If your reaction to Philadelphia's new beverage tax is to cut back on sugary drinks, what might happen to you?
1. You could lose weight. The body metabolizes liquid sugar differently than sugar in solid foods. Plus beverages like soda have no nutritional value, unlike even cookies. And if you have children, cutting back their soda intake could have life-long benefits for their health. But of course, if you replace the sugar in drinks with other calories, you're less likely to get lighter.
2. Your general health risks could lessen. The mechanism connecting sugary drinks with diabetes is independent of obesity, so this applies even if you are a thin person who drinks sweet beverages. Sugar ups the odds of cardiovascular diseases, kidney disease, and others.
3. You could avoid cavities. Sugar in any form causes more tooth decay.
Will your health benefit from cutting back on artificially sweetened beverages?
The science is far less clear than for sugary drinks. But some early studies suggest that diet drinks can cause weight gain, perhaps by changing how the body (or even the bacteria within the body, called the microbiome) responds to sweetness regardless of the source.
But they are unlikely to cause as much harm as sugar-sweetened drinks, so public health researchers generally see them as a better alternative (and typically have not called for them to be taxed).
Still, the healthiest beverage is water.