If you like drinking Coca-Cola, and getting caught in the rain…

Another requested post- this time on Coca-Cola! A warning first though: I do drink and like Coca-Cola, and what I write in this post is not meant to scare you or stop you from drinking it (especially with the chemical names), but to inform you. You are not a good or bad person for choosing what you eat or drink, BUT, please know that anything at all can be good or bad for you, depending on the concentration (even water!). Everything in moderation, brushing your teeth, and exercise to boot, is good!

I am guessing that many of you would have heard that Coca-Cola got it’s name because the original recipe included cocaine. But did you know why? The inventor, Colonel John Pemberton, became addicted to morphine after being wounded in the American Civil War. Even then, it was known that morphine was quite dangerous, and so in his quest to find a safer alternative, he happened across cocaine, and created ‘coca wine’ in 1886, formulated at his local pharmacy in Columbus, Geogia.

 John Pemberton

All hail John Pemberton, creator of Coca-Cola! 

Since then, the recipe has changed greatly, and while you won’t expect to get ‘high’ on Coca-Cola anymore, there is now the replacement ‘sugar high’. A quick look at the Australian Nutrition Information Panel shows us just that:


 The Nutrition Information Panels for Coke beverages are provided on their website.

Look at the second column (‘per serving’) on a can of Coke, and note that a serving size is 375 mL (the whole can of drink). For ‘sugars’, you will see 40 g. So, for every can of coca cola you drink, you are ingesting 40 grams  of sugar (or just over 2.5 tablespoons).

Of course, many of you are now saying ‘but I drink Diet Coke’, or ‘Coke Zero is much better for you, and that’s why I drink that instead’. It’s true, the Nutrition Information Panels for these ‘diet’ beverages show much less sugar; 0.4g in each (1/100th of that in normal Coke). However, these drinks include other ingredients to keep the sweet taste. These ingredients are sweeteners 950 (acesulfame potassium) and 951 (aspartame), which give you the sweet taste without the calories (because we break them down in our body in a different way to sugars). Diet Coke and Coke Zero also include preservative 211 (sodium benzoate), which helps to prevent bacterial growth in acidic drinks, and food acid 331 or 330, which are different forms of citric acid.

200px-AcesulfameK   470px-Aspartame   sucrose

Left to Right: See how different acesulfame potassium and aspartame are to table sugar (sucrose)? This is why they don’t provide calories: we break them down in a different way which doesn’t provide the body with energy.

One thing that is noticeable when comparing the three drinks is that the ‘diet’ beverages have higher levels of sodium; this is most likely because they contain preservative 211 (which contains sodium). Sodium is associated with some common health problems, including high blood pressure (hypertension). Sodium helps to regulate the volume and flow of blood in the human body. This is why we are told not to use too much salt (sodium chloride) in our meals, and to try to avoid processed foods (which are often high in sodium).

Coca Cola Diet Coke Coke Zero
Ingredients: Carbonated Purified Water, Cane Sugar, Colour (Caramel 150d), Food Acid (338), Flavour, Caffeine. Ingredients: Carbonated Purified Water, Flavour, Colour (Caramel 150d), Food Acids (338, 330), Sweeteners (951, 950), Preservative (211), Caffeine. Ingredients: Carbonated Purified water, Colour (Caramel 150d), Food Acid (338, 331), Flavour, Sweeteners (951, 950), Preservative (211), Caffeine.
Contains Caffeine. (approx. Contains Caffeine. Contains Phenylalanine. Contains Caffeine. Contains Phenylalanine.
 coke_nip.jpg  dietcoke_nip.jpg  cokezero_nip.jpg

 The ingredients and Nutrition Information Panels listed on cans.

Common to all three Coke beverages is food acid 338 (phosphoric acid), colour (caramel 150d; I think you can guess what that is for), flavour, and caffeine. You may have already seen my post on caffeine; if not: here it is! While the amount of caffeine is not stated on the label (and legally it doesn’t have to be), I have converted the values from this website to how many mg of caffeine we would see in one can of each drink, to find that Coca-Cola contains around 35.8 mg, Diet Coke 48.9 mg, and Coke Zero 37.8 mg. These values are less than half of what you would find in a cup of coffee (around 100 mg on average).

