Coke’s new drink still too sweet

Sugar crystals

Coca Cola’s new drink should not be seen as a healthy option, according to a University of Sydney nutritionist. “It should not even have a seat at the table,” cautioned Dr Kieron Rooney when the drink was being released last month.

“This is health-washing. Yes, it is less sugar than the original but that is still an excessive amount. It is still a sugar-sweetened beverage and is no way part of a healthy life or lifestyle,” Dr Rooney (BSc ’99 PhD ’04 CertEdStud ’07), Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Sydney, told the Daily Mail.

The soft drink giant’s latest product, Coke Life, is partly made from a naturally sweet plant called Stevia, in a bid to target health-conscious lovers of soft drink.

A 330ml can of Coca Cola Life still has 22g of sugar, equivalent to six teaspoons and 89 calories. This is 35 percent less sugar than a can of regular Coke.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults of normal body mass index only eat 25g (six teaspoons) of sugar in total per day.

Dr Rooney highlighted research carried out in the 1980s where rats were given a sugar solution – a saccharin [artificial sweetener] solution – and only drank a certain amount. But when the rats were given both sugar and saccharin mixed together they drank more than they normally would.

“It’s called a super mix, a little bit of sugar and sweetener drives over consumption… if this translates to the human population then that is fantastic for Coke’s profit line,” Dr Rooney told the Daily Mail.

The green colour of the Coke Life packaging can give off a ‘healthy vibe’, Dr Rooney said. He noted that Coca Cola would have done a great amount of market research before they launched the product.

“There would have been some work that went into the association of green with health. I can understand how on some superficial level at least that it is seen as a healthier product.
“But people should be aware that a sugar-sweetened beverage is still an excessive calorie product with no nutritional benefits,” he said.

Dr Rooney explained that ‘liquid calories’ are the worst type of calorie source because the body metabolises them differently to solid food. “If you are looking to improve health the very first step is to remove your liquid calories,” Dr Rooney said.

The best drinks to consume are water and milk, he advised.
As for Coke’s claims that it is trying to help battle the obesity epidemic, Dr Rooney said it is “disingenuous, duplicitous and highly inappropriate for Coke to frame their products as healthy”.