Do fizzy / soda drinks cause cellulite?

Soda drinks and cellulite

Fizzy drinks have been implicated as one of the main causes of cellulite. However, not all fizzy drinks are the same. Different fizzy drink ingredients have a different effect on cellulite: some are detrimental to the health and appearance of your thighs and butt, whilst a small minority are absolutely harmless, all depending on their ingredients found in them.

The most common ingredients in fizzy drinks are: phosphoric acid, caffeine, sugar in all it’s forms, carbonate, cola, aspartame, sucralose, preservatives, fruit juice, alcohol and flavorings among others. Initially I will comment on each ingredient separately and then I will give you the lowdown on the best and the worst fizzy drink ingredients and the best and worst fizzy drinks for cellulite.


Phosphates in cola drinks

Phosphoric acid, or phosphate, is an inorganic acid that increases acidity in the body. Excessive acidity reduces the detoxification capacity of the liver and forces the body to remove calcium from the bones and teeth in an effort to re-alkalinise the body (calcium is alkaline and neutralises acids such as phosphoric acid). Phosphates are contained in cola drinks.


Caffeine - moderation is key

Caffeine, is a well known diuretic and stimulant. Due to it's diuretic action caffeine may initially reduce water retention, an important part of cellulite. However, continuous and excessive use may lead to caffeine tolerance on the kidneys and consequent chronic water retention.

Nervous stimulation from caffeine may temporarily increase energy levels and therefore energy consumption and fat burning, but the effect is short-lived and the subsequent fatigue will lead to reduced energy consumption and, more importantly, to cravings for sugar, the number one cause of cellulite today.

A reasonable amount of caffeine (1-3 caffeine drinks a day) will not cause any harm or increase cellulite, while excessive consumption (10 caffeine drinks a day are not uncommon in some people) will definitely cause various health disturbances, as well as cellulite.

Caffeine is typically contained in cola drinks and energy drinks.


Sugar: the white poison in soft drinks

As we mentioned above, sugar is the number one cause of cellulite - period. Sugar consumption has skyrocketed that last few years, partly due to an emphasis on low fat diets and the subsequent availability of foods low in fat and high in sugar, and partly due to increased stress caused by more and more sedentary, desk-bound occupations.

Sugar is the number one enemy of your legs: it is converted into fat unless it is used immediately, it causes skin aging and skin damage via the process of glycation and it increases levels of inflammation in the body (inflammation consequently leads to increased blood viscosity and poor circulation, as well as adipose tissue fibrosis, part of cellulite). Sugar in pastries may be bad enough, but sugar diluted in water is really fattening, due to the very fast absorption of the mixture and very high glycaemic index.

The above do not apply to sucrose only (what we call commonly call sugar) but also to all other isolated sugars, including fructose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose, maltose etc. There is a big difference between natural sugars contained in a whole apple, and isolated, refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup contained in a fizzy drink. The former has positive effects on your system, while the latter is detrimental to your health and your figure. Sugar is present in all fizzy drinks except sparkling water and soda water.


Sweeteners: sucralose, aspartame, stevia and cellulite

Artificial (sucralose, aspartame) and natural (stevia) sweeteners may not contain calories but they still stimulate insulin secretion and eventually contribute to increased calorie intake. You may initially be tricked to think that you had got your sugar fix, but when no sugar reaches your bloodstream you react by feeling hungrier and by consuming more calories by the end of the day.

In general, anything sweet is to be avoided and only used as a treat - like the old days - not as a self medication for stress, depression and boredom. Sweets make you temporarily feel better only to make you feel worse soon after - leaving you with a few extra grams of cellulite in the process.


Carbonation: fizzy drinks and sparkling water

Carbonate is a very weak acid that becomes carbon dioxide when not under pressure, i.e. as soon as you open the bottle or the can. Carbonate does not increase acidity in the body as it gets broken down in the stomach or simply evaporates. The same cannot be said for phosphate or orthophosphate found in cola drinks which do leave an acid residue when absorbed by the body. Carbon dioxide is easily removed though the breath.

Carbonate is the only innocent ingredient in fizzy drinks. Since carbonate is the substance that gives the fizzy drinks their fizz, it is contained in all fizzy drinks. Sparkling water which only contains water and carbonate is absolutely innocent and you can drink as much as you want of it, without any problems (except from stomach swelling, if you drink too much, of course)!


Cola is innocent

Cola extract is obviously included in cola drinks. Although cola is a source of caffeine, it contributes very little caffeine to cola drinks, with most of the caffeine being added to them. Cola extract is absolutely fine and it is occasionally used in health supplements, although I would stop short of calling Coca Cola a herbal drink, as they attempted to call it a few years ago…


Preservatives and "dead drinks"

Different fizzy drinks contain different types of preservatives. Most preservatives used today have been tried and tested for decades, and are not as bad as we think. However, the problem with food and drinks containing preservatives is not so much the preservatives per se, the problem is that the food and drinks are not fresh, quite often being stored in cans, jars and bottles for months, absorbing chemicals from the plastic container or plastic lining of aluminium cans.

Eating dead food, or dead drinks for that matter, surely cannot be good for you. There is a big difference between freshly squeezed orange juice and a fizzy orangeade type of drink, even if the drink contains no preservatives or other artificial ingredients. Preservatives are contained in almost all fizzy drinks.


