Did you know Mountain Dew has orange juice in it? It actually does. And that must mean it’s healthy, right? Well… not really. Today, let’s take a closer look at this neon soda. What are the long-term effects of drinking Mountain Dew? How bad is it, really?
Mountain Dew is not very healthy, as it has 46g of sugar per can (12 fl oz)—that is 38% more sugar than Coca-Cola. It also has Yellow 5, which may cause hyperactivity in some children. In addition, some dentists consider Mountain Dew to be the worst soda for tooth decay.
Below, I’ll cover whether Mountain Dew is fattening, whether it causes memory loss, whether it’s bad for your heart, why it’s worse than other sodas, and much more. I’ll also share a much healthier Mountain Dew alternative that tastes very similar!
Is Mountain Dew Bad for You?
Here are the 15 specific questions I’ll be answering about Mountain Dew nutrition. Click any of them to skip ahead to that section—or just keep scrolling to read them all:
- What Is Mountain Dew Made Of?
- How Much Sugar Is in Mountain Dew?
- How Bad Is the High Fructose Corn Syrup in Mountain Dew?
- Does Mountain Dew Have Caffeine?
- Is Mountain Dew High in Sodium?
- Is the Sodium Benzoate in Mountain Dew Harmful?
- Does Mountain Dew Make You Gain Weight?
- Why Is Mountain Dew Worse Than Other Sodas?
- Is It Bad to Drink Mountain Dew Every Day?
- Can Mountain Dew Cause Memory Loss?
- Is Mountain Dew Bad for Your Heart?
- Is Mountain Dew Bad for Your Teeth?
- What Is the Healthiest Mountain Dew?
- What Can I Drink to Replace Mountain Dew?
- Is Mountain Dew Vegan?
1. What Is Mountain Dew Made Of?
So, what are the bad ingredients in Mountain Dew? Let’s take a look.
There are many flavors of Mountain Dew, including Code Red and Baja Blast, but most of the ingredients are the same. So let’s look at normal Mountain Dew:
Mountain Dew Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Concentrated Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness), Caffeine, Sodium Citrate, Gum Arabic, Erythorbic Acid (Preserves Freshness), Calcium Disodium EDTA (To Protect Flavor), Yellow 5.
Here are my takeaway points on these ingredients:
- Mountain Dew has high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Specifically, Mountain Dew has 46g of sugar per can, in the form of HFCS. That’s not good. Even one can of Mountain Dew puts you over the American Heart Association’s daily sugar limit. (Below, we’ll explore whether HFCS is worse than normal sugar or not.)
- Mountain Dew has sodium benzoate. This preservative is a bit controversial because it can potentially turn into benzene, which is a carcinogen. That said, this may be very unlikely in Mountain Dew today. More on sodium benzoate below.
- Mountain Dew has Yellow 5. This dye is controversial for causing possible hyperactivity in children, and for possible connections to cancer. You can read more on yellow 5 here.
- Mountain Dew has concentrated orange juice. This is an unusual ingredient for soda. It sounds healthy, but orange juice is actually not as healthy as many people think, due to the high sugar and low fiber content. So, don’t assume Mountain Dew has the same health effects as eating whole oranges!
- Mountain Dew no longer has brominated vegetable oil (BVO). In the past, Mountain Dew contained BVO, which is banned in several countries around the world. But in response to consumer pressure, Pepsi has in recent years removed BVO from many products, including Mountain Dew.
As you can see, there are several potential negatives in Mountain Dew’s ingredients. That said, the biggest concern for most people will likely be the sugar. So let’s look at the sugar content in the next two sections below.
- Does Mountain Dew Have Alcohol in It? Mountain Dew is a non-alcoholic soda. It does not have alcohol. However, some people may use Mountain Dew as a mixer along with vodka, whiskey, rum, or other alcoholic drinks.
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2. How Much Sugar Is in Mountain Dew?
Mountain Dew has 46g of sugar per can (12 fl oz), which is more than most sodas. Mountain Dew has 38% more sugar than Coca-Cola, and more than double the sugar of Gatorade. Just one can of Mountain Dew has more sugar than the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit.
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 25g of sugar per day for women and 36g per day for men. Even one can of Mountain Dew already puts you above that.
And keep in mind: No added sugar is needed for human health. Really, the healthiest diet would likely just have natural sugar from fruit and whole foods. So in a sense, any “added sugar” is already a negative.
Here’s a table showing how the sugar content of Mountain Dew compares to other sugary drinks:
|Drink||Sugar (per 12 fl oz)|
|V8 Tomato Juice||10g|
|Simply Orange Juice||34g|
|Barq’s Root Beer||45g|
|Welch’s Grape Juice||52g|
As you can see, Mountain Dew is one of the most sugary drinks widely available today. It has more sugar than any other soda I checked.
