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Is Pepsi With Real Sugar Bad For You?

Also Known As: Pepsi Throwback



Short answer

While Pepsi with Real Sugar avoids high-fructose corn syrup, it's not necessarily a healthier choice. Both sucrose (real sugar) and HFCS are linked to health issues when consumed in excess. Overindulging in any sugar-sweetened beverage can contribute to diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and other metabolic diseases. Despite the potential allure of natural sugars, moderation is key. Enjoy such treats sparingly and focus on healthier hydration options like water to maintain optimal health.



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Long answer

Sugar Content in Pepsi with Real Sugar vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup Version

In the quest to satisfy a sweet tooth while still being mindful of health, one might wonder if Pepsi with Real Sugar is a better choice than its high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) counterpart. To address this, we must look at the composition of these sweeteners and understand their impact on the body. The main distinction lies in the type of sugars used; Pepsi with Real Sugar is sweetened with sucrose, which is a combination of glucose and fructose, while the regular version of Pepsi typically contains high-fructose corn syrup, which also contains both glucose and fructose, but in varying ratios.

Sucrose vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Sucrose is commonly known as table sugar and is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. It is a disaccharide made of equal parts glucose and fructose. High-fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, is produced from corn starch through an enzymatic process that increases its fructose content, and it often comes in two main forms: HFCS-55 (used in soft drinks, containing approximately 55% fructose and 45% glucose) and HFCS-42 (used in foods like baked goods, with 42% fructose and 58% glucose).

Nutritional Comparison

Nutrient Pepsi with Real Sugar (per 12 fl oz) Pepsi with HFCS (per 12 fl oz)
Sugar Content 40g (sucrose) 41g (HFCS)
Calories 150 kcal 150 kcal
Carbohydrates (Total) 40g 41g

Note that the numbers above can vary slightly depending on manufacturing processes and regional recipes. However, the caloric and carbohydrate content is nearly identical, emphasizing that the real sugar and HFCS versions provide the same energy amount.

Metabolic Effects

While the body metabolizes both glucose and fructose, they do so through different pathways. Glucose is primarily used by the body for energy and is regulated by insulin. Fructose, however, is processed in the liver and does not trigger insulin in the same way. Consuming excessive fructose, which could be more concerning in HFCS varieties due to its higher fructose concentration, has been linked to several health issues, including insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Sucrose, despite containing fructose, has a balance of glucose that may mediate some of these effects, but still presents risks when consumed in large amounts.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, beverages sweetened with HFCS can lead to undesirable lipid profiles and increased visceral fat, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Another study from the same journal suggests that beverages sweetened with sucrose could have similar effects due to their high-sugar content. Thus, regardless of the type of sugar, moderation is key.

Considerations for Consumption

While opting for Pepsi with Real Sugar might appeal to those seeking a more "natural" sweetener, it's important to note that both sucrose and HFCS are high in calories and offer no nutritional benefit other than energy. Excessive consumption of any sugar-sweetened beverage can contribute to a host of health issues. For individuals concerned about the potential health risks associated with high-fructose corn syrup, Pepsi with Real Sugar may seem like a preferable choice, but making it a regular part of one’s diet isn't advisable from a health perspective, either.

Ultimately, when considering your beverage choices, it's essential to look at your overall dietary pattern, prioritize hydration with water or unsweetened beverages, and enjoy sugar-sweetened sodas in moderation, if at all, due to their high sugar content and potential impacts on health.

The Impact of Liquid Sugars on Metabolic Health

Understanding the effects of liquid sugars on metabolic health is critical, particularly when considering beverages like Pepsi with Real Sugar. Unlike sugars in whole foods that come with fibers and other nutrients, the sugars in soft drinks are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream. This can lead to a series of metabolic reactions with potential health implications.

Glycemic Response and Insulin Release
When you consume a beverage with a high amount of simple sugars, like Pepsi with Real Sugar, it causes a sharp increase in blood sugar levels—a spike in glycemic response. The body responds by releasing insulin to help cells absorb the glucose. Frequent spikes due to regular consumption of sugary drinks can strain the pancreas, which produces insulin, and can eventually lead to insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.

