The Renegade Pharmacist

Here’s What You Need to Know About That Coca-Cola Infographic

31 JULY 2015

It’s a testament to the wonders of advertising that a liquid that can clean your toilet, unstick gum, and fade your disastrous dye jobs away has become so ubiquitous as a beverage that we’re collectively drinking 1.8 billion bottles of the stuff every day


We could also say it’s a classic example of ‘ignorance is bliss’, because we’re all aware that Coke isn’t great for us, but few of us have been educated on the specific biological processes that it sets in motion, and just how dangerous these can be for our health. Well, prepare to have your Coke-filled dreams shattered, because Niraj Naik aka The Renegade Pharmacist has come up with an infographic about what Coke does to our bodies within the first hour of consuming it. And even though there are a few claims that are exaggerated, it’s a whole lot of nope.

The main culprit, he says at his website, is high fructose corn syrup." High fructose corn syrup is found in pretty much all processed foods such as ready meals, fast foods, sweets, and fizzy drinks and most people are totally unaware of its danger," he says.

As a former pharmacist, Naik has seen his fair share of health conditions made worse from soft drink addiction, and gave HuffPost UK Lifestyle his advice for how to wean yourself off it: 

"My first piece of advice to them would be to do a simple swap, replacing fizzy drinks with water and fresh lemon or lime juice. In many cases just doing this would have a dramatic effect on their health. This indicates to me that fizzy drinks and sugar are big issues relating to blood pressure and metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease."

Strong caveat here though: over at Buzzfeed, they spoke to two experts about the effects of sugar and caffeine consumption on the body and it turns out that a lot of what the infographic states is grossly exaggerated.

Where the infographic says that you would vomit from taking in Coke’s 10 teaspoons of sugar if it weren’t for the phosphoric acid that cuts the flavour, Kimber Stanhope, an associate research nutritional biologist from the University of California Davis, tells Buzzfeed it’s simply not true:

"By far the majority of people have no trouble consuming 10 teaspoons of sugar-sweetened beverage. We have studied hundreds 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."

Stanhope tells Buzzfeed the claims that increased insulin levels cause your liver to create fat is also not true.

When it comes to caffeine consumption, the infographic’s claim that what happens in your brain when you drink caffeine are the same things that happen when you take heroin is also highly exaggerated, according to Michael A. Taffe, associate professor for the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders at the Scripps Research Institute:

"Everything about drugs needs to be understood in terms of dose and tolerance. 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."

Head to Buzzfeed to hear the whole rundown, and see the full infographic below. While you should take the information in it with a huge grain of salt, everyone is still in agreement that Coke does some pretty terrible things to your body. There’s a good rundown of some of the research here. 


First 10 minutes

10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100 percent of your recommended daily intake.) You don't immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavour, allowing you to keep it down.

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.)

40 minutes in

Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.

45 minutes in

Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centres of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.

60 minutes in

The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.

After 60 minutes

The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.

As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.