By- Dr. Joan Marie PelligriniWe’ve all heard that sodas are bad for you. Most of us just don’t believe that a few sodas a day or a week are going to cause a problem. It is true that it is hard to make the connection between a few sodas and tooth decay and bone loss. The studies that support this hypothesis have focused on participants whose fluid intake each day was in the form of soda. However, the more real concern for all of us is the hidden and “empty” (meaning no other nutritional value) calories that are in soda drinks. It is estimated that at least 7% of Americans’ extra calorie intake is due to soda drinks alone. There are many foods that are not helping Americans’ fight with obesity but soda drinks are probably the most ubiquitous. How long does it take to go through your day before you are either offered a soda or see someone drinking soda? I want to focus on the relationship of the extra calories in soda and weight gain.It is estimated that it takes about 3500 extra calories to gain a pound. Most soda drinks have about 30 grams of sugar per serving. A serving size for a drink is 8 ounces. A gram of sugar has 4 calories. That means that each serving of soda has 120 calories due to sugar alone. Add to this that very few sodas come in an 8 ounce serving size. Most are sold as 12-20 ounces. That means that each 12 ounce bottle or can has approximately 180 calories (or 240 calories for a 16 ounce bottle). Let’s say you drink one 12 ounce serving of soda a day and you do not increase your activity level (in other words, you are not burning any of these extra calories). That would be 180 calories extra per day, 1260 calories a week, and 5040 calories a month. You would gain over a pound a month and as much as 12-20 pounds a year. These are hidden calories that you are completely unaware of consuming. Children are even more unaware because they do not usually consider the number of calories they are consuming.You are not going to find me telling anyone not to drink soda. I do, however, want soda-consumers to be aware of the hidden calories. Limit your intake. Increase your activity level. Think of soda as a dessert or sweet and forgo something else with “empty” calories at the same time. We need to teach our children also that soda is an “extra”. It is not the best means for hydration. It is because of the extra calories and the rise in childhood obesity that educators wish to limit access to sodas in our public school system. Adults also can learn from this message.