I Don’t Know What’s In That


A thirty two ounce Pepsi has around four hundred calories of pure sugar energy in it. That comes from the 112 grams of sugar in each one. At four teaspoons per gram, that would be twenty eight teaspoons of sugar. The kind of sugar in most of your sodas in the US is ‘high fructose’ sweetener. Fructose is a kind of sugar called monosaccharide because the sugar molecule has just one sugar. Sucrose is a disaccharide because it’s molecule contains one half fructose, and one half glucose, bound together with one extra oxygen molecule. High fructose sweetener (HFCS) is sucrose that has been processed to convert some of the glucose in each molecule to fructose, the effect being that the resulting sugar tastes much sweeter.

The point of these chemicals in your drink is that when you consume a sugar your brain actually reacts to it. The flavor of sweet on your tongue actually creates in your brain the same reaction that occurs for other addictive behaviors. From WebMD:

Dopamine—the so-called reward chemical—spikes and reinforces the desire to have more. (Sugar also fuels the calming hormone serotonin.)

This is the same spike that occurs for meth users, table game gamblers, people having sex. The reaction is a normal occurrence, and is a product of human evolution, to ensure that behaviors that add to our ability to survive and reproduce are rewarded and encouraged by our bodies. The fact that chemical stimulants like sugar and meth can reproduce this reaction is, of course, not in nature’s plan, and does nothing to enhance our ability to thrive for future generations. Sugar has this feature because nature wants us eating fruits that contain it, so that the seeds of these plants will be carried away from the tree that bore them.

The sweeter the sugar tastes, the greater the mental reaction that we have to it. Like other drugs, it is possible to become accustomed to the effects, wearing out our ability to sense that we are having a reaction. This dulling of the reaction then requires a larger and larger dose to get the expected effect. Perhaps this is why a serving of Coke went from the ten ounce bottles of my youth (in the 1960s) to the sixteen ounce bottles of the 1970s, to today’s thirty two and sixty four ounce monsters of today. It costs fifty cents in 1975. Today’s quart of high fructose sweetened drink runs around one dollar and fifty cents.

I could spend the next thousand words describing for you the biological effect of drinking one or more of these drinks per day, but I will just say that two out of three people in the US are overweight. One out of three people in the US are obese.

So what about diet drinks! Avoid all of that HFCS by drinking Pepsi Free or Diet Coke, right? Aspartame is the chemical that tastes sweet in diet drinks. There has been a great deal of controversy around the world about whether or not this sweetener is safe to consume. A great number of people are now consuming it in soft drinks, breakfast cereals, and many other low calorie sweet products. In 1996 it was approved for use as a general non-nutritive sweetener. It gives things a sweet taste, but when it breaks down in your body it does not create blood sugar.

IT DOES break down in your body. It does turn into something else. That something else does end up in your blood stream. When the FDA says it is ‘safe’, it is taking the manufacturer’s word for it. Food additives are approved after an additive manufacturer informs the FDA that it is safe. Studies are conducted by the manufacturer and in the case of aspartame, also performed by other scientific groups. These studies have come up with diametrically opposed results. Some studies say, ‘safe’ and other studies say ‘dangerous’.

Who you gonna believe? The more important question is, ‘Do you know what’s in that?’ If we compare the safety of sugar to aspartame, one makes you fat, gives you diabetes, causes high blood pressure. The other one may do something to your nervous system, cause depression, release mysterious untested chemicals into your bloodstream. Now, compare these problems with water or unsweetened tea. That is the comparison you ought to be making. Water or tea have none of these issues. Water can be gotten free at a restaurant or most public places. Water contains a single ingredient. Water contains no health claims or ingredient labels.

Why in the world are we drinking dangerous chemicals, instead of drinking water? Right now, the food chemical industry is spending tons of energy trying to come up with a new chemical sweetener that doesn’t have the bad press that aspartame has, or that HFCS has. Some in the soft drink business want to just go back to fructose, since it is a popular choice when offered along side the HFCS sweetened drinks.

I say, drink neither. Have a Coke once a week to remind yourself how it makes you feel to drink one. If you quit drinking sugar and white bread and other easy starches, and you do it for a week, you will actually have a reaction to drinking a Coke. Yesterday evening we ordered a pizza and I got a two liter bottle of Coke along with it. I drank about twelve ounces of Coke with my pizza, maybe a little less when you factor in the ice. I actually got a light-headed sugar buzz, not unlike the nicotine buzz you would get from having a cigarette after years of not smoking. Sugar makes me nervous, too, and I can’t do a lot of detailed work when I am ‘on sugar’. I know this, because I have been ‘off sugar’ since April 1. Every time I have a sugar binge I get a very quick physical reaction to it. I love the taste of Coke. It’s hard to describe what it feels like, that first drink, I savor it. I just can’t stomach the thought of every bite of food I take, or every sip of a drink I take having that chemical in it. My body doesn’t need it, my brain doesn’t need it, so why would I do it?

Why do you do it?

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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