Health

Here’s What’s Wrong With That Viral Coca-Cola Graphic

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

1. An infographic about the health effects of a single can of Coke has been going viral today. But there’s a lot about the science that doesn’t necessarily check out.

This infographic creator, identified as Niraj Naik by the Daily Mail, first published it on the blog The Renegade Pharmacist. He writes in his blog post that the information in the infographic comes from a post published on Blisstree.

BuzzFeed Life reached out to several experts to fact-check some of the claims.

2. First, the points about sugar either don’t check out, or get the science confused.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

For the sugar facts, BuzzFeed Life reached out to Kimber Stanhope, Ph.D., RD, an associate research nutritional biologist for the University of California Davis department of molecular biosciences. Stanhope does research on the effect sugar consumption has on the body.

3. The claim: The sweetness of the Coke would cause you to barf, if it weren’t for phosphoric acid, which makes it taste less sweet.

Here’s what it says:
10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.

Here’s the truth:
“This statement is not true,” Stanhope said. “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.”

4. The claim: Your insulin levels go up, causing your liver to create fat.

Here’s what it says:
20 minutes in: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)

Here’s the truth:
It’s not the insulin spike that’s the problem, according to Stanhope’s research. Basically, the fat production has to do with how the liver metabolizes fructose…and not the increased levels of insulin. She sums it up: “Insulin spikes following consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages are not the main cause of the fat-making in the liver.” Here’s a scientific paper she published that goes into it, if you’re curious.

Naik’s blog post actually addresses the issue of fructose in sugar-sweetened drinks; it’s the attached infographic that focuses incorrectly on insulin.

5. And then the claims about caffeine are overstated in a number of ways.

Keith Bell / Getty Images

For the caffeine/drugs component, BuzzFeed Life reached out to Michael A. Taffe, Ph.D., associate professor for the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders at the Scripps Research Institute.

6. The claim: The things that happen in your brain when you drink caffeine are the same things that happen when you take heroin.

Here’s what it says:
45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.

Here’s the truth:
“Everything about drugs needs to be understood in terms of dose and tolerance,” Taffe says. “This sensationalistic description makes it sound more dramatic than is the experience for the average Coke drinker. It’s way overblown, as such things tend to be.”

7. The claim: On that note, caffeine makes your brain produce dopamine.

Here’s the truth:
Taffe pointed to a study in rats that looked at dopamine accumulation in the brain. He says: “Caffeine doesn’t ‘stimulate production’ directly, it enhances the release of dopamine and may have several other effects, but not direct effects on ‘production’.”

He also clarifies that the dose is really the important thing here in determining what kind of effect caffeine will have on a person — meaning, just how much caffeine a person consumes. Also, if you drink a lot of caffeine regularly, the effects of caffeine may not be as strong on you as on someone who never drinks caffeine.

8. The bottom line about caffeine:

Scott Olson / Getty Images

“The take-home is that [the amount of] caffeine that is in a Coke is not going to have very large functional effects in most people and particularly not those who consume caffeinated beverages somewhat frequently,” Taffe says.

9. That said, Taffe reiterated that, at least as far as the caffeine component is concerned, the infographic isn’t total fiction…just overstated.

He writes: “As far as the caffeine… it’s stated really breathlessly sensationalistic but not egregiously wrong.”

10. ALL THAT BEING SAID, it’s worth noting that lots and lots of research points to the fact that drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages, like Coke, can have serious negative effects on your health in the long-term.

Here’s a pretty good rundown of that research, if you want to look into it. The immediate effect of one Coke, though, isn’t necessarily as dire as the infographic makes it sound.

update

Naik responded to BuzzFeed’s email asking for comment.

He reiterated that his point in writing the original blog post was to call attention to the idea that “big brands target children to create an association with them from an early age that is very hard to break later on.”

He also pointed out that he created the infographic, but was not the original creator of the content in it. “I don’t know exactly how accurate that infographic is for every single person as I was not the original creator of the content, but if you study each ingredient you will find they are metabolised with similar effects that will vary for each individual,” he wrote in an email. “Moderation is key.”

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

 
  Your Reaction?
  REACT WITH GIF
 

    Contributions

    Now Buzzing