Another think that we can note with Coca-Cola is that it is quite acidic. This is due to the use of phosphoric acid and citric acid (the food acids shown on the label), as well as the use of carbonated water. In fact, the pH of Coca-Cola is measured as about pH 2.525. While my previous post on acidity assured you that drinking acidic drinks will not change the acidity of your blood, I did mention that “acidic drinks are associated with tooth decay, as they break down the enamel in our teeth”.


Enamel is on the outside, visible section of our teeth, and protects the vulnerable insides!

Enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body (due to its high mineral content), which is helpful considering that we use our teeth to chew and grind food down before swallowing! However, even the toughest human tissues can be broken: acids can eat away at tooth enamel and cause tooth cavities (ouchie!). Even worse is the fact that high-sugar foods and beverages (like cola) are consumed by natural bacteria in our mouths, producing lactic acid (which also increases the adicity of our mouths and affects our enamel). The problem with the loss of enamel is that our body can’t really replace it once it is lost, except partially by re-mineralisation (replacing minerals within your teeth). Yet another reason why Fluoride is not the enemy! Many dentists agree that fluoride within the water supply is very valuable in the remineralisation process.

So, I’m off to drink a can of Coke… and then brush my teeth!


To decaf or not to decaf?

Many of you would have started today with a nice, big cup of coffee (or tea). I know I did. It always seems to help, especially on a Monday, to wake me up and get me going. But do you know anything about caffeine, the major cause of that ‘wake-up’? No doubt many of you would have heard of decaf coffee, but we’ll get to that later.


Ahhhh, the saviour of many a Monday morning.

Above is the culprit: caffeine. Caffeine is known to be the world’s most commonly used psychoactive drug (a scary-sounding definition which simply means that it works by stimulating the central nervous system of the human body). Like alcohol, it is a drug that is legal throughout most of the world, and caffeine is recognised as being safe for human consumption because the amount that we would need to consume to make it toxic is around 10 grams, which is far more than we get in coffee or tea (although excessive energy drinks are a little different).

caffeine binding

Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. 

Caffeine works by binding what are known as adenosine receptors, which are found in the brain. Above is a great picture which helps describe how it works when the caffeine structure binds the receptors. It causes you to feel more alert and awake, and also increases your heart rate. Because of this, caffeine has also been used to treat shortness of breath in newborn babies, and low blood pressure.

How much caffeine does the average coffee contain? The average cup of coffee is believed to contain approximately 100 milligrams of caffeine (about 1/50th of a teaspoon), but it really depends on what your brand/ size/ bean/ strength is: it could be anywhere from 40-176 mg. Caffeine is not only found in coffee, but also in tea, and how much caffeine is in tea once again depends on what type of tea, and how the leaves have been treated before being made into a teabag for your cuppa. Interestingly, it was recently found that while tea leaves and cocoa beans both contain caffeine, they evolved in different ways to produce this much-desired stimulant (see Evolution of Caffeine for more information)


It’s ALWAYS coffee time! Get it? 😉 The lab technicians here have a good sense of humour.

Now on to decaf. Some of you may have ‘that’ friend who orders the venti soy decaf orange mocha frappucino (yes, I went there… Jitterbug). Personally, I like a weak latte, but to each their own. Anywho, from the word ‘decaffeinated’, you would probably guess that the coffee doesn’t contain any caffeine, and therefore does not give you that ‘buzz’ that coffee is known for. The fact of the matter is, however, that ‘decaffeinated’ does not necessarily mean ‘no caffeine’, but rather ‘much less caffeine’. In a 2006 study (outlined in this video by Mental Floss), it was found that from ten types of ‘decaf coffee’, nine of these contained 8.6-13.9 milligrams of caffeine (a freeze-dried coffee contained none at all). This is because caffeine is actually removed by dissolving the beans or grounds in water, which takes the caffeine out of the coffee and into the water (which is then discarded). This process works pretty well, but doesn’t remove all of the caffeine. So decaf coffees don’t remove all of the buzz, but do give you a much-reduced dose.


One coffee to rule them all…

So feel free to keep drinking your coffee or tea, it’s not going to kill you. Although drowning in that load of paperwork at your desk might.