Indian Sweet Tooth Meets Fizz

Nothing goes as well as a glass of fizz with an all greasy meal. Not only that, fizz does wonders after a very spicy meal too. It’s as if the cool fizz washes down the lingering taste of food, leaving your taste buds clean and fresh. Fizz drinks like Coke and Pepsi come second to none in quenching thirst. After a hot sultry stretch under the sun, a fizz shot leaves you definitely better than a glass of water.

All these qualities of these drinks make them a popular beverage. On an average I consume around half a litre of fizz a day and I have never paid heed to any advice to the contrary. But then one fine day while guzzling a bottle of coke, I noticed that the glass bottle now came stamped with nutrition value information.

Baffled why water and fizz with some sugar would need to state its nutritional requirements, I decided to hunt online for any information I could find about these drinks. Of course the allegations of pesticides in coke and Pepsi was there, but that didn’t trouble me much as for a fact I knew that Indians have high levels of DDT in their body due to the religious way in which our government and WHO pursued the anti malaria policy. DDT is an insecticide used to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and effectively control malaria. Though there is a worldwide ban on use of DDT for agricultural use, some countries like India, China still use DDT on a large scale. For that matter, India and China are the single largest manufactures of DDT in the world today. The references about fizz causing damage to teeth were expected and the FAQ questionnaire on Coca Cola’s site explained that it is possible, but not that bad as stated by others.

But one issue I have been always touchy about is that of diabetes. A vast majority of the Indian gene pool is predisposed to diabetes. Estimates put the number of people with Type- 2 diabetes at around 50 million. A lot of studies published in American health journals seem to point to the fact that the type low cost sugar called high fructose corn syrup used in Coke and Pepsi might aggravate diabetes and most certainly induce weight gain.

With the spread of westernized food styles, everyone stands the risk of falling into the biggest health disorders causing havoc in the US, including obesity. What more, Obesity is said to be one of the predisposing causes for diabetes.

Caffeinated drinks like Coca Cola and Thums-up also have a simulating effect similar to coffee. With energy drinks like Red Bull starting to enter the Indian market, the Indian consumer will be hit by a lot of sugary, high calorie options. But then the effects of high amounts of stimulants present in energy drinks are a story in themselves.  It’s time we started taking a serious look at the calorie rating and the ingredients used in the foods we consume. Not just the promise made by the companies about their products, but also a critical knowledge of individual studies also becomes essential.

For example, Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi might actually be better than the normal variants in this aspect. Advertised to be the sugar less option, they are targeted at a calorie conscious segment of the market. But then there are again a lot of allegations regarding the sweeteners used for the diet variants. The approval for Aspartame, one of the low calorie sweeteners, by FDA is controversial and has been under a lot of scrutiny for decades. Studies available at Informahealthcare seem to indicate that the intake of Aspartame might be safe under current consumption limits and that is where the buck stops. Safe under current consumption limits? , that sounds like the safe level for radiation exposure is 5 Rem/year. (As per US regulations)

This not only applies to the fizz drinks but also to all foods that come with artificial sweeteners. The sweet tooth might hurt India more than it has hurt America, with its rapidly exploding urban population, the fact that diabetes is more common among the urban population than the rural population stands testimony to this.

But the mother of all allegations might not be the ones related to calories at all. For a fact it has been argued in international journals (for example, refer to the report on ‘using fluoride to control dental caries’ available on the center for disease control and prevention website [2]) that distilled water might not be the best water for consumption. The ideal drinking water for the human body is considered to be alkaline; something which distilled water is not. Fizz is made from distilled water (so are the bottled waters). Minerals like calcium, potassium, chloride etc which are essential to our body are found in tap water, but not in distilled water. It is possible to compensate for the deficiency in these nutrients through other dietary supplements. For example milk contains potassium and calcium among other minerals.

But then that leads to a newer predicament, studies published in the American Journal of public Health suggest that the more Fizz consumed by a individual, the lesser the intake of other fluids like milk and fresh juices. This effectively reduces the chances of nutritional balancing taking place without conscious effort.

Given all the negative research linking Fizz (Some really conclusive) to some of the worst nightmares of modern society like Obesity and Diabetes, forgoing fizz seems to be the safer option. All facts seem to point to the fact that the tingling taste of fizz after a long thirsty stretch is a comfort you may be better without. But you don’t really have to completely avoid consuming them, provided you are well informed. It all comes down to a reasonable awareness at the consumer level, regulating and balancing their dietary needs. Seems in the end you can’t both have the cake and eat it too.

So the next time you decide to go for a Fizz, you probably shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving that bottle of fizz unfinished, and avoid falling into the guilt trap of not using what you paid for. Until the Fizz companies decide to come out with smaller packaging, don’t gulp down more carbonated fizz than you want to, for as it is said ‘Always choose to retreat to fight another day’.

Sylvester Pious