There is nothing more synonymous with American culture than Coca-Cola. However, like most multinational conglomerates, they are not free from controversy. Consumers have routinely questioned the health effects that cola has on the body. Everything from high-fructose corn syrup, to caloric value, to the acidic properties of Coke have been analyzed to determine potential negative health effects. Understanding the acidic properties of Coke can help you better determine if consuming the beverage is worth the potential consequences.
Coke has a pH of 2.8, due to phosphoric acid. Prolonged and excessive consumption can have harmful effects on the body due to the acidic nature of the beverage. The body's blood pH should be slightly alkaline. A blood pH below 7.0 is considered acidic. If the body does not contain enough alkaline minerals in the bloodstream to compensate for acidity, acid begins to build up in the cells. A build up of acid decreases the body's ability to absorb minerals and nutrients. An overly acidic body can destroy cells and prevent the body from repairing damaged cells, making you more susceptible to illness and fatigue.
Food grade phosphoric acid is an inexpensive mass produced chemical. As clear, odorless, colorless syrup, it is one of the main ingredients used to give Coke its flavor. It also goes by the name of E338. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has linked phosphoric acid to lower bone density, as it leaches calcium from the bones, leading to osteoporosis. It is also linked to kidney stones and kidney disease. However, it should be noted that most of the phosphoric acid in the American diet comes from meat and dairy products. Phosphoric acid is a naturally occurring chemical in milk, meat, poultry, fish, nuts and eggs.
Citric acid found in Coca-Cola can lead to dental problems. Drinking Coke can lower your intraoral pH to as low as 5.5, thus promoting the erosion of tooth enamel. Over time, excessive consumption of the beverage can lead to significant enamel loss. "The erosive potential of colas is 10 times that of fruit juices in the first three minutes of drinking," according to LiveScience.com. The erosive properties are due to the citric and phosphoric acids present in the beverage. Carbonic acid, also found in Coke, is used to carbonate the beverage, and also has particularly erosive effects on teeth.
Rumors and Response
Can you dissolve a nail in a glass of Coke in four days, or melt away a T-bone steak in two days due to acidity? According to the Coca-Cola Company, these claims are only rumors, noting that "these foods are not acidic enough to harm your body tissues." They also note that the acids present in your stomach are much stronger than those present in their beverages. Nevertheless, claims still exist stating that Coke can be used to clean corrosion from a car battery terminal or that trucks carrying the signature syrup have to use a hazardous material sign, reserved for highly corrosive materials. According to farmers in India, Coca-Cola functions as a pesticide, killing unwanted insects," as noted by RawFoodDietSecrets.com.
- Raw Food Diet Secrets; Coca-Cola is Harmful--Another Reason to Ditch Sodas; May 2005
- Rense: A list of Acid / Alkaline Forming Foods
- Fooducate; 11 Quick Facts about Phosphoric Acid (Yes, that Chemical in Coca Cola); June 2009
- Angel; Acidic Soft Drinks Effects on the Shear Bond Strength of Enamel; Gokhan Oncag, DDS, PhDa; 2005
- Live Science; Acids in Popular Sodas Erode Tooth Enamel; Robin Llyod; March 2007
- The Cocoa Cola Company; Products And Packaging Rumors; 2011
- Photo Credit ITStock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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