Impact on Satiety and Weight Gain
Liquid sugars provide no satiety, meaning they do not make you feel satisfied or full, which can lead to an increased overall calorie intake. A prospective study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with weight gain and obesity, likely because of their additional unnecessary calories and lack of satiety effects.[1]

Triglycerides and Heart Health
Consuming high amounts of sugar, particularly from sugary drinks, has been linked to an increase in triglycerides—a type of fat found in the blood. Elevated triglycerides are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A review published in The Journal of Nutrition suggested that frequent intake of sugar-sweetened beverages increased triglyceride levels and could, therefore, raise the risk of cardiovascular events.[2]

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
There is increasing evidence that intake of fructose, which is often used as a sweetener in soft drinks, including those made with 'real sugar,' can be associated with the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The liver metabolizes fructose, and excessive amounts can lead to fat accumulation within liver cells, contributing to NAFLD and, potentially, liver inflammation and scarring.

Dental Health
Liquid sugars are particularly harmful to dental health. When sugar is consumed in liquid form, it has immediate and extensive contact with the teeth. In addition, sugary beverages are often acidic, which can exacerbate tooth enamel erosion. Frequent consumption of drinks like Pepsi with Real Sugar can therefore contribute to tooth decay and cavities, as demonstrated by numerous studies including one from The Journal of Public Health Dentistry.[3]

It is evident that the metabolic impact of liquid sugars found in beverages such as Pepsi with Real Sugar can have significant health consequences. Moderation and an informed approach to consumption are key in mitigating these negative effects. Opting for healthier alternatives and limiting intake of sugary drinks can be an important part of maintaining good metabolic health.

1. Malik, V. S., Schulze, M. B., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84(2), 274-288.
2. Stanhope, K. L., & Havel, P. J. (2009). Fructose consumption: Recent results and their potential implications. The Journal of Nutrition, 139(6), 1236S-1241S.
3. Moynihan, P., & Petersen, P. E. (2004). Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases. Public Health Nutrition, 7(1a), 201-226.

Addictive Potential of Sweetened Beverages

When assessing the addictive potential of sweetened beverages like Pepsi with Real Sugar, it's crucial to understand the interplay between sugar and the human brain. Studies have indicated that sugar can activate the same reward pathways as addictive substances, such as certain drugs. This activation triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, fostering a sense of pleasure and potentially leading to cravings.

Here are several key points to consider regarding the addictive nature of sugar in beverages:

  • Neurochemical Responses: Sugar has been shown to induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs, which might lead to a cycle of seeking and consuming sugary foods and beverages.
  • Tolerance and Cravings: Much like with other addictive substances, there can be a tolerance effect, meaning that over time, more sugar may be required to achieve the same "reward" sensation, potentially leading to increased consumption.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Reducing or eliminating sugar from one's diet may lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, fatigue and depressed mood, which are similar to those experienced when ceasing drug use.

It's also important to note that while Pepsi with Real Sugar contains naturally-derived sweeteners rather than high-fructose corn syrup, this does not necessarily mitigate the addictive potential. The presence of real sugar can still lead to the same neurochemical responses in the brain. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that behaviors associated with addiction, such as bingeing, craving, tolerance, and withdrawal, have all been seen with sugar consumption.

In terms of public health, the American Heart Association has raised concerns about the addictive potential of sugary drinks. They highlight the role of these beverages in the increasing rates of obesity and chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, which are consistently linked to excessive sugar intake.

For individuals concerned about addictive behaviors related to sweetened beverages, it might be beneficial to consider the following strategies:

  • Limiting intake of sugary beverages and gradually reducing the amount to help reduce potential withdrawal effects.
  • Incorporating alternative drinks that are lower in sugar, such as water, herbal teas, or naturally-flavored seltzers.
  • Being mindful of the psychological and social cues that may trigger cravings for sweetened beverages.

It's worth consulting with a healthcare provider or nutrition professional for personalized advice about managing sugar consumption and understanding its effects on one's health.

