The truth behind the sugar and sweetener in Diet Coke and Coke Zero

The truth behind the sugar and sweetener in Diet Coke and Coke Zero

By now everyone knows that Coca Cola contains too much sugar . There are numerous videos and experiments that show how that sugar remains in the bottom of a saucepan by boiling the dark soda. A can of soda (which is 330 cubic centimeters) contains 35 grams of sugar. That is, like five (yes 5) sachets of coffee sugar: a lot.

In contrast we have Diet Coke and Zero , sugar free. The Light carries according to its label the sweeteners E-952 and E-950 in addition to aspartame. The Zero also declares E-952, E-950 and aspartame. Both warn of "a source of phenylalanine" which is actually a legal notice related to aspartame. Are they better than regular Coca Cola because they don't have sugar?

Too much sugar

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is not advisable to take more than 25 grams of sugar a day. Children, 37 grams at most. We must take into account the (large) amount of sugar contained in most foods we eat. For example, a tablespoon of ketchup already contains 4 grams of sugar. For this reason, that a single can of Coca Cola already carries all the sugar that we should eat per day, gives an idea of ​​the problem ...

New coca cola cans

The concern about overweight led the company to offer a "light" version precisely with that name (Light). By the way that's what it's called here, in many markets it's Diet Coke. It arrived in 1982. More recent (2005) is the other version, also without sugar, precisely named Zero (sugar).

Zero arrives

Right now the focus is not so much on being overweight per se, as on health side effects. When Diet Coke or Diet Coke appeared, the focus was on people (especially women) concerned about their aesthetics. Marketing has shown that the words Light and Diet created rejection in men . But since they care more about their line now, that's why the Zero was launched. With fewer negative (psychological) connotations for those who order it in a bar. And it also has no sugar, but it does have artificial sweeteners, different from those of the Light.

Diet Coke was already in a clear drop in sales and the company needed something new. Last year and according to its figures in Spain, the Light continued to fall somewhat with 11 percent of sales. The Zero, on the other hand, is clearly growing and already represents 28 percent of the total.

Synthetic sweeteners

Many urban legends run on some of the compounds in soft drinks (and other consumer products) . Some have something of a royal basis. But there are many misinterpretations, some ill-intentioned, others simply errors due to ignorance.

Sugar and syringe

Let's start with the sodium cyclamate . This sweetener, also known by its code E-952, was invented in the 1950s. But in 1970 a study (on rats) gave poor results and was banned in some countries. That study used very high doses of the product, which would never be achieved by drinking soft drinks for example. But it sparked controversy.

The United States, United Kingdom, Australia or Belgium continue to prohibit it. And in Mexico, Argentina or Chile, Coca Cola eliminated it from the Light and the Zero due to a bad image. However, it is legal in the European Union , although the WHO advises against it in pregnant women and children (like many other things).

Poisons? Not

Common salt (sodium chloride) is necessary for life. But in doses as high as those at which cyclamate is toxic, salt is deadly . We would have to take a little more than half a kilo of salt (!) And it would go from being vital to the opposite. By the way, excess salt is not good either (maximum 6 grams per day). Returning to sodium cyclamate or E952, what else takes it apart from Coca Cola Zero? Well, the La Casera soda, the Hero Diet jams, the Nestea without sugar ...


Besides cyclamate (E952) there are others. Next in popularity (because of the controversy) is aspartame (E-951). Discovered in the 1960s, it was also a study from the late 1970s that showed that it could have harmful effects. But this study was followed by more serious ones: again, the problem was the dose. The problem is that it breaks down into phenylalanine, hence the second notice on the cans (there are sensitive people).

But in normal doses and for the majority of the population it is not a risk factor. Asparatamo is a safe sweetener, it is something that has been confirmed beyond legends, like cyclamate. The same happens with other compounds: the most serious and independent investigations reach the same conclusion. In normal, even high doses (someone who drinks a lot of diet sodas), they are safe .

Sweetener cocktail

In these doses, sweeteners are not dangerous in themselves , although doctors warn of another risk. By taking something that tastes sweet to us, but does not contain sugar, the body prepares itself to receive glucose that never arrives. Therefore, in a short time, we will be hungrier for sweets.

Sugar lumps

It's an effect that may be familiar to you. Many people stopped pouring sugar into their first glass of latte in the morning at breakfast. Instead, you add saccharin because "it's healthier." Yes, you have reduced your sugar intake at that time, but the body expected to receive glucose (by taste) and increases insulin in the blood. Before long, you're hungry and looking for some cookies or something sweet ... in the end, you do eat sugar.

Sure is not healthy

So choosing Diet Coke or Zero is more a matter of taste than of health . They use cyclamate, aspartame, and some other synthetic sweetener (acesulfame), legal and non-toxic. Be clear: neither of the two, nor other similar soft drinks, are poisonous in the short or long term. Now, these soft drinks or some other isotonic drinks ... are they healthy? Not.

Coca Cola poster

We have cited "sports" drinks because they give the false impression of being benevolent. It seems that anyone knows that a Coca Cola Zero, even without sugar, is not "good", but those drinks are. Another issue is energy drinks (Red Bull type) which, it seems, everyone knows are worse than soft drinks , and they are.

The natural is healthier

But those sports drinks that appeared as a healthy alternative to Coca Cola and so on are not healthy either . They are better than sodas because they don't add that terrible amount of sugar. But be clear that an Aquarius is not the same as a lemon juice with honey.

We have gone from rejecting sugary drinks to doing the same with artificially sweetened ones. It has gone from Light to Natural , making sweeteners of that (supposed origin) fashionable. Stevia for example, although it comes from a plant, its extract is used: E-960. And, like cyclamate or aspartame (or common salt…) it has a maximum authorized dose per day.


There are no limits to eating fruit or drinking freshly squeezed fruit juice. That is natural, and it is the healthiest for your body. And as a sweetener, honey is second to none.