Sticky Situation

10.05.12

8 Travesties and Tragedies Blamed on Too Much Soda

Dislodged airplane seats. Handsy men. No teeth. A raft of scientific studies linking soft-drink consumption to everything from depression to childhood obesity makes us wonder, has soda become public enemy No. 1? By Kevin Fallon.

Any number of calamities, bad decisions, and bizarre health problems have for years been blamed on alcohol and its unsavory effects. But is soda taking over as the new devil’s juice?

Passengers aboard three separate American Airlines Boeing 757 jets nearly found themselves in flight—literally—when their seats became dislodged from the aircrafts’ floors. The surprising cause of the dangerous malfunction: spilled soda. According to American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan, spilled soda and coffee “gunked up” the seat locking mechanism, causing the tracks on the floor to malfunction. So while you rethink your next in-flight beverage choice, here are eight other odd, bothersome, and even tragic things that have been blamed on carbonated beverages.

Groping

Does Mountain Dew make you handsy? A Washington man who was arrested for groping three women during a volleyball game claims that he drank too much coffee and soda during the day, and the excessive amount of caffeine triggered a “psychotic episode” that made him particularly grabby. Kenneth Sands, the said touchy-feely man, was found guilty of assault and sentenced to 30 days in jail, where one can only hope they limited his soft-drink and caffeine intake.

Tooth Shortage

New York City may be fighting its battle against soda now, but the war began more than 10 years ago. It started in Alaska, however, which may explain its decade-long slog to the Big Apple. Alaskan health boards first declared war on soda in 2001, after a survey of locals revealed that many students drink six or more cans of soda each day. The region suffered a veritable epidemic of tooth decay, leading to what was labeled a “tooth shortage” when members of some villages were found to have as many as 19 cavities in their mouth at a time.

Sexual Abuse

In a truly rotten incident, a 19-year-old man sexually abused three children whom one of his relatives was baby-sitting. The girls said he exposed himself to them, tried to touch them inappropriately, and forced one to perform oral sex on him. His excuse for the dreadful behavior: a “bad soda.” According to the police statement, Bradley Compton, the man in question, “stated he exposed [himself] because he was dazed, had a headache, and his ‘eyes were closing’ from what he thought was a ‘bad soda’ he had consumed just prior to the incident.”

Gulf War Syndrome

Gulf War syndrome is a chronic multisymptom disorder that reportedly affected—and continues to affect—roughly a quarter of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. The wide range of symptoms associated with the syndrome includes gastrointestinal disorders, psychiatric problems, substance abuse, posttraumatic stress disorder, respiratory problems, and chronic-fatigue syndrome. One of the proposed causes of the disorder was diet soda consumed by soldiers abroad. Pallets of the beverage would sit on tarmacs exposed to extreme heat in Kuwait during Desert Storm. The aspartame in the diet soda would then turn toxic due to the temperature change, possibly causing the symptoms linked to Gulf War syndrome.

Depression

We’ve all experienced the crash—the sullen stupor that comes after indulging in too much sugary soda. But could the drink actually be a cause of depression? A 2011 essay in Evolutionary Psychology draws a link from the rise of soda consumption to depression in women—specifically women who suffered fructose malabsorption, in which the small intestine doesn’t absorb as much fructose as it should. Researchers found that women who tested positive for fructose malabsorption corresponded to women who tested high for depression. What does this have to do with your soda intake? High-fructose corn syrup, used to sweeten most sodas, is typically 55 percent fructose, so, the Evolutionary Psychology essay says, there may be a link between excessive soda drinking and depression in some women—though much more research is required.

Violent Behavior

Everything from videogames to heavy metal music has been blamed for aggression in teens. Now soda, too? Researchers from the University of Vermont found that teens who consumed more than five cans of nondiet soda were more likely to behave violently. Soda-fueled teens were also more likely to have carried a gun or knife in the past year.

Heart Attack

It’s common knowledge that indulging in too much soda puts people at risk for diseases like diabetes. But extreme soda drinking could also cause a heart attack. Consider the case of one New Zealand woman: Natasha Marie Harris, who died in 2010, consumed two gallons of Coca-Cola a day. “The first thing she would do in the morning was have a drink of Coke and the last thing she would do in the day was have a drink of Coke by her bed,” her partner said. When she suffered a heart attack, a pathologist said the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, which is an abnormal heartbeat brought on by unhealthy habits. So you may want to second-guess yourself next time you plan on drinking 4,000 calories worth of soda in a day.

Childhood Obesity

It’s one of the more obvious diseases blamed on soda, but childhood obesity is also one of the most troubling and pressing in today’s society. So a trio of recent studies on the inextricable link between soda and weight gain in children could boost support for movements like Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City large-soda ban and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. The studies, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that cutting soda from a child’s diet led to meaningful weight loss, that swapping just one soda for a nonsugary drink each day slowed weight gain, and that children genetically predisposed to diabetes found their weight problems aggravated by drinking soda.