- Does Mountain Dew affect blood sugar? Mountain Dew contains high amounts of sugar, in the form of high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup spikes blood sugar levels. So yes, Mountain Dew affects blood sugar.
3. How Bad Is the High Fructose Corn Syrup in Mountain Dew?
Mountain Dew is not sweetened with normal sugar, but with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). And HFCS has a pretty bad reputation… Many people believe it is worse than normal table sugar. But is it really?
Some research suggests HFCS may increase appetite and contribute to obesity more than regular sugar. However, other research contradicts this. Overall, it’s still debated whether high fructose corn syrup is actually worse than normal sugar. (source)
But the real bottom line is this: Any high-sugar diet, whether it’s HFCS or normal sugar, can increase heart disease and obesity risk, while raising blood sugar, triglycerides, and blood pressure. (source)
So, when it comes to Mountain Dew, the real problem isn’t specifically the high fructose corn syrup… It’s just the amount of added sugar overall. I mean, 46 grams per can is a lot of sugar. And that doesn’t bode well for long-term health.
4. Does Mountain Dew Have Caffeine?
Mountain Dew has about 54mg of caffeine per 12 oz serving. This is more caffeine that most soda has, but it is still less than most energy drinks or coffee. There is also Caffeine Free Diet Mountain Dew, however, which has no caffeine.
Here is a comparison table showing how Mountain Dew’s caffeine content compares to energy drinks, coffee, and other soda brands:
|Bang Energy Drink (16 oz)||300 mg|
|5-Hour Energy Regular Strength (1.9 oz)||200 mg|
|Folger’s Classic Roast Coffee (12 oz)||120-160 mg|
|BodyArmor Edge (20 oz)||100 mg|
|Red-Bull (8.4 oz)||80 mg|
|Monster Energy (8 oz)||80 mg|
|V8 Energy (8 oz)||80 mg|
|Lipton Black Tea (1 bag, brewed)||55 mg|
|Mountain Dew (12 oz)||54 mg|
|Diet Coke (12 oz)||46 mg|
|Dr Pepper (12 oz)||43 mg|
|Coca-Cola (12 oz)||34 mg|
|Barq’s Root Beer (12 oz)||22 mg|
As you can see, Mountain Dew’s caffeine content is on the higher end when it comes to sodas. Mountain Dew has about 59% more caffeine than Coca-Cola.
Caffeine is an interesting ingredient because it has documented health benefits, but also can be detrimental in many cases. Studies show it may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But it’s habit forming, and too much can disrupt sleep.
Therefore, caffeine is generally not considered simply “healthy” or “unhealthy.” It’s more complicated than that. Most likely, it can be good or bad depending how it’s affecting your life specifically.
- Is Mountain Dew an Energy Drink? Regular Mountain Dew is not considered an energy drink, although it does have caffeine and sugar. Mountain Dew Amp is the actual energy drink line sold under the Mountain Dew brand. Amp has almost double the caffeine of normal Mountain Dew by volume.
5. Is Mountain Dew High in Sodium?
Mountain Dew has about 60mg of sodium per 12 oz can. This is only about 3% of the daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Therefore, Mountain Dew is not very high in sodium.
Of course, if you drink Mountain Dew all day, you could end up consuming at least several hundred milligrams of sodium from it. So, you should still be mindful if you’re trying to keep your sodium intake low.
6. Is the Sodium Benzoate in Mountain Dew Harmful?
Sodium benzoate is a preservative used in Mountain Dew. It is only present in small amounts. Sodium benzoate is limited by the FDA to make up only 0.1% of the weight of the foods it’s added to. Still, some people have concerns.
The biggest concern is that sodium benzoate is able to convert to benzene, a known carcinogen, in certain conditions. This has particularly been a concern in soft drinks where sodium benzoate is also present with ascorbic acid. (source)
(Side note: Mountain Dew does not have ascorbic acid as an ingredient. So theoretically, there should not be much, if any, benzene in Mountain Dew.)
There was a study in 2005-07 showing that 10 out of 200 soft drinks tested contained more than the allowable levels of benzene (5 parts per billion).
Since then, the offending soft drinks have been reformulated to comply with allowable levels. But the study also showed ~60% of soft drinks had some measurable level of benzene.
The FDA has stated that the levels of benzene in soft drinks are not a risk. (source)
There have been some other concerning studies on the impacts of sodium benzoate in animals. It may raise levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, or even risk for ADHD (source). Some people also have allergic reactions to it.
The Environmental Working Group has assigned sodium benzoate a risk score of “1 to 3” on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the worst). So the overall risk is low.
Personally, after reading into all of this, I’m not that worried about the safety of sodium benzoate in Mountain Dew. But personally, I’d still rather not consume it every day.
