THERE’S nothing quite like an ice-cold Coke on a warm day.
But in recent years, scientists and nutritionists have warned that our love of fizzy drinks is destroying our health.
One day it’s the full-fat stuff that comes under fire and the next, Diet Coke is being slammed.
So, which is better for you – and is any amount of fizz actually safe?
Diet Coke ‘is TOXIC to your gut’
Last year, scientists from universities in Israel and Singapore found that six common artificial sweeteners were toxic to gut bacteria.
More and more studies are realising the importance of gut bacteria to a person’s overall health – with bad bacteria linked to a range of diseases from obesity to bowel diseases, even Alzheimer’s.
The study, published in Molecules, looked at the relative toxicity of the sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium-k) and ten sports supplements containing them.
It found that the bacteria in the digestive system became toxic when exposed to tiny concentrations of the sweeteners.
The scientists found that toxins were released when gut bacteria were exposed to each artificial sweetener, and it only took one mg/ml of the artificial sweeteners to turn the bacteria toxic.
A can of Diet Coke contains around 180mg of aspartame.
And that’s led scientists to conclude that: “This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity which can cause a wide range of health issues”.
Two fizzy drinks ‘increases heart disease risk’
In February, scientists revealed that drinking two or more artificially-sweetened drinks a day ‘increases the risk of dying young from stroke and heart attack’.
They found that they increase your chance of stroke by a quarter and heart disease by a third.
Dr Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, lead author of the study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York said: “Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet.
“Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.”
Fizzy drinks ‘fuel cancer’
Researchers at Cornell University suggested last month that fizzy drinks might be helping intestinal tumours to thrive.
They found that mice who were predisposed to colon cancer and who consumed the equivalent of one can of soda a day were more likely to develop larger tumours.
And that led them to conclude that anyone at risk of developing polyps or bowel cancer should not be drinking any sugar-sweetened drinks.
“The study shows that colorectal polyps feed on high-fructose corn syrup and explains the molecular mechanism by which this drives the growth of the tumor,” said co-senior author Dr Lewis Cantley.
“While our work was conducted in mice, our findings build on mounting evidence that sugar fuels cancer growth.”
Full-fat Coke contains seven teaspoons of sugar
We know that too much sugar isn’t good for us and regular coke is packed full of the stuff.
It contains 35g or seven teaspoons of sugar a pop – that’s 5g more than an adult’s recommended daily sugar intake in one can!
That means that you’re just drinking your calories without any added nutrition at all.
The British Heart Foundation warns that diets high in these kinds of free sugars can have a detrimental impact on our heart health.
A 2015 review of carbohydrates and health from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition showed that diets high in sugar tend to be high in calories, and the associated weight gain can have an impact on your heart.
With two in three Brits now being overweight or obese, which increases your risk of heart and circulatory diseases.
It also increases your chances of developing high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases.
If you’re a healthy weight, you might think you don’t need to worry about sugar – that’s not true.
Diet Coke actually makes you fatter
You’re there supping Diet Coke because you don’t want to pile on the weight associated with nine teaspoons of sugar, right?
But you could be wasting your time, because scientists believe that diet pop may make us fat anyway.
Earlier this year, in the largest such study to date, a German analysis of 56 medical trials found no evidence to suggest that swapping sugary drinks to artificially-sweetened options could help to shed pounds.
The study, led by University of Freiburg, was published in The BMJ and also highlighted how little research we have on the long-term health effects of sweeteners when taken over years or decades.
So drink it at your peril!
Coke can make you more susceptible to bone fractures
It may sound random but there have been multiple studies which have suggested that drinking Coke and other soft drinks every day can decrease bone mineral density and increase the number of bone fractures in kids and adults.
According to one 2004 study, pop consumption is especially linked to wrist and arm breaks in kids aged between nine and 16.
That may be partly down to the fact that as fizzy drink consumption goes up, kids stop drinking nutritious things like milk.
But in adults, it’s thought that the caffeine content may also be to blame as caffeine can increase how much calcium is excreted into the urine – a leading contributor to osteoporosis.
It also increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia and stroke.
Both are terrible for teeth
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that sugary fizz is bad for our gnashers.
But scientists believe that diet versions are also terrible for our enamel.
Diet pop is highly acidic (even if it tastes sweet…), and contains high levels of phosphoric, citric and tartaric acids.
In fact, diet sodas can cause just as much dental erosion as regular sodas.
Scientists from the University of Michigan compared the eroding effects of regular and diet pop on teeth and found next to no difference.
After 14 days of drinking regular Coke, 2.8 mg/cm² of tooth enamel had dissolved, and diet Coca Cola dissolved a little over 3 mg/cm² of tooth enamel in the same amount of time.
So actually, the Diet Coke was worse.
MORE ON DIET
On balance, both are pretty awful for our health.
But as we don’t know a lot about Diet Coke’s sweeteners, it might be better to drink a lot less of the full-fat stuff.
Moderation is key; the odd can of either here or there won’t hurt but a daily habit may lead to issues in the long run.
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