Coke and phosphoric acid: Recently, videos depicting sodas melt teeth, meat and rust off cars or metal bars have taken over the internet. People are genuinely appalled by such demonstrations and vouch to never drink sodas again because they consider this to be irrefutable proof of the harmful effects the drinks have on our health. As laudable as these efforts may be, videos do not tell the entire truth. Sodas dissolving a chunk of meat is not the real reason to stop drinking them.
Our stomach juice is actually much more stronger than the acid found in sodas and, if it weren’t for the genius defense mechanisms our body boasts, gastric acid would burn a hole through us. What are then the real reasons why sodas are bad for us, especially when consumed excessively? And how come phosphoric acid, the meat-dissolving and rust-cleaning substance in sodas, is the least of our worries? Let’s find out.
Phosphoric acid, a not-so-healthy substance, is derived from phosphorus, a dietary mineral with wonderful health benefits. It is commonly added to fizzy drinks such as the popular coke. Phosphoric acid is used as a flavor additive and, like any other acid, it has corrosive properties. The latest health frenzy depicts coca cola brands used to clean rust off metal bars or dissolve meat.
For the simple-minded, this is irrefutable proof of the toxicity of the drink, not to mention bad publicity for the brand. Nonetheless, things are more than meets the eye. Indeed, fizzy drinks are not very healthy and, in time, they may cause serious, life-threatening illnesses such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
However, regardless of the ‘good’ intentions behind this ‘campaign’, every decision we make should be based on scientific evidence rather than misinformation. Yes, fizzy drinks are bad for us, but not necessarily because of their phosphoric acid content. Most fizzy drinks contain preservatives and additives. Although bigger brands have ‘quality’ products, smaller and cheaper ones indeed use dangerous ingredients, especially some food dyes. But we’ll get back to this.
As far as the phosphoric acid content in fizzy drinks is concerned, we should all keep in mind something very important: the acid in our stomach, hydrochloric acid, is much more corrosive than phosphoric acid. Hydrochloric acid occurs naturally within our stomach and is a major component of gastric acid, and a natural secretion of our stomach. If it weren’t for the thick layer of mucus protecting our stomach walls from it, hydrochloric acid would simply burn through us, leaving a giant hole.
In comparison, phosphoric acid is much less corosive. Although this may prove an extremely unpopular idea, it is sometimes good to take a few sips of coke when eating heavy dishes containing meat and potatoes. The phosphoric acid from the drink will act as a digestive aid. However, I don’t recommend making fizzy drinks part of your diet. Although I am aware of the fact that a glass of coke won’t burn a hole through our stomach, it does contain rather unhealthy ingredients which, if consumed regularly and in large amounts, will prove hazardous to our health.
If you want a reason not to drink sodas, don’t put the blame of phosphoric acid. A more likely culprit would be food dye or sugar. A regular consumption of such products presupposes a high intake of sugar which is without a doubt extremely unhealthy. Not only will it raise blood sugar levels and cause hyperglycemia and diabetes, but it will also lead to cancer.
Yes, refined sugar is believed to create a predisposition for cancer. Whether it is because it limits the intake of healthy, natural foods or because it is in itself a carcinogen, sugar is a health hazard, when consumed in high amounts. Have you ever wondered how many teaspons of sugar one 2-litre bottle of soda contains? Maybe even up to 70!
But the worse has yet to come. Food dyes are far more likely to cause serious health problems rather than phosphoric acid. Natural food colorings are less bright, so less appealing to us, and more expensive than chemically-produced ones, which makes them less appealing to producers. Even worse, food dyes are, to some extent, toxic for the human body. Some studies even claim that they may cause cancer.
Many artificial food dyes have already been banned in countries such as the US. However, some remain, although researchers advocate their toxicity. For instance, Yellow No. 5 and 6 are known to cause hyperactivity in children and significantly worsen ADHD symptoms. Link. The caramel coloring found in darker soda varieties constitutes another threat to our health because preliminary studies (on animals) suggest it has carcinogenic effects. For more information on food dyes, check this out.
Even more, the fact that many artificial food dyes are produced from coal tars is alarming. Coal tar is a known carcinogen and exposure to it is a genuine health hazard. Although the amounts found in food coloring are very low, prolonged consumption is damaging to one’s health. Because restrictions are much more harsh, more and more companies nowadays have resorted to natural food coloring, obtained from natural sources such as beta-carotene, paprika, turmeric or saffron. Since this is not the case with fizzy drinks, limiting consumption is imperative if you want to keep in good health. Those who resolve to never drink such products again are the real winners.
So, if you ever feel impressed when someone shows you a video of how coke can dissolve a piece of meat or a tooth, think about the fact that our gastric acid can dissolve us. And also think about the fact that all those beautiful, bright colors you see on supermarket shelves, in sodas, macaroni or cakes, are as unhealthy as can be. If you are looking for reasons not to drink sodas, here are they. Whatever you decide to do, always make sure you have all the information.