Zero calories – please don’t be fooled!

Note from Jennie: This blog was written in May 2013. The ads mentioned about burning off calories after drinking a Regular Coke have been dropped, but the persuasiveness of the their current ads and what’s really in these drinks is still important – so I’ve decided to publish it on this website

Stop! Don’t drink that can of Coke…

Forgive me: I’m about to have a rant, but before I do, let me breathe and give you some information so you know where I’m coming from. Also I need to say up-front, that there was a time when I was hooked on Diet Coke, so I know how addictive it is.

zero calories in cokeCoca Cola is, as I’m sure you know, the world’s largest soft-drink producer. Globally, 1.7 billion servings of their drinks are drunk every day. Only 2 countries in the world do not (legally) sell Coca Cola: North Korea and Cuba. Their yearly revenue in 2011 was over $35 billion which makes them equivalent to the 84th largest economy in the world.

Originally, Coca Cola was made from extracts of the Kola Nut (for it’s caffeine content) and Coca Leaves (source for cocaine). Today Coke doesn’t contain either of these ingredients, but there are several different recipes. For example Regular Coca Cola made in the USA is sweetened with HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) whilst in the UK Regular Coca Cola is sweetened with sugar. Each can of Regular Coca Cola contains the equivalent of 10 sugar cubes. Imagine putting 10 sugar cubes into a your mug of tea or coffee—yuck!

A recent study led by Imperial College, London, showed that just ‘one-can-a-day’ of fizzy drinks with sugar increases your chances of getting diabetes by 22%. But the report implied that drinks without sugar, did not increase the risk. However, artificial sweeteners are NOT good for your body. The use of Aspartame in particular is contentious and in terms of weight loss (see below).

Recently Coca Cola is positioning itself to be seen helping the obesity epidemic. Of course they don’t mention they played a part in encouraging us to drink their sugar laden drinks!

COKE’S TV ADVERTS

Coca Cola ads are always slick, clever and beautifully shot, but they are truly misleading!

The latest Regular Coke TV Ad, says a can has 140 calories that you can easily burn off with a bop – or if you’re not in the mood for exercise, then drink Zero. It is scientifically proven that the calories-in/calories-out theory is far, far too simplistic. Your body DOES NOT count calories! Where you get your calories from is far more important than the number. How you burn your calories will depend on a whole host of different factors: age, gender, hormone levels, physical stature, your body type, muscle-to-fat ratio and so on. Sugar has zero nutritional value to your body. A sugary drink like Regular Coca Cola quickly increases your blood sugar levels. If you don’t have an instant need for this energy, your body will reduce your blood sugar levels using insulin to mop up the excess sugar and convert it into stored fat.

Zero’s Ad message is: ‘You won’t notice the difference in the taste’. Cue clever cinema Ad where a handsome guy in a cinema foyer is secretly switching Regular Coca Cola orders for Zero. Then ‘surprise’, before the film starts the audience is shown the switch. The final message is ‘No Sugar’, but what they don’t tell you is all the additives they have put into the drink to replace the sugar.

And the current Diet Coke Ad uses a well-used formula where a group of gorgeous, healthy, happy young women find a way to get a handsome guy strip off his shirt to reveal a toned six pack. The ad’s message makes you believe that ‘Zero Calories’ is good for you with the powerful sub-text is that you too can look like and be like these people. There is not one person in these ads that is remotely overweight.

BUT the Diet and Zero drinks are NOT any better for you than Regular—no matter how persuasive their ads make you believe that they are. All of their Colas can have a negative impact on your health.

WHAT ARE WE REALLY DRINKING?

Below are the ingredients that Coca Cola lists on their drinks: ‘flavourings’ don’t have to be declared. I currently don’t understand why they aren’t, I suspect it’s to do with a brand’s secret recipe.

Regular Coca Cola: Carbonated water, sugar, colour (caramel E150d), Phosphoric Acid, natural flavourings including caffeine.

Diet Cola: Carbonated Water, colour (caramel E150d), sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), flavourings including caffeine, Phosphoric Acid, Citric Acid: contains a source of Phenylalanine

Zero: Carbonated water, colour (Caramel E150d), Phosphoric Acid, sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), flavourings including caffeine, Acidity Regulator (E331): contains a source of Phenylalanine

I willing to bet that you don’t know what some of these ingredients are—I had to look a few of them up too! We have come to trust brands like Coca Cola and assume that they would never put stuff into our food and drinks that would be harmful to us. It’s not deliberate I’m sure, but I do believe that profits come first. Many of the ingredients in processed foods are questionable, not least that our bodies have not evolved to be able to process them. Although each food additive has to be tested for safety, there is no research to show what happens when we ingest many of these chemicals together.

Caramel E150d – it’s chemical name is sulphite ammonia caramel which is manufactured by heating sugars with a sulphite and ammonia (yes, the stuff found in cleaning products) or ammonium compounds.

Phosphoric Acid – is used to acidify the colas giving it the tangy slightly sour flavour. It’s a cheaper option than Citric Acid. Phosphoric Acid has many uses: it’s used in dentistry, helps remove rust and is found in many cleaning products. Various studies have shown that Phosphoric Acid can have an adverse effect on health. Lower bone density was observed when Phosphoric Acid was consumed in carbonated drinks containing caffeine (Heaney and Rafferty 2001). Another study in 2007 (Saldana, Basso et al) found that consumption of colas (all varieties) was associated an increased risk of chronic kidney disease.

Aspartame – this artificial sweetener has masses of controversy around it’s effects on health with claims about it causing migraines and digestive problems, with wilder claims about cancers and tumours. Whilst it indeed has zero calories, there are many studies showing it acts as an appetite stimulant, which is counter productive for weight loss.

Acesulfame K – is another artificial sweetener, that like Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It has a bitter aftertaste but when blended with Aspartame, this bitterness is masked.

Citric Acid – is a natural acid found in lemons and citrus fruits but it now manufactured using a mold and fermentation technique.

Caffeine – is a socially acceptable stimulant that is highly addictive. On my weight loss programme I ask people to take caffeine out of their diet, and there is a dramatic improvement on the quality of their sleep when they do so.

WHY AM I GETTING HOT UNDER THE COLLAR?

Because these very clever ads by Coca Cola (and many others: Special K may get its own rant one day!) are incredibly misleading. There is a truly an epidemic of obesity and it is ruining people’s lives. As well as the major health risks that comes from being overweight or obese there are the social costs of feeling unlovable and having low self esteem too. I feel it’s wrong to deliberately mislead people in the way that Coca Cola are doing via their adverts that their drinks can help people struggling with their weight, when their Diet Coke and Zero are not healthy alternatives.

I want for you to be conscious of what Coca Cola are NOT telling you. That perhaps like me you will switch to drinks that are based on natural ingredients only.

Coca Cola and other large corporations respond quickly to changes in the market place. If enough people stop drinking their current offerings, they will very soon come up with a different version—perhaps one that is based on natural ingredients.

OK, rant over! what are you thoughts? Please let me know.

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