Underneath the Label

This one goes out to all blessed with a J.Lo behind. The greatest diet cola-popcorn combo in theatres may leave you with an eroded tooth enamel, muscular-skeletal pain, metabolic syndromes and major mood swings. The choicest beverage of the sugar-phobic individuals, launched in the Americas in 1982, and the fourth most commonly consumed drink in the world has a number of side effects cropping up.

At the same time, Coca-Cola is also one of the longest standing ‘corporate partners’ (since 1974) of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). This affiliation allows them a new opportunity to bring people closer together through football. It also helps them shift a lot of cans and bottles generating well over $15 billion in sales globally each year. Five countries – the US, the UK, Germany, Canada and Brazil – guzzle more of this supposedly healthy, sugar-free alternative to regular Coke than anywhere else in the world.

Aggressive marketing like the FIFA sponsorship, clever jingles and the use of famous personalities keep Coke engraved in our consciousness. But before you grab a Coke, consider what exactly you are subjecting your body to. Although Diet Coke has a strong association with sport and health with its less than one calorie tag, it is actually a worrying mixture of neurotoxin and potentially carcinogenic high intensity sweeteners, tooth and bone destroying acids and DNA damaging colorings. Soda manufacturers have been aware of this synergistic possibility since the 1990s, but without pressure from regulatory authorities to change their formula to prevent the formation of benzene, have continued to mix benzoates and acids.

Ironically, the high fructose syrups used in regular drinks seem to slow this reaction down, and the formation of benzene appears to be most problematic in diet drinks.

They are known to cause metabolic syndromes, which are a cluster of cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes risk factors including elevated waist circumference, high blood pressure and elevated triglycerides. For the record, Aspartame, used as the official sweetener is known to cause muscle issues, mood swings, memory loss, rashes and rare brain tumors known as lymphomas Acesulfamek. The other sweeteners have drastic affects on the thyroid gland.

Phosphoric acid, the acidifier has research to prove its harmful effects on the tooth enamel and if consumed in large quantities, is known to have effects on the calcium levels in the body leading to brittle bones. The flavoring of Caffeine, a stimulant is addictive and leads to iron depletion. The preservatives in the form of Sodium Benzoate and the Sulphite Ammonia caramel as colorings are by all means harmful and lead to damage of the kidneys and intestines and various genetic disorders.

But that is too much of science fitted into a page, which has no more meaning than Ramadoss’ ban on on-screen smoking. Just heavy words thrown around that are upto no good. The crux is that in our quest of avoiding intake of calories, while keeping pace with our westernized lives, we choose to overlook small technical stuff that could be fatal. Especially in the Indian market where the consumer is mainly unaware and blindly buys a health product on someone’s recommendation. This is what these firms are capitalizing on. In this case the one-calorie label on the can, that is the highlight of the product. Even doctors are suggesting this to type I and II diabetics to counter increasing sugar levels.

But some beg to differ, claiming that just as smoking may cause cancer and that too when taken in alarming quantities, so is the case with the fizz. For such effects to take place, one must be drinking at least two litres of coke everyday, which one would be a maniac to do. But at the end of the day, just one conclusion comes up – just because it has ‘diet’ written on its label does not mean its good for you.

Deshan Tucker


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