We have probably all said that. But do we really know what we are asking? In 1886, John Pemberton who was a Confederate Colonel and physician was wounded in the American Civil War.  He became addicted to morphine and in an attempt to find a substitute for the problematic drug, he invented Coke. The original ingredients were coca leaves (cocaine) and kola nuts (caffeine).  Coca-Cola was originally patented as a medicine with claims to cure morphine addiction, indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and impotence. It was not until 1903 that cocaine was removed.

The ingredients in a Coke today are carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine and permitted food additives of non-animal origin.

  • Carbonated water contains dissolved carbon dioxide gas injected under pressure.
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the main ingredient in Coke and a 12 ounce can contains 38 grams. This is equivalent to 9.12 teaspoons of sugar which is 100% of the recommended amount of sugar for an entire day!!
  • Sucrose is the scientific name for ‘table sugar’.  It comes from sugar beets or sugar cane and breaks down into glucose and fructose. The amount of sugar in Coke is dependent on the region in which it is manufactured.
  • Caramel color contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) which can cause cancer according to John Hopkins as well as Consumer Reports in 2014.
  • Phosphoric acid is derived from phosphorus and is used as an acidifying agent to add tartness to Coke. The problem is that it binds with calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc in your gut which is secreted by the kidneys. This can lead to osteoporosis, dental decay, heart disease, kidney stones, low immune system, and poor healing just to name a few problems.
  • Natural flavorings have been a trade secret since the inception of Coke. “Secrets’ make me a uneasy!
  • Caffeine in a 12-ounce can is 34 mg. A diet Coke contains 46 mg. Compare that to a cup of coffee at 140 mg.
  • Permitted food additives of non-animal origin. This is a very ill-defined term and could be one of 2,500 additives listed with the FDA. Be aware that the FDA generally prohibits additive that cause cancer in lab animals. However, Congress has allowed exceptions, one being saccharin.

What is not mentioned on the label…

  • High fructose corn syrup can be contaminated with mercury during the processing of the corn according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
  • Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) was designated by the FDA as a ‘food additive’ in 1970 and limited the concentration to help lower free fatty acids and iodine values. Coca-Cola removed BVO from their products in 2014 but may still be used by other companies such as Sun-drop and Snapple.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in the lining of aluminum cans. The World Health Organization defines BPA as an endocrine disrupting hormone which can lead to brain damage, autism, decreased intelligence and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Other studies link BPA to obesity, neurologic disorders, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and birth defects. 

What happens after drinking a can of Coke…

  • 10 minutes— all that sugar hits your system.  This overwhelming sweetness should be nauseating but the phosphoric acid cuts the flavor down. Try eating 9 teaspoons of sugar and see if you aren’t nauseated!
  • 20 minutes— Blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. The liver responds by turning sugar into fat.
  • 40 minutes— Caffeine absorption is complete. Pupils dilate, blood pressure rises, and the liver dumps more sugar into the bloodstream.  The adenosine receptors in the brain are blocked preventing drowsiness.
  • 45 minutes— The body ups the dopamine production stimulating pleasure centers of the brain.  This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
  • 60 minutes— Caffeine is a diuretic and causes the loss of electrolytes, minerals and water through the kidneys. 
  • > 60 minutes— Crashing from the sugar ‘high’ with thirst, dark urine, headache, mood/memory disruptions, low blood pressure, nausea, dizzy, rapid heart rate.

I hope the next time you think of having a Coke, you will consider something healthier!

Live Long, Live Healthy!

Dr. Julie Wood is a Nurse Practitioner and has been serving the Middle Tennessee area for more than 30 years, specializing in adults with obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Office is located at 401 First Avenue, Mt. Pleasant, TN and statewide with telehealth. Dr. Wood can be reached at 931-325-5560, www.diabetesmgtassociates.com, info@diabetesmgtassociates.com.  

Articles are meant to be informative and should never replace the advice of your health care provider.