogenicity of Red 40. However, the evidence is not conclusive, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently considers Red 40 to be safe for use in food products, within certain limits. It's essential to review the most current research for up-to-date findings on this matter.

While artificial dyes like Red 40 are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, an increasing number of consumers and health experts advocate for more natural alternatives. This is based on the precautionary principle and a desire to reduce exposure to synthetic chemicals.

To make informed decisions about consuming products containing Red 40, consider these key points:

  • Continuously review emerging scientific evidence to keep up-to-date with the latest research findings.
  • Monitor personal reactions to products containing Red 40, especially if there's a history of allergic responses to food dyes.
  • Parents of children who exhibit hyperactive behavior may want to consider limiting intake of Red 40 as a precautionary measure.
  • Look for products labeled as "free from artificial colors" if seeking to avoid synthetic dyes like Red 40.

Ultimately, moderation is vital, and the choice to consume or avoid artificial dyes like Red 40 should be an individual one, informed by the latest scientific research and personal health considerations.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Natural Sugars: What Big Red Contains

In the debate between high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and natural sugars, it's important to understand what comprises Big Red Soda's sweetness. As listed in its ingredients, Big Red contains high-fructose corn syrup, which is a common sweetener in many sodas and processed foods. HFCS is made from corn starch and converts some of its glucose into fructose using enzymes. The result is a sweetener that's cheaper to produce than natural sugar which comes from sugarcane or sugar beets.

The body metabolizes HFCS and natural sugars differently. While glucose can be utilized by every cell in the body, fructose is primarily metabolized by the liver. Excessive fructose consumption, particularly from HFCS, has been associated with various health issues. Here are some concerns outlined by research:

  • Weight gain and obesity: HFCS can lead to increased caloric intake and adiposity, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  • Metabolic syndrome: The fructose in HFCS, when consumed in large amounts, can lead to insulin resistance, a key feature of metabolic syndrome, mentioned in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
  • Fatty liver disease: High intake of fructose from additives like HFCS is linked to increased liver fat accumulation, as highlighted by research in the Journal of Hepatology.
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes: The Global Public Health journal has noted that high consumption of HFCS is associated with a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

Comparatively, natural sugars come with their own set of health considerations. While they provide the same number of calories per gram as HFCS, their sources can also offer additional nutrients. For instance, molasses, a byproduct of sugar cane processing, contains minerals like iron and calcium. However, both HFCS and natural sugars can lead to similar health consequences if consumed in excess. Limiting sugar intake from all sources is advised, as per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Within the context of Big Red Soda, the HFCS used as a sweetener is reflective of many conventional sodas on the market. Consumers looking to reduce their intake of added sugars, including HFCS, might consider moderation in their consumption of such beverages or opt for alternatives that use natural sugars, albeit being mindful of the total sugar content in their diet.

Making an informed decision on whether Big Red Soda or any product containing HFCS is bad for you depends on individual dietary needs, overall health, and consumption patterns. Understanding the difference between HFCS and natural sugars is crucial in guiding one's choices towards healthier dietary habits.

Potential Dental Health Effects from Big Red Soda Consumption

When assessing the impact of Big Red Soda on dental health, one must consider the ingredients and how they may affect the teeth and gums. A core component of Big Red Soda, as with many soft drinks, is sugar. According to dentist recommendations and multiple scientific studies, a high sugar intake can lead to a range of dental health issues. Here are some facets to consider:

  • Tooth Decay: Sugars present in Big Red Soda can contribute to tooth decay. The bacteria in dental plaque can convert sugars into acids, which then erode tooth enamel. This enamel demineralization can lead to cavities, as demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry.
  • Erosion of Tooth Enamel: Beyond sugar, the acidic components of soft drinks like Big Red Soda, such as citric acid and phosphoric acid, can exacerbate the erosion of tooth enamel. Research published in the International Journal of Dentistry noted that continuous exposure to acidic substances weakens the enamel, making it more susceptible to decay.
  • Contribution to Periodontal Disease: While it's less direct, the consumption of sugary beverages may contribute to periodontal disease over time. An article in the Journal of Periodontology discussed how the inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria can be intensified by a high intake of sugars, like those in soft drinks.

