Coke Again

what happens

Childhood Obesity News salutes two pieces of web journalism that were first published six years ago. Wade Meredith’s classic “What Happens to Your Body if You Drink a Coke Right Now?” describes the effects of the first hour. Then, Briana Rognlin’s “What Happens to Your Body After You Drink a Soda Every Day, For a Long Time?” looks into the future.

Not to give away the entire plot of this story, because the original post is worth reading, we will reveal a couple of highlights. For instance, the author says the phosphoric acid is in Coca-Cola to keep a person from vomiting when the system is attacked by a sudden onslaught of sugar. Next, the blood sugar goes up and the insulin appears, and the liver gets to work turning sugar into fat. Soon dopamine is produced, and the brain gets involved, and Meredith makes the inevitable heroin comparison.

Mineral molecules from other foods are inside a person, trying to get to the bones and teeth to make them stronger. But the phosphoric acid in the beverage captures these elemental nutrients and flushes them out of the body. Plus, the person gets to feel irritable and/or mentally sluggish. The infographic at the top of this post, created by Wade Meredith and Niraj Naik, has been widely circulated on the Internet.

Over the long term, of course, results are even more troublesome: obesity, diabetes, heart disease… and never mind trying to cheat with diet soda. Rognlin says,

We know you don’t like us to compare drinking caffeine and sugar to substance abuse, but when it comes to your lifestyle, some think that soda is just like a gateway drug.

People who write and read about such topics as nutrition and obesity would probably enjoy an occasional vacation from thinking about Coke but alas, the gigantic corporation stays busy providing new material on a regular basis. Of course it can’t take all the blame. There are other corporations that sell sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) by the millions. Together, they are responsible for 184,000 deaths per year in the world (25,000 in the USA), according to a study from Tufts University. That is pretty much the same number of fatalities as are caused by flu, which is a well-known scourge.

The data represents deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but arriving at the final figures was not cut-and-dried. SSBs are not the only factor working against people’s health, so quite a lot of fancy math went into obtaining the results. Journalist Christopher Wanjek wrote:

The study is based on a complex statistical analysis of country-specific dietary habits and causes of death in more than 50 countries, coupled with information on the availability of sugar on the world market…

The researchers could not prove a direct cause and effect — for example, they cannot say that sugary beverages are the actual, primary cause of these 184,000 deaths on an individual level. Rather, they based their conclusions on national beverage consumption trends, death rates and sugar availability.

In August of last year Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s chairman and CEO, wrote an article expressing his disappointment at how the corporation’s latest public relations efforts had only led to more misunderstanding, confusion, and mistrust. He admitted that:

Our company has been accused of shifting the debate to suggest that physical activity is the only solution to the obesity crisis. There also have been reports accusing us of deceiving the public about our support of scientific research.

Kent listed the steps he had directed the president of Coca-Cola North America to take, and promised that in the future, the company would “act with even more transparency.” Childhood Obesity News will look at how that has been working out.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Updated Post: What Happens to Your Body If You Drink a Coke Right Now?,”, 06/23/10
Source: “What Happens to Your Body After You Drink a Soda Every Day, For a Long Time,”, 06/23/10
Source: “Sugary Drinks Kill 184,000 People Every Year,”, 06/29/15
Source: “Coca-Cola: We’ll Do Better,”, 08/19/15
Image by Niraj Naik/Wade Meredith



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