If sweet fruit juice is unhealthy, then sugared, manipulated, diluted fruit juice is downright evil

Moving to the subject of fruit juice now I would like to make it clear that fruit juices are good for you, but only if they are fresh, unadulterated and only consumed after exercise or other intense, prolonged physical activity. Canned fizzy drinks that contain juices are a clear example of dead food, mentioned above. The juice in these drinks has been pasteurised, dried and re-constituted, it’s water and nutrient content increased or decreased and the fruit’s fibre removed. The end result is a mixture of water, sugars and whatever managed to survive of the vitamins / phytochemicals that were initially present in the fruit.

In any case, juices are not to be consumed at any other time except after exercise, because our body has not evolved to consume liquid foods - with the exception of infancy. Juices consumed by a sedentary person can be as fattening and cellulite-producing as a can of sugar-laden cola is. This applies to both flat and carbonated juices/juice drinks.


Alcopops, beer, champagne and prosecco

Alcohol, as you already know, is fattening, a cause of water retention, damaging to your liver and a cause of cellulite. A bit of alcohol, especially in the form of red or white wine, is relaxing and good for you - but that applies to only one glass a day or every other day. It certainly does not apply to binge drinking on the weekends. And no, you can not “save” your alcohol allowance during the week in order to consume it all on the weekend.

Alcohol is contained in alcopops, together with lots of sugar and other nasties, but the ultimate cellulite-producing alcoholic fizzy drink is good old beer! Champagne and prosecco contain a higher percentage of sugar in comparison to wine, but not as much as beer does, so moderate consumption is just about OK. Excessive consumption is definitely not recommended: I have had several clients over the years who lived the so-called "champagne lifestyle" only to be depressed by the severe cellulite they developed in the process, in just a few months...


Carbonated, flavoured, sugared water - or how to eliminate all the benefits of water

Flavourings are contained in most fizzy drinks. The latest drink fad involves fruit-flavoured, aspartame or sugar-laden fizzy waters for those who hate plain water. Most flavourings used today are natural, but quite often it is not clear to the consumer which drinks contain artificial flavourings and which contain the "baddies".

I wouldn’t consider natural flavourings to be detrimental to cellulite, but then I wouldn’t buy flavoured and sweetened fizzy water either, as I wouldn't like to load myself with a sweetener that will only increase my appetite for sweet things.


Sparkling water - the only fizzy drink worth drinking

And now a few words about water, the most abundant ingredient in any drink. Can water consumption when drinking fizzy drinks make up for the detrimental effects of ingredients such as sugar, sweeteners, caffeine etc? Absolutely not! Water helps indeed to keep the skin in good condition, prevents fluid retention and boosts detoxification, but water consumption can not offset the negative effects of sugar etc. on your cellulite. The only fizzy drink you can drink that, will offer you the benefits of water without the negative side effects of the ingredients mentioned in this page, is sparkling water.


Fizzy drink ingredients: the good, the bad and the ugly

The worst fizzy drink ingredients: according to our analysis above, we can classify the ingredients used in fizzy drinks as follows. The worst ingredients are to be found at the top of the list, while the best ingredients are at the bottom.


The cellulite boosters

  • Sugar (including glucose, sucrose, fructose, hight fructose corn syrup and similar nasties)
  • Alcohol


Not that great

  • Caffeine
  • Preservatives
  • Artificial flavourings
  • Fruit juice
  • Sucralose
  • Aspartame
  • Stevia
  • Phosphoric acid


The innocent guys

  • Natural flavorings
  • Cola extract
  • Carbonate (carbon dioxide)
  • Water


Fizzy drinks: the good, the bad and the ugly

And we can also classify the different types of fizzy drinks themselves (again, the worst drinks are to be found at the top of the list, while the best ones are at the bottom:


The real cellulite boosters

  • Beer
  • Alcopops
  • Carbonated energy drinks
  • Cola / lemonade / orangeade drinks (“diet” or normal varieties)


Not that great

  • Champagne and sparkling wines
  • Carbonated fruit juice drinks
  • Tonic water ("diet" or normal)
  • Fruit flavoured waters


The innocent guys

  • Soda water
  • Sparkling water


Do bubbles cause cellulite? Of course not, don't believe the urban myth

So, do fizzy drinks cause cellulite? The answer is simple: bubbles themselves do not cause cellulite - don't believe the urban myth. What causes cellulite is mainly the sugar, sweeteners and alcohol contained in those drinks, so naturally or artificially sweetened fizzy drinks are indeed a major cause of cellulite, along with all other sugar-containing foods.


How did "bubbles" got a bad name?

On the other hand, carbonate acquired a bad name when experts started advising against the consumption of fizzy drinks, meaning sweetened cola and other drinks. Consequently the non-experts started parroting the same advice but included everything which has bubbles in it.

It's a classic example of "Chinese whispers". Hence, most of my clients think that they will develop cellulite if they drink pure, good old sparkling water or soda water, which is just plain wrong.

Georgios Tzenichristos has specialised in skin tightening and cellulite reduction for the last 17 years. He has developed the Meso-CRF® cellulite treatment and formulated the Celluence® cellulite creams. He daily follows all relevant research and regularly writes about cellulite and skin firming.