Truthiness in Coca-Cola’s Advertising – A Calorie is a Calorie?

It is true – if you consume more calories than you burn,you will gain weight. The premise of the new Coca-Cola ad is honest – kind of.  A can of coke will add 160 calories to your daily caloric intake, but is that where the health impacts end?

imagesThe science is pretty clear.  There is a growing body of research linking consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney stone formation, attention deficit, and even to increased mortality rates (nice way of saying death).  Not only is the evidence of detrimental effect increasing, but levels of consumption continue to trend upwards.

So why doesn’t a 160 calorie can of Coke have the same health impact as any other 160 calorie snack? One very simple hypothesis is the disconnect between the calorie content in each beverage and the effect on satiety (or feeling of fullness).  Having a can of pop a few hours before dinner, or with your meal is unlikely to make you consume any fewer calories at meal time.  Normally you should feel hunger, consume calories, and experience a hunger decrease.  Unfortunately sugar sweetened beverages don’t provide appetite suppression, so lead to higher overall caloric intake.

There is also good evidence to suggest that ingestion of high glycemic index/glycemic load foods (foods that quickly spike blood sugar and provide large amounts of sugar), lead to fluctuating blood sugar and insulin levels throughout the day, which adversely affect energy levels, immunity, and appetite.

Coca-cola continues its honest messaging by providing a list of low and no-calorie beverages it currently produces.  So is the answer to the sugar-sweetened beverage issue to consume diet options?  The science says no.

Artificial, calorie free sweeteners may decrease caloric content, but long term studies do not show benefits for weight management and even suggest weight gain!  The issue with artificial sweeteners is that they cause a disconnect between caloric intake and food “sweetness”.  Artificial sweeteners trick our bodies into expecting an influx in calories based on taste, but provide no caloric input. Over time, this deception disrupts our bodies association between sweet taste and caloric intake, which leads our bodies to underestimate caloric intake, and over consume.

So skip the sugar-sweetened beverages altogether! Try these tips below to replace your pop and stay hydrated!

  • Add fruit slices (lemons, limes, oranges, watermelon) to a jug of water and keep in the fridge
  • Add cucumber or mint to your water
  • Put chopped up fruit into your ice tray, fill with water, freeze, and add anytime to a glass of water
  • Green Tea! Drink it hot or iced (add a few drops of honey for a little sweetness)

Enjoy and stay healthy!


Schulze MB, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, et al. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women. JAMA.2004;292(8):927-934. doi:10.1001/jama.292.8.927.

Ebbeling CB et al. Effects of Decreasing Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption on Body Weight in Adolescents: A Randomized, Controlled Pilot Study. Pediatrics March 2006; 117:3 673-680; doi:10.1542/peds.2005-0983

Ferraro PM, Taylor EN, Gambaro G, Curhan GC. Soda and Other Beverages and the Risk of Kidney StonesCJASN CJN.11661112; published ahead of print May 15, 2013,doi:10.2215/CJN.11661112

Malik VS et al. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes: A meta-analysis Diabetes Care November 2010 33:2477-2483; published ahead of print August 6, 2010, doi:10.2337/dc10-1079

Wiles NJ, Northstone K, Emmett P, Lewis G. ‘Junk food’ diet and childhood behavioral problems: results from the ALSPAC cohort. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009 Apr;63(4):491-8

Susan E. Swithers, PhD and Terry L. Davidson, PhD,A Role for Sweet Taste: Calorie Predictive Relations in Energy Regulation by Rats,”  Purdue University; Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 122, No. 1.

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