Doing this one thing a day could reverse the effects of drinking soda

Habitual soda consumption has been linked to several serious cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. 

At the center of these correlations is the effect artificial sugar has on our blood vessels. In large quantities, the biochemical changes caused by common sweeteners like acesulfame potassium, result in irreversible vascular damage.

If you simply can’t strike soft drinks from your life completely, you might want to consider the findings offered by a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

In it, the researchers from The University of Iowa determined that regular aerobic exercise can effectively offset the blood vessel damage that occurs after drinking sugary soft drinks.

“Consumption of a single, sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) impairs vascular endothelial function. Regular aerobic exercise improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation; however, it’s unknown if these beneficial-effects persist with frequent SSB consumption,” the authors of the paper wrote. Therefore, the purpose of this study was two-fold; we studied the effects of repetitive SSB consumption for one week on endothelium-dependent vasodilation (FMD). Then, in a separate cohort, we investigated if 45min of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on five separate days offset the hypothesized decrease in FMD during the Glu protocol.”

Sweet moves

Physical exercise of low to high intensity was found to be particularly effective at reducing vascular damage. 

Our bodies are capable of handling sugar in moderation but artificial sweeteners adversely impact blood vessel dilation. Over time this can lead to a condition known as endothelial dysfunction. Blood vessel dilation is the most reliable way to predict endothelial dysfunction

The inner lining of the small arteries in sufferers fails to perform important functions. This often leaves patients vulnerable to a set of chronic diseases. 

To assess the extent to which this outcome can be prevented, the researchers recruited healthy young men with an average age of 22.

The participants consumed three sugar-sweetened beverages (each containing the amount of sugar in a 20 to 25-ounce soda) a day for seven days.

The experiment group was instructed to participate in 45-minute moderate-intensity cycling sessions five days a week.

Before and after the study period, the research team measured the participants’ blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and endothelial function in the upper arm.

Consistently, blood vessel dilation was reduced—in the non-exercisers after the seven-day window had ended, but it was increased in the men who exercised.

 Blood sugar levels and blood pressure did not change in either group.

“Subjects who engaged in regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise did not demonstrate the same SSB-induced endothelial dysfunction. Collectively, these data suggest aerobic exercise may offset the deleterious effects of repetitive SSB consumption,” the authors continued. “Despite unchanged fasting [glucose] and [insulin], repeated consumption of SSBs impaired conduit artery vascular endothelial function.”

This provides further research with a base with respect to the duration that aerobic exercise protects vascular damage. As it stands, the new study emphasizes the importance of physical activity and the destructive potential of article sweeteners. Both relevant in our struggle to contain the obesity crisis. 

 CW Headley is a reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at