• [In] a recent survey of 116 U.S. cities, there was an average of 42 tanning salons per city. This means that tanning salons are more prevalent than Starbuck’s or McDonald’s.

    Paige Goedde
  • Males today have become much too obsessed with maintaining a masculine image in order to be constantly climbing higher on the social ladder

    Sarah Pierce
  • If the TV industry really wants to give these teens hope, they need to portray gay teens as they are—uncertainty and all. 

    Ashley Davidson
  • If we were all to just put down our devices for a short while and pull our eyes away from our phones and television screens, we might save some lives, treat everyone a little nicer, pay attention to the things that really matter, and succeed more in schoolwork and in life.

    Jillian Leedy
  • Pro-life supporters believe those who are pro-choice think that fetuses are not human, while pro-choice supporters actually think that fetuses are not human beings, a distinction that clearly needs to be made and clarified. 

    Todd Testerman

Coke Zero, the Deadliest Beverage…or So They Say

By Ted Elliott

It has always been said that pop is bad for you.  I’ve never really wondered why this is until just recently when I was looking at the label of ingredients on a Coke Zero bottle.  Coke Zero is supposedly better for you than Coca-Cola since it has no calories, fat, or anything for that matter.  But upon looking at the list of ingredients, a few things caught my eye.  It appears as though Coke Zero isn’t as bad for you as the media makes it out to be.  People just need to have more knowledge about what exactly they are putting into their bodies, and how it can affect them.    

On any ingredient label the ingredients near the top are always the ones that are the most common, and make up the greatest quantity of the substance.  The first two ingredients on the list are just carbonated water, and caramel color.  How can these two ingredients possibly be bad for you?  Well, they aren’t, and since they are at the top of the list there are more of those two ingredients than any other.  So right from the get-go it’s plain to see that these “deadly” soft drinks aren’t nearly as bad as some say they are.

Well, the third ingredient on the list is phosphoric acid, or H3PO4 as it’s known in the world of chemistry.  You might be thinking, “An acid?!  In MY beverage?” or maybe you’re thinking, “Well if it’s in here it must be tested, and safe to consume.”  Let me start by telling you that phosphoric acid is used to break down rust, and can dissolve a nail in four days.  After this startling news let me tell you that phosphoric acid won’t kill you, but it obviously will have some affect that could hurt your body.  This effect is the breakdown and removal of calcium through your urinary system.  Everyone knows that mom says drink your milk because calcium builds strong bones, so of course the removal of it will, in turn, weaken your bones.  Of course it would take a lot of phosphoric acid to completely break down your bones, and as long as you are getting your daily helping of calcium, drinking soda in moderation should not be a hazard.  As a consumer we all must be knowledgeable of what we are putting into our bodies, we can all take a lesson from Coke Zero.   

I thought it might be interesting to see what the Coca Cola Company had to say about this hazardous ingredient being part of their products.  You can see their information here on their website.  On their website I found links to reputable sources, which you can check out here.  These sources tell us that tests do show that phosphoric acid does lower your body’s calcium, however, it lowers it such a negligible amount that it does not actually affect your body in any deadly ways.  So even though phosphoric acid might sound like a dangerous ingredient, it really isn’t as harmful as people are making it out to be.  As long as people are aware of this potential hazard and take responsibility for the amount of beverage that they consume, no one should ever have anything to worry about.  This especially applies to the younger generations; the habits children and young adults make will follow them the rest of their lives, they need to make responsible decisions early so they will never have to worry about any health problems down the road.       

The next ingredient on the list is aspartame.  Just like phosphoric acid, this ingredient isn’t bad for you and was actually approved by the FDA for use in food products in 1981.  Here is the FDA’s website if you want to check it out for yourself.  The ERF (European Ramazzini Foundation) did testing of aspartame on rats, well, the rats actually developed cancer.  Upon hearing this tragic news, the FDA decided to investigate this.  Using the data given to them by the ERF they came to the same conclusion that they had come to in 1981, that aspartame is safe to consume as a sweetener in food.     

The fifth ingredient on the list is potassium benzoate, which is used to protect the flavor of the beverage.  Potassium benzoate is a very common food preservative; it can be found in many juices, and other types of food, but to make potassium benzoate you need benzene.  I looked to the FDA for answers on this unknown ingredient, benzene.  The FDA’s definition for benzene is a chemical released from the exhaust system of an automobile, or from burning coal and oil; it is later stated that it is also a substance that can cause cancer in humans.  And this is in your Coke Zero.  But!  Only a large of amount of benzene can cause cancer, or roughly five parts per billion (ppb).  You might be thinking what exactly does five ppb mean?  An equivalent to this number would be three seconds in a century, and a century has a lot of seconds.  Of course, Coke Zero has less than five ppb, so it is completely safe to drink.  Obviously as long as you do not spend your day chugging soda pop, Potassium benzoate will not give you cancer.  Moderation and knowing what you are consuming are crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.   

Upon learning that this substance is harmful to human health the FDA started testing all soft drinks and beverages for the amount of benzene they contain, and is working with the companies to reduce that amount of benzene to a safe amount for consumption. When the FDA did their testing only 10 out of 200 different soft drinks had higher than 5 ppb levels.    All of the current beverages for sale today should have already been approved by the FDA and should have approved amounts of benzene in them, which means Coke Zero is completely safe to drink.  

I searched the Coca Cola Company website for anything they might have to say about benzene.  The only specific thing I could find was a lawsuit filed against them saying that their levels of benzene were too high.  Coca-Cola says that they have recently reformulated their ingredients to fix this problem so that the new levels of benzene in their beverages are safe to consume.  So while potassium benzoate sounds like a dangerous ingredient that could be potentially fatal, having one beverage a day won’t be something that is volatile, or unhealthy.  Moderation control is key when consuming your favorite soft drink. 

Going further down our list of mysterious “deadly” ingredients we see acesulfame potassium.  Try saying that 10 ten times fast.  Like aspartame, acesulfame potassium, or sometimes found under the alias of Ace K, has also been approved by the FDA as a safe substance for consumption.  There is some speculation that the FDA hasn’t tested this “Ace K” sufficiently, and that they are basing all of their findings on an experiment done in the 1970’s.  I searched the FDA site for acesulfame potassium, and they have a recent amendment (recent being within the last year) that a healthy dose of this is 15mg per 1 kg of body weight.  The point is the FDA is still doing tests on acesulfame potassium, which are proving it to not be as dangerous as critics say.  Not all of their data is based on one set of experiments from the 70’s.

To sum it all up, all of the ingredients in Coke Zero aren’t really bad for us.  However I didn’t say they were good for us, but they won’t kill us, or decapitate us, or even put us in cement shoes.  It’s all about drinking in moderation.  Too much of anything can be bad, especially if that thing is a soda pop.  Of course drinking water would be the best option if you want to choose a healthy drink.  I would say for a soda pop Coke Zero isn’t that bad.  It can be a delicious, pleasant drink that isn’t as harmful to your health as the media makes it out to be.  Everyone just needs to remember to make smart choices when choosing how much they consume.  Information about every ingredient is on the internet, it’s just taking the time to look it all up and being well educated about what you’re putting into your body.          

The Ohio State University

Winter 2010

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