A can of Coke is a bizarre mixture of extremely high levels of sugar (or the even worse high fructose corn syrup), corrosive phosphoric acid, ‘natural’ caramel coloring, and a well known drug that has a powerful effect on your brain chemistry – caffeine.
Sugar or HFCS
A standard can of Coke has around 10 teaspoons or 39 grams of sugar or high fructose corn syrup in it. And that’s just the smaller cans. A 20 oz bottle has 17 teaspoons or 65 grams of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, strongly associated with diabetes and many other diseases.
Do we really have to ask why there is such an epidemic of obesity across America with such a pervasive source of fattening sugar in our diets?
The phosphoric acid found in Coke makes it one of the most acidic beverages available, with a pH rating of 2.5. For comparison, battery acid that eats through skin has a pH of 1. Pure water has a pH of 7 and your blood needs to be maintained between 7.35 pH and 7.45 pH for proper cellular function.
While a healthy digestive system can buffer the acidity of cola, it does so at a cost – by drawing on your body’s calcium phosphate stores. This can eventually leech minerals from your bones and is why long term soda drinkers are at a higher risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
The ‘natural’ caramel coloring in sodas like Pepsi and Coke is made by reacting sugar with sulfites and ammonia under high temperatures. Byproducts created with this process include the compounds 2-methylimidozole and 4-methylimidozole, which are known carcinogens, but the FDA still allows this product to be used widely.
Why is Soda so Addictive?
Aside from the carbonated water and flavorings, the last ingredient in cola, caffeine, is the reason why it is so addictive.
Caffeine is the world’s most popular psychoactive drug and it’s reported that more than 80% of Americans have it in some form every day.
Soon after you drink something like Coke with high levels of caffeine in it, it is absorbed through your small intestine and into your bloodstream.
Caffeine is both water and fat soluble and is easily able to cross the blood-brain barrier to affect your brain cells directly.
The caffeine molecule is actually quite similar to another molecule that is present naturally in your brain called adenosine. It’s adenosine’s job to slow down nerve cell activity along neural pathways, but when caffeine is present it blocks adenosine receptors.
This can increase alertness, but excess adenosine molecules in your brain stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the old flight or fight chemical adrenaline.
For some people this feels like energy. For others, it’s more like anxiety. Regardless, your body wasn’t designed to be in flight or fight mode constantly and when caffeine’s effects wear off you’ll often feel exhausted.
Over time, your brain attempts to compensate by growing more adenosine receptors and decreasing the number of receptors for norepinephrine, another stimulant like adrenaline. This explains why caffeine addicts tend to need more and more of it over time and feel so bad when they don’t get it.
Giving Up Soda
Fortunately, unlike many other addictive substances, caffeine addiction can be beaten relatively easily. Caffeine withdrawal headaches are commonly reported, but certain herbs and supplements can greatly minimize these. There are also now some far healthier alternatives to soda that taste similar but potentially do your body good.
When you go for around 14 days without having caffeine, and support your adrenal gland through the process, then the levels of adenosine and norepinephrine receptors in your brain are believed to return back to their baseline levels and you are unlikely to feel the same ‘need’ for soda anymore.