Coca-Cola is Bad For You (But Not as Bad as That Infographic Claims)

By James O Malley on at

By now you have probably seen that "What happens one hour after drinking a can of Coke" infographic doing the rounds. It makes drinking that delicious mixture of brown stuff and water sound absolutely horrifying. But here's the thing: It isn't entirely accurate.

The graphic was created by a bloke calling himself the Renegade Pharmacist, who like all good scientists didn't check the facts, which were taken from a website that also features Deepak Chopra.

In the last few days, the graphic has been picked up by the likes of The Daily Mail.

Unfortunately, much of it is bollocks. Take the scary-sounding claim that after 45 minutes your body ups the production of dopamine, just like heroin does.

This analogy though is somewhat misleading - because it isn't addictive like heroin. Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics Tom Sanders from Kings College London says that:

"It is not addictive like heroin in that there is no chemical adaptation of metabolism and there is no evidence of withdrawal symptoms – the pleasant sensation provided by sugar however can reinforce repeated intake. Breast milk is sweet because of its high sugar content (lactose) [so] our liking for sweetness is entirely natural."

Dr Duane Mellor from the University of Nottingham went on to explain adds:

"The evidence for addiction is mixed, it is not the same mechanism as heroin, this is largely based on extrapolation of MRI scans of the brain, these show that parts of the brain ‘light up’ showing activity linked to pleasure in the same way as drugs. Adam Drewnowski at Washington State has done a lot of work in humans and rodents to show there is a drive to consume sugar and fat together in what is known as a ‘hedonic mix’. The sweet taste response is well defined and is desirable, but is more of a psychological addition linked to pleasure rather than dependence. So not similar."

Buzzfeed has also published a takedown of some of the key claims in the graphic. For example, the idea that 10 teaspoons of sugar would make you vomit is untrue. Buzzfeed quotes Dr Kimber Stanhope from the University of California as saying that:

“By far the majority of people have no trouble consuming 10 teaspoons of sugar-sweetened beverage. We have studied 100s of participants in our studies who consumed beverages that contained more than 10 teaspoons of sugar, but no phosphoric acid. Not one ever vomited due to the sweetness, and I don’t remember any of them ever reporting that they felt nauseated due to the sweetness.”

Essentially, the graphic is almost perfectly in that sweet spot of sounding true, even if many of the claims are either sensationalised, exaggerated or simply false. So perhaps this is a lesson for everyone in thinking before you tweet.