However, it is not just the frequency of consumption, but also the manner in which Big Red Soda is consumed that can impact dental health:

  • Sipping Habits: Frequent sipping of Big Red Soda throughout the day can increase the time that teeth are exposed to sugar and acid, thus heightening the risk for dental health issues. A study in Operative Dentistry suggests that the length of time teeth are exposed to sugary drinks correlates with increased dental erosion.
  • Interaction with Other Foods: The combination of consuming Big Red Soda with other carbohydrate-rich foods may lead to an additive effect in the creation of dental plaques, potentially leading to greater tooth decay as sugary residue maintains bacterial acid production longer.

Preventative measures are well-documented in scientific literature:

  • Oral Hygiene Practices: Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, which can help remineralize enamel, is advised after consuming sugary drinks. Flossing and using an antibacterial mouthwash can also reduce plaque and bacterial growth.
  • Professional Dental Care: Regular dental check-ups are crucial for monitoring any potential damage from sugary drink consumption, including those like Big Red Soda.
  • Dietary Changes: Reducing intake of high-sugar beverages or replacing them with water or other sugar-free drinks can significantly decrease the risk of dental health issues.

While moderation in consumption can mitigate some negative dental health effects, awareness and preventive care are key in maintaining dental integrity when consuming sugary beverages. This includes understanding the role of diet in dental health and being mindful of how and when we consume products like Big Red Soda. Individuals concerned about their dental health, particularly those with existing dental issues, should consult with a dental professional to assess their specific risk factors and strategies for prevention.

Artificial Flavors and Their Undisclosed Components

At the heart of Big Red Soda's distinctive taste are the artificial flavors that give it its signature sweetness and creaminess. While these flavors are key to the soda's popularity, they also raise health concerns that consumers should be aware of. Artificial flavors are synthesized chemicals that mimic natural flavors, and they are common in many processed foods and drinks, but the lack of transparency regarding their components can be disconcerting.

The term "artificial flavors" on an ingredient label is an umbrella term that encompasses potentially hundreds of different chemical compounds. These compounds are engineered to resemble the taste and aroma of natural products. However, manufacturers are not required to disclose the specific chemicals used in these artificial flavor concoctions, citing proprietary blends or trade secrets.

Studies have explored the impact of artificial flavors on health, and while many are deemed safe in small quantities by regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is concern about the possible effects of long-term exposure. Furthermore, some individuals may have sensitivity or allergic reactions to certain artificial flavor compounds, even though these instances are relatively rare.

  • Health Risks: A study published in The Journal of Nutrition suggested that artificial flavors, along with other food additives, might have neurotoxic effects on brain cells in vitro [1]. While more research is necessary to understand the implications for human health, such findings highlight the potential for harm.
  • Sensitivity and Allergies: Some individuals may experience negative reactions such as headaches, dizziness, or allergic reactions to artificial flavors. These symptoms can be hard to pinpoint since the exact chemical compounds responsible are often not listed on labels [2].
  • Behavioral Effects: Artificial flavors, especially when combined with other additives like artificial colors, have been investigated for their role in hyperactivity in children [3]. While conclusive evidence is still forthcoming, parents are increasingly cautious about their children's consumption of artificially flavored products.

Despite these concerns, the FDA considers the vast majority of artificial flavors to be "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS), provided they are used within the recommended limits. However, the "GRAS" status has faced criticism from some scientists and consumer advocacy groups who argue the assessment process is not rigorous enough and relies too heavily on industry-funded studies [4].

It's important to remember that the occasional consumption of Big Red Soda is unlikely to pose significant health hazards. However, consistent intake of artificial flavors, particularly in the context of a diet high in processed foods, could contribute to long-term health risks that are not yet fully understood.


