There are a few things to consider when answering this question, but the short answer is soft drink is considered worse than a glass of wine/beer and here are the reasons why:
Soft drink has no positive nutritional value, causes tooth decay, disturbances in blood glucose levels, diminishes bone density, increases risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, and is easily over-consumed by all ages.
Even though alcohol may not be nutritionally superior either, it’s generally not consumed in the same way as soft drink and is therefore, difficult to make a direct comparison.
In terms of composition and ingredients, both are very different beverages. However, both contain relatively high calories whether it’s from alcohol or sugar. To give you an example – one standard drink contains 10g of alcohol (roughly 290 kilojoules or 69 calories). Essentially, the higher the alcohol content of your drink, the higher the energy/calorie content. On the other hand, soft drinks contain a huge amount of sugar, which makes their calorie value, high while providing no nutritional value. Not to mention the number of additives and colours that are potentially damaging to our health. Nonetheless, both beverages can have adverse effects on your health depending on the dose.
The sugar from soft drinks have been linked to many adverse health concerns. Added sugar contains large amounts of fructose in which only the liver can metabolise. When too much fructose enters the liver and it is already full of glycogen (stored sugar for fuel), most of the fructose gets turned into fat. High sugar loading in the liver can also elevate your cholesterol and triglycerides, and as a result increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
High sugar intake can cause tooth decay by increasing dental plaque, which breaks down the enamel. It can also lead to nutrient deficiencies because it can leach out vitamins and minerals from the body reducing their absorption. Finally, sugar is addictive due to the release of the hormone dopamine after consumption. In certain individuals with a predisposition to addiction, this causes reward-seeking behaviour similar to that of drug use.
The calories in alcohol are metabolised in the liver faster than other nutrients (such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats), which means that while your body is busy burning off the alcohol in your beverage, any additional calories consumed from other food are more likely to be stored, which can lead to weight gain over time. Therefore, what you eat while consuming alcohol plays an important part – especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
On the positive side, wine, particularly red, contains minimal sugars and contains anti-inflammatory properties due to an antioxidant called resveratrol which is beneficial for heart health.
So what’s the conclusion? Sadly, neither is a great option but alcohol (in moderation) comes out slightly on top due to its antioxidant properties and resveratrol. The golden rule to take home is: all in moderation – whether it’s soft drink or alcohol.