7. Does Mountain Dew Make You Gain Weight?
Mountain Dew is high in calories—170 calories per 12 oz can—so it could contribute to weight gain. However, changes in bodyweight depend on overall calorie balance. So drinking Mountain Dew in moderation will not automatically cause weight gain.
Many people misunderstand what actually causes fat gain. It isn’t generally caused by eating a specific unhealthy food. Fat gain is a result of consuming more calories than you burn overall. The overall quantity of calories is what’s important.
For example, it’s possible to gain fat from healthy foods—if you eat large portions and don’t exercise. In the same way, it’s been proven that you can lose weight by eating McDonald’s, if you eat a small amount.
So, there’s a sense in which no specific food is “fattening.” Only overall diets can be fattening… However, there’s another sense in which Mountain Dew may indeed lead to weight gain: It simply has a lot of empty calories, which don’t really fill you up.
That is, when you drink Mountain Dew, you’re getting a lot of calories, but not much satiation. And that can easily lead you to consuming more calories than you need for the day. And in turn, that can cause weight gain.
So, yes, there is a sense in which Mountain Dew can cause weight gain. But the actual key is your overall diet and calorie balance. One specific food doesn’t necessarily make or break your diet.
If your goal is weight loss, I would consider (A) tracking your calories, or (B) following some of these 18 tips for weight loss without counting calories. Whether you drink Mountain Dew will not make or break your weight-loss journey by itself.
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8. Why Is Mountain Dew Worse Than Other Sodas?
The sugar content of Mountain Dew, at 46g per can, is considerably higher than most other sodas. Also, Mountain Dew contains Yellow 5, a food dye which may cause hyperactivity and behavioral issues for some children. (source)
But let’s compare Mountain Dew to a few other specific, popular soda brands:
- Mountain Dew vs Coke: Mountain Dew has 7g more sugar per can than Coca-Cola. While Coca-Cola has potentially unhealthy ingredients in caramel color and phosphoric acid, Mountain Dew has Yellow 5. Probably Mountain Dew is worse, but it’s hard to say.
- Mountain Dew vs Pepsi: Mountain Dew has 5g more sugar per can than Pepsi. Like Coke, Pepsi has caramel color and phosphoric acid, while Mountain Dew has Yellow 5. So again—it’s hard to say what’s worse, but probably Mountain Dew.
- Mountain Dew vs Dr Pepper: Mountain Dew has 7g more sugar per can than Dr Pepper. Again, Dr Pepper has caramel color and phosphoric acid, while Mountain Dew has Yellow 5. Neither is great, but Mountain Dew is probably worse.
- Mountain Dew vs Root Beer: Mountain Dew has 1g more sugar per can than Barq’s Root Beer. Barq’s has caramel color, while Mountain Dew has Yellow 5. Probably Mountain Dew is worse, but Barq’s is basically equally bad in terms of sugar.
- Mountain Dew vs Mello Yello: Mountain Dew and Mello Yello have the same amount of sugar. They also both have Yellow 5. I would say Mountain Dew and Mello Yello are equally bad.
Really, any of these sugar-loaded sodas are not the healthiest choice. For a healthier soda option, you can look at Zevia. It’s sweetened with stevia rather than sugar. Read my Zevia review here.
9. Is It Bad to Drink Mountain Dew Every Day?
Generally speaking, yes, it is bad to drink Mountain Dew every day. Even drinking just one can of Mountain Dew already puts you above the American Heart Association’s recommended daily sugar limit.
High-sugar diets lead to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, tooth decay, and more health problems. And if you drink even one can of Mountain Dew, you’ve already entered into the realm of “high sugar,” to some extent.
So, side effects of drinking Mountain Dew every day could include cavities, weight gain, blood sugar spikes leading to acne and other issues, and more.
Now, technically, you could drink one sip of Mountain Dew a day, and you could still be consuming a low-sugar diet. So, that would probably be fine. But who is stopping after one sip? Let’s be realistic here.
The most sensible general guideline would be to only drink Mountain Dew and similar sodas on occasion. Don’t make it a daily habit.
10. Can Mountain Dew Cause Memory Loss?
Mountain Dew used to contain brominated vegetable oil (BVO), which has been linked to potential memory loss at high doses. However, Mountain Dew no longer contains BVO. Therefore, memory loss should no longer be a potential issue for Mountain Dew.
In the past, there have been some reported cases of people experiencing memory loss if they drank excessive amounts (over 2 liters per day) of soda containing BVO. So, it’s possible that Mountain Dew caused memory loss for some people in the past.
But in 2014, Pepsi Co announced that it would remove BVO from Mountain Dew. And by 2020, it was finally confirmed—there is no more BVO in Mountain Dew anymore.
So there should be no concern with Mountain Dew and memory loss anymore.
- What countries have banned Mountain Dew? Japan and Europe have banned the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in foods. Therefore, Mountain Dew was effectively “banned” from Japan and Europe in the past, back when it contained BVO.
