The sugar in regular soda might elevate your triglycerides, one of three types of lipids that comprise your cholesterol levels. The sugar calories in regular soda also could lead to weight gain, which can affect your cholesterol levels. Diet soda will not directly affect your cholesterol levels, but it could link to other health problems, such as kidney decline and type 2 diabetes.
Sugar, Soda and Triglycerides
Sugar from any source can elevate triglycerides, a type of artery-clogging fat that, like low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, increases your risk for heart disease. Because the majority of sugar consumed by people in the United States comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, the American Heart Association recommends that you drink no more than 36 oz. of regular soda a week. The organization does not impose restrictions on the amount of diet soda you consume. Limit your consumption of added sugars to 5 percent to 10 percent of your daily total – 100 to 200 calories based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. A can of regular cola contains about 130 calories from added sugar.
Weight Gain and Cholesterol
If you make a habit of drinking regular soda, you could gain weight. If you drank two cans of regular soda without giving up anything else in your diet, you could gain 1 lb. every 13.4 days or about 27 lbs. a year, based on the formula that 3,500 calories equals 1 lb. Being overweight can adversely affect your cholesterol levels. On the other hand, losing just 5 lbs. to 10 lbs. can help lower your cholesterol. If you gave up one can of regular cola a day, you could lose 10 lbs. in about nine months. You could replace regular soda with diet, but water would make a healthier choice.
Diet Soda and Kidney Function
Although drinking diet soda probably will not harm your cholesterol levels, it might cause other health problems. Women who drink more than two diet sodas a day could increase their risk for reduced kidney function, according to a Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital study. The study, led by J. Lin, followed the health of more than 3,000 women for 11 years. Drinking two or more diet sodas a day correlated with a 30 percent decline in kidney function, according to the report, published in 2010 in the"Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology."
Diet Soda and Type 2 Diabetes
Diet soda consumption also proved linked to type 2 diabetes, according to a report in the April 2009 issue of "Diabetes Care." J.A. Nettleton and other researchers at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center found a connection between daily consumption of at least one diet soda and type 2 diabetes. This doesn't mean that drinking diet soda causes type 2 diabetes but that, according to the study, your risk for type 2 diabetes might increase by 67 percent if you drink diet soda. Type 2 diabetes makes it harder to control your cholesterol levels and puts you at added risk of heart disease.
- “Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology”: Associations of Sugar and Artificially Sweetened Soda with Albuminuria and Kidney Function Decline in Women; J. Lin and G.D. Curham; September 2010
- "Diabetes Care": Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis; J.A. Nettleton, et al.; April 2009
- MayoClinic.com: Which is Better for Weight Loss -- Cutting Calories or Increasing Exercise?; Dr. Donald Hensrud; June 9, 2011