Packaged in a virtuous looking green bottle and fronted by picture of health, British supermodel Rosie Huntington Whiteley, the latest drink offering from Coca-Cola has us intrigued…
Coca-Cola Life – the first UK launch in eight years – is branded as a natural, healthy addition to the Coca-Cola family; a response to the recent anti-sugar media obsession and a comeback to growing concerns surrounding the artificial sweeteners found in zero calorie drinks such as Diet Coke.
Confused by the marketing jargon and misleading labelling we decided to get an expert opinion on the nutritional value of Coca-Cola’s ‘healthy’ alternative. We spoke with three GTG expert nutritionists: Vicki Edgson , Gabriela Peacock and Karen Cummings Palmer , and this is what we found out…
What’s in Coca-Cola Life?
Coca-Cola Life is the newest low calorie version of Coke, sweetened with cane sugar and stevia leaf extract (a natural herb native to South America and previously used by Coca-Cola in Sprite and Glacéau Vitamin Water). Although coming in at a respectable 89 calories per can (51 less calories than regular Coca-Cola) the drink contains the equivalent of a whopping four teaspoons of sugar - nearly half the daily allowance for women. As Gabriela confirms:
“It is still an artificially flavoured carbonated drink with no nutritional properties”.
Whilst Stevia might appear to be an improvement on the use of artificial sweeteners, 'it still behaves like a sugar in the digestive system', said Vicki.
Should you be drinking it?
The nutritionists were all in agreement that Coca Cola Life is not a healthy alternative. Unfortunately sugar, even of the natural kind, is not good for your health. Gabriella confirms that 'sugar is implicated in a range of health related problems such as tooth decay and type 2 diabetes, so sweetened carbonated drinks should be drunk only occasionally, if at all'. Karen clarifies that 'it is best to limit consumption of very sweet foods and drinks even if they are in part natural - the less you have, the less you will crave'.
What’s the alternative?
The bottom line from the experts is choosing another drink is the best option for your health. Karen recommends 'adding fresh lemon juice or a splash of pomegranate to carbonated water with half a teaspoon of Stevia or Agave Nectar to sweeten' whereas Gabriela suggests 'diluted fresh fruit juice as a healthier alternative'.
Should they be selling it?
With Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (who wouldn’t want that body) as the face of the brand and a wholesome green image "Coca-Cola have the 'brand trust' power to try to persuade us that Stevia is better than all the synthetic alternatives they have gotten away with for years” says Vicki. This, coupled with Coca-Cola’s recent anti-obesity campaign and commitment to reducing calories in their fizzy drinks, makes for a very confusing message for consumers. As Vicki suggests 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if Coca-Cola could be the first commercial company to include cinnamon powder in their drinks, knowing that it helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, prevent diabetes and lower cravings. Or is this spice simply too expensive to use in a canned drink?!'. Could cinnamon coke be next? Watch this space.