11. Is Mountain Dew Bad for Your Heart?
Mountain Dew is likely bad for your heart, due to the high sugar content.
One study found that drinking a can of soda per day increased heart attack risk by 20%. Researchers observed that soda drinkers had “elevated triglycerides, decreased HDL (‘good’ cholesterol), and higher levels of inflammation markers.” These are all heart disease risk factors.
And other research backs this up. High-sugar diets are observed to raise blood sugar levels, triglycerides, blood pressure, heart disease risk, and obesity risk. (source)
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 25g of sugar per day for women and 36g per day for men. And as I’ve mentioned above, even just one can of Mountain Dew already puts you above that.
- Is Mountain Dew high in cholesterol? Mountain Dew does not contain dietary cholesterol.
12. Is Mountain Dew Bad for Your Teeth?
Mountain Dew is generally considered bad for your teeth. Many dentists say the combination of acid and sugar in Mountain Dew make it highly effective at causing tooth decay.
Have you ever heard of “Mountain Dew Mouth“? It’s a name that was given to the widespread tooth decay found in the Appalachian region of the United States, where it’s common to sip Mountain Dew all day.
Although all sugary sodas can cause tooth decay, the term “Mountain Dew Mouth” was not randomly chosen. Mountain Dew is considered one of the worst offenders, as the sugar content is even higher than other sodas.
News outlet NPR reported that many dentists say this “soda mouth” is strikingly similar to “meth mouth”—the tooth decay and rotting caused by chronic use of the drugs methamphetamine and crack.
So in short, yes, Mountain Dew seems to be bad for your teeth. That said, if you insist on drinking some sugary sodas anyway, here are some tips for minimizing tooth damage:
- Don’t drink soda all day—instead, limit it to meal times, or just once or twice per day.
- Don’t swish your soda around your mouth or hold it in your mouth for a long time.
- Consider drinking your soda through a straw.
- Rinse out your mouth with water after drinking soda.
13. What Is the Healthiest Mountain Dew?
The healthiest Mountain Dew is probably Diet Mountain Dew or Mountain Dew Zero Sugar. But arguably, these flavors are still not healthy at all, due to their use of artificial sweeteners and the artificial color Yellow 5.
There are essentially two “diet” flavors of Mountain Dew. Many people would consider these flavors healthier than regular Mountain Dew, since they avoid the massive amount of sugar in regular Mountain Dew.
The original diet flavor was Diet Mountain Dew. The newer one is Mountain Dew Zero Sugar. There are two main differences between these flavors, nutritionally:
- Calories: In a 20 oz bottle, Diet Mountain Dew has 10 calories, but Mountain Dew Zero Sugar has 0 calories.
- Caffeine: In a 20 oz bottle, Diet Mountain Dew has 93mg of caffeine, but Mountain Dew Zero Sugar has 113mg of caffeine.
So, basically, Mountain Dew Zero Sugar has fewer calories and more caffeine. But the differences are not huge. They are pretty similar nutritionally.
Both of these diet flavors are sweetened with acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and sucralose. These are controversial artificial sweeteners, linked to possible negative changes to gut bacteria, cancer risk, weight gain, and more. (source)
Still, the diet flavors are probably better for you than regular Mountain Dew (or any of the other high-sugar flavors—Code Red, Livewire, Voltage, Baja Blast, Major Melon, etc).
14. What Can I Drink to Replace Mountain Dew?
The healthiest direct alternative to Mountain Dew is probably Mountain Zevia. It’s sweetened with stevia instead of sugar, so it has 0g of sugar and 0 calories. It has almost the same exact caffeine content as real Mountain Dew (55mg per can).
The taste of Mountain Zevia is apparently based on Mountain Dew, but it’s clear in color, as it doesn’t have any artificial color.
To read more about the nutrition details of Zevia, you can check out my blog post “Is Zevia Healthy?” (Spoiler alert: Compared to Mountain Dew, yes, it is healthy.)
Another great alternative to soda is seltzer water. So you could check out the lemon or lime flavors of Bubly or Spindrift, for example. Those are healthy drinks. But they won’t taste nearly as sweet as Mountain Zevia. And they don’t have the caffeine, either.
15. Is Mountain Dew Vegan?
Mountain Dew is generally considered vegan. It contains no milk, egg, meat, honey, or other animal ingredients. In addition, Diet Mountain Dew, Kickstart, and other Mountain Dew products are all generally considered vegan.
Mountain Dew is even more vegan-friendly than some other sugar-sweetened drinks. That’s because Mountain Dew is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup—not cane sugar that may have been filtered with animal bone char.
Most vegans are okay with drinking Mountain Dew. For more on this topic, see my separate post: “Is Mountain Dew Vegan?“
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