Most of us humans have a sweet tooth, but it wasn’t always that way. In the 18th century, the British were refining large amounts of sugar but it was still considered quite the luxury item. In fact, it was known as “White Gold” and it was so precious and expensive that only the very wealthy ate it. Today the sugar industry is huge, and while our daily intake of this sweet delight should only be about 50 grams according to health experts, it’s thought when American sugar consumption was at its peak in 1999, citizens were consuming close to 111 grams a day on average. It’s thought right now that number is 94 grams. A big part of that is sugar in our drinks, and that’s what we’ll discuss today.
The history of Coca-Cola starts in 1886 when an American pharmacist called Dr. John S. Pemberton started messing around with carbonated water and syrup. According to Coke’s own website, he was quite pleased with the results and within a year he was selling nine servings a day, each for 5 cents. Right now, around 1.9 billion servings of Coke are sold daily. That’s more than a quarter of the world’s 7.5 billion people quaffing this drink every day. It’s believed that half the population of the USA drinks at least half a glass of soda every day of their lives. But is that good for them?
First, we have to know what’s actually in Coke? Is there really a secret ingredient that nobody can fathom except its creators? The secret formula was actually created as a marketing stunt in 1891, but still today, Coke says only a very few people on the inside know what that is. Coke actually labels each ingredient as a merchandise, and they are numbered one to nine. One is of them is of course sugar, or other sweeteners, and we know it also contains caffeine, caramel coloring, and phosphoric acid. The rest of the ingredients are a mystery, although it’s thought there might be orange, lime, vanilla, cinnamon and even nutmeg in the syrup. One of the ingredients is called 7X. In a book on the subject, writer Mark Prendergast said he had found the hidden ingredients and they were a mix of oils containing extract of Orange, Lemon, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Coriander, Neroli and also some alcohol. Neroli is an essential oil from the orange tree. And yes, the drink did at one point contain cocaine, but in those days the coca leaf was promoted as a health benefit. According to Snopes, it only contained “1/400 of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup.” That is not enough to make a person high, but it was still removed from the drink in 1903, 11 years before cocaine was actually made illegal in the USA. Prior to that it was the drink’s selling point, with its creator – a morphine addict himself – saying that Coke was “a most wonderful invigorator of sexual organs.” Much has changed, but Coke’s marketing strategy is still often related to having a lust for life, youth, spirit, and sexiness. Now let’s talk about the sugar.
There are nine grams of sugar in every 100 grams of the drink. In a 12 oz (355 ml) can of Coke there are 39 grams of sugar. But we all know how much people like to overdose on Coke. A 7-Eleven Big Gulp of Coke contains 91 grams of sugar, almost double the recommended daily dose. A Super Gulp contains 146 grams of sugar and a Double Gulp 186 grams of sugar. A large Coke at McDonalds contains about 77 grams of sugar. Drinks got so big that New York created the Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule, but that didn’t affect 7-Eleven’s monstrous portions. It only applied to restaurants, which were prohibited from serving sugary drinks bigger than 16 ounces (0.5 liters). No surprise the sugar drink conglomerates opposed the bill, stating that poor income families would lose out on those great deals. You could of course splurge and buy 3 separate drinks. According to MotherJones, the biggest drinks out there are these in order: 7-Eleven Team Gulp at 128 fluid ounces, HuMUGous Kum and Go at 100 ounces, The Beast’s Arco at 85 ounces, and KFC’s Mega Jug at 64 ounces. That would mean one Team Gulp is 10.6 cans of Coke, or 415 grams of sugar. That is more than 8 times more sugar than what doctors say is safe to consume each day. Maybe if you just drank Coke and nothing else, you might consume that amount, but what affect would it have on the body? Maybe we can imagine a Zombie Apocalypse and you are locked in a Coke warehouse, and there’s nothing but stock.
As you can imagine, your teeth would soon start to rot. The acid content in the Coke would destroy the enamel on your teeth and the sugar would soon lead to cavities. The calories you consumed would be less than the recommended 2000 if you drank 10.6 cans of Coke at 150 calories a can, but still, the contents would hurt you. According to one health website, all that high fructose corn syrup you are consuming would start to increase fat on your liver. It also said you would be at risk of getting cardiovascular disease. Believe it or not, one super fit guy from Los Angeles named George Prior actually drank 10 cans of Coke every day for 30 days. He did eat other things, too, though. After his binge, the British Press said he put on 28 pounds (two stone or 12.7 kilos). From being slim, he developed love handles, a pot belly, and man boobs. He also said his blood pressure went up from 129/77 to 145/96. His conclusion: “I think there are a lot of people suffering health problems like diabetes and heart disease, who aren’t aware they could help themselves by just stopping sugar.” He also admitted that the big corporations and their lobbying arms would be hard to stop.
Back to our Coke binge. According to some experts at Yale University, we’d start ageing rapidly, as well as putting on pounds and losing teeth. The same study says that we’d feel really hungry all the time as sweet tastes increase appetite. We might even start gnawing at the crates in the warehouse. Weight gain would be definite. Studies have shown that one fifth of America’s famous obesity epidemic is from people just drinking too many sugary drinks.
Another article explains that one woman drank two litres of soda every day and no water at all for 16 years. Her addiction put her in the hospital at the age of just 31. She was suffering from arrhythmia, fainting spells, and potassium deficiency. You can only imagine what our Coke-only diet would do to us. Research has shown that just reducing the amount of sugar in drinks could prevent over a million cases of obesity. What does the world health organization say about this? “We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,” said the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development in 2015. Things could soon change, but sugar politics is a big deal and in the end, the bottom line is more important than your health, say most critics. The sugar industry has spent 54 million dollars lobbying in the last 8 years. Well, in the UK, politicians knew this and tried to come up with a way to reduce obesity in the country by taxing sugar higher. This hasn’t come in yet, but already drinks manufacturers have begun reducing the sugar in their drinks in the UK by as much as 50 percent because of this. Coke was one of those companies, but the 30 percent sugar reduction will only happen in the UK, according to CNN.
So, how much soda do you drink in a day? Will this video get you to reduce your intake? Let us know in the comments!