Do you have a Coke problem? Unless you’re someone like Lindsay Lohan reading this, you’d know right away that I’m talking about the beverage that is part of Americana: Coca Cola. You may be surprised to know that the classic drink which started out as an elixir tonic may be doing a whole lot of harm to your body.
Let me show you 8 reasons why you should look to avoid what’s been called “The Real Thing” (despite how amazing I thought the Coke ad was in the last episode of Mad Men). First, let’s set the stage.
History Of Coke
Coca Cola was invented by Civil War survivor John Pemberton. After being wounded in battle, he became addicted to morphine and was looking for a substitute. Coke started out as a coca wine. It was first registered as a nerve tonic. It was an alcoholic beverage, so after prohibition passed, Pemberton created a non-alcoholic beverage he called Coca-Cola. It was originally sold as a patent medicine for 5 cents a glass at soda fountains. This Cola was believed to cure morphine addiction, dyspepsia, headache and impotence. Pretty good deal for only a nickel.
You might be wondering where the name “Coca-Cola” comes from? Well, this ties into the whole “cocaine in Coke” issue. The original formula never used straight cocaine; however, the coca leaf is where cocaine is derived from. It inadvertently contained trace amounts. By 1903 fresh leaves were removed for “spent leaves” that contained virtually no cocaine. Today, Coke uses a cocaine-free coca leaf extract.
The name cola comes from the Kola nut which acts as a flavoring and supplies the caffeine. The “K” was eventually replaced with a “C” for marketing purposes. The rest of the recipe is a tightly guarded secret that has remained pretty much unchanged to this day, except for alternative varieties like New Coke.
With all this in mind, let’s look at the issues that come from consuming this “black gold”.
1. A Horrific Amount Of Sugar
This is clearly the main issue around drinking soda in general — it’s liquid sugar. You are basically drinking a chocolate bar! A regular can of Coke contains upwards of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Since it’s fast acting liquid sugar, you are looking at skyrocketing blood sugar and insulin surges. Over time this leads to insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup was introduced into beverages once it was found to be a much cheaper alternative to sugar. HFCS also has a longer shelf life. It is also the reason why drink sizes have become gigantic over the years. Since it costs manufacturers very little to make, you now have Big Gulps the size of an SUV.
When you consume HFCS it goes straight to the liver (unlike regular sugar) and triggers lipogenesis. This refers to the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol. It is one of the major causes of liver damage in the country, causing “fatty liver.” This affects 70 million people!
3. High Caffeine Content
Some caffeine comes from clean sources, like tea or fresh ground coffee. These aren’t that bad in moderation, and actually provide some health benefits. Caffeine in Coke is far from a clean source. Constant exposure can raise blood pressure, cause heart burn, negatively impact your sleep, lead to ulcers, and cause indigestion.
If you want to learn more about the dangers of too much caffeine read this other article I wrote for Lifehack.
4. Promotes Dehydration & Thirst
This is the double whammy that causes you to keep drinking more. The caffeine issues mentioned above can also cause loss of water, since it acts as a diuretic. Then, the sodium content also keeps you thirsty. Add into this the addictive properties of sugar and caffeine (I’ll get to in a second), and you have a product with a built in continuous consumption cycle.
5. Phosphoric Acid
You might wonder why this is an ingredient in a soft drink. Phosphoric acid helps to give a sharper taste to sodas like Coke. It also slows the growth of molds and bacteria, which normally multiply rapidly in a sugary solution.
When you consume phosphoric acid it can lead to low mineral bone density and osteoporosis. This is specific to colas and not other clear sodas, which tend to use citric acid. To make matters worse, the first thing this acid hits is your teeth. Phosphoric acid can cause tooth enamel erosion, even at low levels.
Think of phosphoric acid as something that can pretty much dissolve away your skeletal system, like drinking from the wrong Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.
6. Tap Water
This seems a bit weird, but it’s important to remember that tap water is not the healthiest thing in the world either, and it is the main ingredient in Coke. They are using the cheapest municipal water sources they can find. These sources contain amounts of chlorine, which has been linked to bladder, rectal, and breast cancer.
This is going to apply more to Diet Coke, but with Diet being produced in larger quantities than regular this will apply to most people. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that went through a lot of shady politics to get approved. It probably should have been left for its original intended purpose: an ulcer medication.
When you consume an artificial sweetener like aspartame it does a few things: it acts as an excitotoxin (which can destroy brain cells), it causes addiction, leads you to want to consume more, and newer research shows it to alter our gut bacteria
The aspartame/artificial sweetener issue is a big mess. You can read more about it here. Speaking of destroyed brain cells, I wonder how much Diet Coke the Kardashians have consumed?
8. It’s Bad For Your Body, But Can Be Good For Other Uses
Do you really want to drink something that removes rust? Now that you know how harmful drinking Coke is, here are a few other ways you can use the favorite drink of Mean Joe Green:
1. Pouring Coke on a bug bite or bee sting can help neutralize the pain.
2. A can of Coke and a wet cloth make a great cleaning solution to remove bugs and dust from car windows.
3. Remove rust from small objects. You might have tried this with the old penny in the glass of Coke overnight trick.
4. Coke can help get the smell of skunk off your pets. Just don’t forget to rinse your pet off afterwards.
5. Coke can also be used for toilet cleaner. Phosphoric acid is actually good for something! Your (old) favorite drink can now help breakdown all the lime scum and buildup in a toilet.
Featured photo credit: Emilio Labrador via flickr.com