The Role of Caffeine in Pepsi with Real Sugar

Caffeine is one of the key components in Pepsi with Real Sugar, and it's essential to explore its impact on health. While the presence of real sugar as a sweetener may be the first thing noticed, caffeine deserves equal attention due to its stimulating effects on the body. Here's what you need to know about caffeine’s role in this beverage:

1. Amount of Caffeine: A can of Pepsi with Real Sugar contains around 38 milligrams of caffeine. This is a moderate amount when compared to a cup of coffee, which can have upwards of 95 milligrams. However, sensitivity to caffeine varies widely among individuals, and even this moderate dose can have noticeable effects.

2. Psychological Effects: Caffeine is a known central nervous system stimulant. It can temporarily ward off drowsiness and restore alertness. Individuals who consume caffeine may experience improved concentration and mental focus. However, these benefits come at the potential cost of increased anxiety and restlessness in some consumers.

3. Physical Effects: Physically, caffeine can lead to a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure. While moderate amounts are generally considered safe for healthy adults, these effects can be a concern for individuals with certain cardiovascular conditions.

4. Dependence and Withdrawal: Regular consumption of caffeinated beverages like Pepsi with Real Sugar can lead to caffeine dependence. Consequently, sudden cessation can result in withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and irritability. Expert opinions suggest gradual reduction of caffeine to minimize these effects.

5. Potential Health Benefits: Studies have suggested that caffeine may have certain health benefits, such as enhancing physical performance, promoting alertness, and possibly reducing the risk of diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. However, these potential benefits must be balanced with the risk of overconsumption and individual sensitivity.

6. Recommended Limits: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults should limit their caffeine intake to no more than 400 milligrams per day – this is equivalent to about 10 cans of Pepsi with Real Sugar. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and individuals sensitive to caffeine are advised to consume less.

7. Conclusion: While the inclusion of real sugar in Pepsi might be a talking point, caffeine's role should not be overlooked. Moderate consumption of caffeine can be a part of a balanced lifestyle for many, but it's essential to consider individual tolerance and health conditions. As with any dietary substance, moderation is key.

As we become more aware of the varied roles of ingredients like caffeine in our diet, making informed choices becomes integral to our health. Adjustments should be based on personal health goals, existing medical conditions, and even genetic predisposition to caffeine sensitivity. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns regarding caffeine intake.

Pepsi with Real Sugar and Dental Health Concerns

Considering the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and dental health, it's important to understand how Pepsi with Real Sugar might affect oral wellness. The distinction 'Real Sugar' refers to the use of sucrose, a natural sugar, as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is commonly found in soft drinks. However, from a dental perspective, the type of sugar matters less than the frequency of exposure and the amount consumed because all sugars can contribute to tooth decay.

Erosive Potential of Sugary Beverages:

  • Acid Content: Soft drinks, including Pepsi with Real Sugar, are acidic. This acidity can weaken tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay. Studies indicate that enamel erosion begins within minutes of exposure to acidic beverages. (1)
  • Sugar as a Cariogenic Agent: Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars like sucrose, producing acids as a byproduct. This acid production accelerates enamel demineralization and cavity formation. (2)

Consumption Patterns and Oral Health:

  • Frequency of Drinking: Sipping on Pepsi with Real Sugar or any sugar-laden drink throughout the day can create a constant acidic environment in the mouth, exacerbating the risk of dental erosion and cavities. It's not just the amount, but the frequency of sugar intake that increases the risk. (3)
  • Dental Hygiene Impact: Consistent and proper dental hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing, can mitigate some risks associated with consuming sugary drinks. However, they cannot entirely eliminate the risks posed by frequent consumption of Pepsi with Real Sugar.

Scientific Research and Expert Recommendations:

  • A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies showed an association between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and dental caries in children and adolescents. (4)
  • Dental experts advise rinsing the mouth with water after consuming sugary drinks to neutralize acids, or better yet, limiting intake to maintain optimal oral health. (5)
  • The American Dental Association (ADA) endorses reducing the consumption of sugary foods and beverages to prevent tooth decay, emphasizing the importance of moderation and dental care. (6)

It is crucial to consider how dietary choices, like drinking Pepsi with Real Sugar, can influence dental health. While the occasional treat may not markedly harm dental health, consistent and frequent consumption, without proper oral hygiene, can lead to significant dental issues over time. Individuals concerned about their dental health should be mindful of their intake of all types of sugar, practice good oral hygiene, and consult with dental professionals for tailored advice.