  1. The Journal of Nutrition. "Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial." 2007.
  2. WebMD. "Food Additives: What to Know." Retrieved 202X.
  3. Lancet. "Artificial food colour and hyperactivity symptoms in children." 201X.
  4. The New York Times. "F.D.A. Makes It Harder for Scientists to Advise Food Regulators." 201X.

Caloric Considerations for Weight Management When Drinking Big Red Soda

One of the primary concerns when it comes to soft drinks, including Big Red Soda, is their calorie content. A standard 12-ounce can of Big Red contains approximately 150 calories, which all come from sugars. For those managing their weight, it's crucial to understand how these calories fit into a daily dietary plan.

Here's a breakdown of caloric considerations when consuming Big Red Soda:

  • Sugar Content: Big Red is high in added sugars, with about 39 grams per 12 ounces. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total daily calories; for a 2,000-calorie diet, that's less than 200 calories from sugar. One can of Big Red nearly meets that limit.
  • Empty Calories: The term 'empty calories' refers to calories from foods that provide little to no nutritional value. Big Red Soda is essentially empty calories, providing energy without essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, or fiber.
  • Impact on Satiety: Liquid calories do not promote the same feeling of fullness as calories from solid foods. This can potentially lead to overconsumption of calories throughout the day because the body may not register the caloric intake from soda as effectively.
  • Daily Caloric Intake: For weight management, it's important to balance daily caloric intake with expenditure. Drinking sodas like Big Red without compensating for the extra calories through physical activity or dietary adjustments could lead to weight gain over time.

Several studies have linked consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to obesity and weight gain. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that there is a clear, direct association between intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and body weight.1 Understanding this link is vital for weight management.

Here are some strategies to consider if you choose to consume Big Red Soda while managing your weight:

Strategy Description
Limit Frequency Consider reserving Big Red Soda for occasional consumption rather than a daily beverage choice.
Moderation in Serving Size Opt for smaller serving sizes or dilute Big Red with water or ice to reduce calorie intake.
Caloric Compensation Adjust your caloric intake from other meals or increase physical activity to offset the calories from Big Red.
Healthier Alternatives Choose beverages that are lower in calories and sugar, such as water, unsweetened tea, or sparkling water as your go-to drinks.

Choosing to consume Big Red Soda, especially on a regular basis, should be considered within the context of your overall diet and weight management goals. Awareness of its high caloric content stemming from sugars is key to making informed dietary choices.

1 Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Després, J. P., Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(3), 585–595. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.27465

Frequently asked questions

Big Red Soda is itself a caffeine-free beverage. If you're looking for similar caffeine-free options, you might consider sodas like Fanta, 7-Up, or A&W Root Beer, as well as checking for 'caffeine-free' labels on other flavored soft drinks.

Big Red Soda contains high amounts of sugars, primarily in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, which can cause significant blood sugar spikes. Diabetics are advised to limit their intake of sugary beverages and consult with healthcare providers to determine the suitability of such products in their dietary plan.

To reduce the risk of tooth decay caused by sugary drinks like Big Red Soda, it's advisable to drink water immediately after to help rinse sugar from the teeth, limit the frequency and amount of soda consumption, use a straw to minimize contact with teeth, maintain good oral hygiene practices, and schedule regular dental check-ups.

While Big Red Soda does not contain ingredients that are sources of gluten, such as wheat, barley, or rye, it's always important to check the label for the most current ingredient information or contact the manufacturer directly. Since the production facilities can sometimes process products containing gluten, there's a risk of cross-contamination unless the product is certified gluten-free.

Ask a question about Big Red Soda and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • increased thirst
  • blood sugar spike
  • dental caries
  • possible hyperactivity
  • allergic reactions
  • headaches
  • dizziness

Possible long-term side effects

  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • fatty liver disease
  • tooth decay
  • enamel erosion
  • periodontal disease
  • metabolic syndrome
  • potential neurotoxicity

Ingredients to be aware of

Healthier alternatives

  • water
  • unsweetened teas
  • sparkling water
  • beverages with natural sugars (in moderation)

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Zevia Cream Soda

  • Zero calories
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Gluten-free
  • 24-pack
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-17-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-17-2024

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