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3 things you thought were true about Coca-Cola but aren’t

I periodically hear stories like these that seem just too incredible to be true. A quick Google search usually leads to which provides the facts to debunk the myth. I have no horse in this race. I don’t need to defend the consumption of Coke. But it is an important example of how rumors often hold more weight in people’s eyes then scientific research. For some, it is simply easier to just believe that chain email then it is to put in the tiniest effort to make a quick Google search and find the truth.

Myth #1 Coke is owned by the Mormon church.

Truth: The Coco-Cola Company is far too sizable a business entity for any one person or group to own, even if that group were Bill Gates and Kerry Packer. Big Red is a publicly traded company with 15% of the shares held by insiders and 9% by SunTrust Bank. The remaining 76% of the company is owned by various and sundry institutional and individual investors, some whom may indeed be Mormon.

Myth #2 The artificial sweetener aspartame found in Coco-Cola has been proved responsible for an epidemic of cancer, brain tumors and multiple sclerosis.

Truth: Aspartame, a dipeptide composed of phenylalanine and aspartic acid linked by a methyl ester bond, is not absorbed, and is completely hydrolysed in the intestine to yield the two constituent amino acids and free methanol. Opponents of aspartame suggest that the phenylalanine and methanol so released are dangerous. In particular, they assert that methanol can be converted to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, and thus cause metabolic acidosis and neurotoxicity.

Although a 330 ml can of aspartame-sweetened soft drink will yield about 20 mg methanol, an equivalent volume of fruit juice produces 40 mg methanol, and an alcoholic beverage about 60-100 mg. The yield of phenylalanine is about 100 mg for a can of diet soft drink, compared with 300 mg for an egg, 500 mg for a glass of milk, and 900 mg for a large hamburger (1). Thus, the amount of phenylalanine or methanol ingested from consumption of aspartame is trivial, compared with other dietary sources. Clinical studies have shown no evidence of toxic effects and no increase in plasma concentrations of methanol, formic acid, or phenylalanine with daily consumption of 50 mg/kg aspartame (equivalent to 17 cans of diet soft drink daily for a 70 kg adult) (1, 2).

Myth #3: Coke is so acidic it is used to clean blood from crime scenes and clean battery posts. If you put a t-bone steak in a bowl of coke it will be gone in two days.

Truth: Many of the entries are just simple household tips involving Coca-Cola as provided by Joey Green in his 1995 book “Polish Your Furniture with Pany Hose.” That you can cook and clean with Coke is relatively meaningless from a safety standpoint. Nearly all carbonated soft drinks contain carbonic acid which is moderately useful for tasks such as removing stains and dissolving rust deposits.
Coca-Cola does contain small amounts of citric acid and phosphoric acid; however all the insinuations about the dangers these acids might pose ignore a simple concept familiar to any first-year chemistry student: concentration. Coca-Cola contains less citric acid than does orange juice, and the concentration of phosphoric acid is far too small to dissolve a steak, a tooth or nail. Besides, the gastric acid in your stomach is much stronger than any of the acids in Coca-Cola, so the Coke itself is harmless.

Published in Culture Pop Culture