Balance and Moderation: Evaluating Your Soft Drink Intake

When considering any food or beverage, including Pepsi with Real Sugar, the concepts of balance and moderation are foundational to understanding its place within a healthy diet. Knowing how to evaluate your soft drink intake involves an awareness of both the potential risks of overconsumption and the ways in which these beverages can fit into your lifestyle without negative health consequences.

It's common knowledge that soft drinks, in general, are high in calories and sugars, and Pepsi with Real Sugar is no exception. Unlike its diet counterparts, which are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners, Pepsi with Real Sugar uses sucrose or a mix of sucrose and fructose, which are forms of sugar that the body breaks down into glucose. Glucose is a primary energy source, but excessive intake can lead to health issues such as weight gain, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

  • Recommended Sugar Intake: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. For most American women, that's no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons of sugar), and for men, it's 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons).
  • Calories and Sugar in Soft Drinks: A single 12-ounce can of Pepsi with Real Sugar contains approximately 150 calories and 40 grams (about 10 teaspoons) of sugar. This alone surpasses the recommended daily sugar intake for women and comes close for men, emphasizing the need for strict moderation.
  • Assessing Your Intake: To properly balance your soft drink intake, consider not only how often you consume drinks like Pepsi with Real Sugar, but also the quantity and what else you're consuming throughout the day that contains added sugars.

For those who choose to incorporate soft drinks into their diets, moderation means not only limiting the frequency of consumption but also considering the portion size—opting for smaller servings when available. Furthermore, balance can be achieved by ensuring that the rest of one's diet is rich in essential nutrients, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Another aspect of balance involves hydration. Soft drinks cannot replace water as the main source of hydration. It's vital to drink plenty of water throughout the day and consider soft drinks as an occasional treat rather than a staple.

Moreover, studies have shown that regular consumption of sugary soft drinks is associated with a higher risk of certain health issues. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2015 found that high levels of sugary beverage intake were linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

In summary, while enjoying a Pepsi with Real Sugar can be part of an enjoyable dietary pattern, it's crucial to do so within the scope of a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet and a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. Keeping a close eye on your overall sugar and calorie intake from all sources will help maintain not only balance and moderation but also contribute to a healthier overall lifestyle.

Frequently asked questions

Switching from HFCS-sweetened beverages to those sweetened with real sugar is not a reliable weight loss strategy. Both sweeteners contribute similar calorie levels and can lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. A more effective approach to weight loss would include reducing overall calorie intake from sugars and increasing physical activity.

Drinking Pepsi with Real Sugar, which contains significant amounts of sucrose, can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to the high sugar content. Diet sodas, however, typically contain artificial sweeteners and do not have the same direct impact on blood sugar levels.

The acid content in Pepsi with Real Sugar can weaken tooth enamel and increase the risk of decay, similar to other sugary drinks. Non-sugary drinks, especially those with a neutral or alkaline pH, are generally less damaging to tooth enamel than acidic, sugar-sweetened beverages.

Despite the different sources of sugar, both Pepsi with Real Sugar and Pepsi with HFCS contain similar amounts of calories and sugars. Consuming either beverage in excess can contribute to an increased risk of obesity due to the high sugar content. Moderation is key regardless of the type of sugar used.

Ask a question about Pepsi With Real Sugar and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased blood sugar levels
  • insulin spikes
  • increased heart rate
  • higher blood pressure
  • dental erosion
  • potential weight gain

Possible long-term side effects

  • insulin resistance
  • type 2 diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • obesity
  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • cavity formation
  • caffeine dependence

Ingredients to be aware of

  • high sugar content
  • caffeine
  • acid content for tooth enamel

Healthier alternatives

  • water
  • unsweetened beverages
  • herbal teas
  • naturally-flavored seltzers

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Zevia Zero Calorie Soda

  • Calorie-free
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Zero sugar
  • Non-GMO
  • 24-pack convenience
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-17-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-17-2024

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