The McBournie Minute: Drinking the cola

Late last week, a blog post about drinking soda went viral. I don’t know how Facebook curates its tending news stories list, but for some reason, the site thought I’d be interested in reading about it. Normally, I avoid blog posts about nutrition, weight loss and stuff like that, because they’re all written by kooks with clear agendas. There’s no reason to believe unsupported health claims made by someone writing for something like Vegan Heroes Against GMO than if they were writing about how Obama is the devil for Libertarian Tea Party Bald Eagles United.

But typically stories like that are posted by the friends you avoid having conversations with for good reason. This one was in that Facebook news feed thing, which doesn’t mean it’s more credible, but it at least means a lot of people are reading it, so I decided to check it out.

Hoo boy, was it informative. Let’s break this one down.

The post was titled “What Happens One Hour After Drinking A Can Of Coke,” and hosted on a blog called The Renegade Pharmacist. It was written back in May, so why it went viral in late July I don’t know. The blog’s motto: “Truth Prescribed.” Anytime you see the word “truth” used on any site, just go ahead and read that as “agenda,” because it’s trying to sell you something, and it doesn’t want you to second-guess it.

The site is littered with all the quackery ads you would imagine. It’s written by Niraj Naik, who is a former U.K. pharmacist. Does “pharmacist” have another meaning in England? In the U.S. it just means the person who gives you the drugs that someone with an M.D. said you should take and some huge corporation said they’d chip in for. Let’s not call this science, just “science-y” and have fun from there.

It’s worth noting that Naik credits the work of some guy named Wade Meredith for the info. Meredith has been posting this article since at least 2006. (The oldest version that still exists is from 2007.) There’s no background on the guy. For all anyone can tell, he just looked up a couple sites that had info about how sodas might not be the healthiest beverage around, and ran with it.

Neither post really says when the stopwatch begins, so let’s just assume it’s not from your first sip, or even your last sip. Let’s say it starts immediately after you chug a can of Coca-Cola, because why not?

1. In The First 10 minutes: 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 and other flavorings cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.

Not off to a good start. There are 39 grams of sugar in a can of Coke (I just went to my fridge and looked). Grams and teaspoons aren’t the easiest thing to convert, but it’s generally closer to 9 teaspoons, which is what the American Heart Association recommends as a maximum daily sugar intake for men.

“Overwhelming sweetness?” Listen, Naik/Meredith, if I could put down one of those sugary, alcohol-for-beginners drinks way back when, I can chug a can of Coke without barfing, phosphoric acid or not. Give me a little credit, here.

2. 20 minutes: 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)

I’m not a doctor, but I know the liver doesn’t have hands. You’re thinking of the heart.

3. 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.

Yes, caffeine wakes us up. That’s why we drink it–in soda, coffee and tea.

4. 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.

Same thing as heroin? Awesome! Legal heroin!

The next three steps are all related and take place at or around 60 minutes, so we’ll just use one of them.

6. >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.

So if I chug a can of Coke, I may gain a little fat, my blood sugar spikes, I’m not sleepy for a while, I feel good and I have to urinate out a bit of the minerals that would go to my bones? Sounds like dangerous stuff. This is exactly why I only put a touch of it, for coloring, in my bourbon and Coke.