Utah is known for its cultural stand against coffee, but are we pointing our health fingers at the wrong beverage?
Steven Welch | Staff Writer | [email protected]
When it comes to cultural stands against coffee and culturally accepted Coca-Cola products, one of these brown beverages is more dangerous than the other, and it’s likely not the one you think.
As an avid coffee consumer, I’m no stranger to the allegedly caring concerns people around me dish out when they see me carrying my morning Starbucks.
“Coffee causes cancer and heart disease.”
“Coffee is addictive.”
“Coffee has enough caffeine to kill a baby.”
Of course, none of these are actually true. But I find it especially interesting when I’m told these cappuccino myths from someone holding a Diet Coke or any number of other diet sodas. I find myself wondering what is actually inside that personalized Coke bottle people are carrying around.
With the ingredients listed on the side of the bottle, the answers are not too far away. The main ingredients in a Diet Coke are carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate, natural flavors, citric acid, and caffeine. While water and caffeine are both components of a morning cup of joe, the other ingredients listed on a Diet Coke bottle are unfamiliar and concerning, to say the least.
Caramel color is made by heating sugars to get a desired color. While that sounds relatively natural, a study published by the National Toxicology Program showed an increase in lung cancer in mice from long-term exposure to the contaminants from caramel color. In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer said that caramel coloring is likely carcinogenic to humans.
Another alarmingly dangerous ingredient in Diet Coke is the low-calories sweetener aspartame. This additive has been linked to cancer in animals from exposure and possible mental problems like early-onset Alzheimer’s.
The ingredient phosphoric acid is directly linked to tooth decay. The people at Coca-Cola will tell you it is safe because, from a statement released from the company, “Phosphorus is a major components of bones”.
However, according to a study printed in the Epidemiology journal, phosphoric acid is also associated with risks of kidney disease, urinary changes and kidney stones.
Now the ingredient “natural flavors” sounds like a breath of fresh air but the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t make it mandatory for food companies to disclose the ingredients of their natural flavor additives as long as the chemicals in them are considered by the agency to be generally recognized as safe.
But safe doesn’t mean you necessarily want to be putting it into your body. For example, the natural ingredient castoreum is created from a secretion from a beaver’s anal gland. Natural? Yes. Safe to ingest? Yes. Something most people want to be consuming? No.
Diet Coke has also been shown to be mildly addicting—which would explain why Santa is always popping bottles in ads—and it increases the risk of vascular problems and weakened bone density in women.
So if you’ve ever wondered what you are really drinking when you open happiness, now you have a small idea. As for me, I’ll stick with my anal-secretion-free morning latte, thank you.