Finally, Coca Cola’s campaign #ShareACokeSawa * is in Lebanon!! Yayy! After making the rounds internationally, it’s here to bring us, Lebanese, together over diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and metabolic syndrome!


Photo credit: http://www.lumusicstudio.com

Can you sense how excited I am? No?

Well, you my friends know me too well.
After all, you’ve seen my Sunday roundups and Facebook posts and you know that sharing my discontent at soda companies was kind of a ritual. So no wonder the first story in my first Sunday roundup had to mention Coke and their Come Together campaign , and in another one, we talked about a study that showed that kids’ consumption of sweetened beverages was linked to higher calorie intakes.
And of course my Coke does it again post where I rant ( spread awareness, whichever way you wanna look at it) about their Aahh effect campaign targeting teens in the States.

Got the picture?
Do you want me to stop here or do we just decipher Coca-cola’s ingredients the same we did with Nutella?

We decipher? I can’t say no to you, now can I?

Here we go.

Ingredients: carbonated water, sugar, caramel coloring, phosphoric acid, caffeine

Carbonated water: The water argument beverage companies give is my ultimate favorite. Listen to this. According to them, this sweet beverage is 99% water, so “logically” it is a perfect hydration tool. Well, you know what’s even better than this argument? The response American dietitian Andy Bellati gives back: ” And so does laundry detergent!!” See, just because you have water as a first ingredient does not make the product a water equivalent nor does it make safe for consumption. You have to go further down the ingredient list.

Sugar: well, that’s one ambiguous ingredient. Did you know there are 61 words that can describe the kind of sugar in a product? You can check them all and learn all about the effects of sugar on this new website. It is a project started by scientists from three different universities to unravel the unsweet truth behind this sweet ingredient. In Coca-Cola, it is either high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose ( the table sugar we know). High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one of those ingredients that has been linked to obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver problems, cancer, dementia and cardiovascular problems. It is an ingredient that I avoid at all costs, not just in soft drinks but in all processed goods. Whatever the sugar source, a 355-ml can of regular Coke has the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar, enough to contribute greatly to obesity and cause tooth decay.

Caramel color: Caramel is added as a coloring agent to many beverages and food items. It is definitely not your grandma’s stovetop caramel ( although that caramel is far from healthy, but at least it isn’t carcinogenic). In the industry, it is divided into 4 categories with Caramel IV (or E-152) used in soda beverages. Caramel IV is also known as sulfur-ammonia caramel because its preparation requires the presence of both sulfites and ammonium compounds as reactants. Caramel IV processing results in the formation of two undesirable by-products known as 2-MI and 4-MI. There has been much controversy on their toxicity and studies on mice and rats have linked their consumption to certain kinds of cancers. One study namely came to this conclusion: 4MI is carcinogenic inducing alveolar/bronchiolar (lung) adenoma and carcinoma in male and female mice. 4MI may also induce mononuclear cell leukemia in female rats.”

Phosphoric acid: Growing evidence from several studies and reviews have linked excess dietary phosphorus to bone diseases (fractures and osteoporosis) , kidney diseases and cardiovascular diseases. The estimated average requirement of phosphorus is 400 mg/day.
A 355ml can of Coke has around 60 mg of Phosphorus. Now, you may say this is way below the requirements; however, “colas are rich in the highly bioavailable phosphoric acid and contain no calcium, magnesium, or other minerals. Due to the rapid and efficient absorption of phosphorus from phosphoric acid in cola beverages, [scientists] speculate that their consumption may lead to short periods of high phosphorus exposure that may have more negative health effects than the same amount of phosphorus from less efficiently absorbed phosphorus food sources.”

Caffeine: One 355-ml can of Coke has 34 mg of Caffeine, about 1/3 of that in a cup of coffee. I drink coffee and if you’re an adult, you can probably manage that if you control your caffeine intake during the day, but I can’t say the same for kids. Kids should not have caffeine every day and if they do this amount should not be more than 45mg. That’s the amount found in a can of diet Coke by the way. A small amount of caffeine in a kid’s diet has been linked to attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), jitteriness, increased heart rate, stomachaches and increased blood pressure.

And if you think you’re better of drinking the coca cola light, coke zero and the latest “far from natural” green coca cola, think again. The one thing that differs among all varieties is the type of sugar.

Quitting a soda habit is not that easy. After all, one becomes addicted to the caffeine and sugar. I quit cold turkey when I found out I was pregnant with my girl. When she was born, we were still living in hot and humid Jeddah and I was tempted to go back to drinking soft drinks on several occasions. At these moments, I found that a cold ice glass of sparkling water was the perfect substitute. Later on, even that seemed unnecessary. If you cannot quit soft drinks cold turkey, I suggest you start reducing the quantity you drink and substituting with sparkling water with lemon slices or regular water flavored with fresh or frozen fruits namely berries, oranges, or mint. You will find that with time, you will quit and never look back. You may even find yourself wondering how you drank that stuff in the first place!


Now after all being said, from a marketing perspective and if I take off my nutritionist’s hat, I think the campaign is smart. When I shared an Instagram picture from the Paris campaign a few months back, my first reaction was: “I hate how clever they are! People will love this!” Unfortunately, that’s the way things are for the moment. All we can do is hope and work towards a shift in food perspectives. So please, friends, for now, let’s not #ShareDiabetesSawa !

Disclaimer: I was not paid by Pepsi to write this post;). Whatever I said about Coke pretty much applies to Pepsi and all sweetened carbonated beverages of the same category.

* for my non-Arabic speaking friends, “sawa” means together, so the campaign is literally Share A Coke Together.

The “ShareDiabetesSawa” is not entirely my idea. A while back, a friend tagged me in a picture on Facebook where the Coke campaign in a Parisian metro was vandalized. Instead of #partagezunCocaCola, #PartagezUnDiabete was written all over it. Knowing me, she jokingly questioned my involvement. I searched for the picture to include it in this post but couldn’t find it. If you do, please send it to me so I can add it.

References and further readings:









5 thoughts on “#ShareDiabetesSawa

  1. Excellent post.
    I have reduced my intake of carbonated beverages drastically in the past year or two. I didn’t quit yet because I sometimes like to have sparkling water, 7up or H2Oh but very occasionally, like 2 or 3 servings per month.
    I slipped a couple of weeks ago and was tempted to take a large coke at the movies with my large popcorn, and I did. I miss the feeling but the taste was not pleasing. My taste has changed.
    I drink beer, does it count?

    Oh, I wanted to as about the caramel, is there a healthy caramel? I make my own at home with sugar, butter and cream. Is there any other concern than the high calorie/fat product?

    And Damn they are smart. I love their campaigns, from this name cans to the caps that can’t be opened except with a cap from another person, to the reusable/repurposed caps and bottles. But I’m better off

    • Thank you Hisham. In fact sparkling water (Perrier, st pellegrino…) is totally fine. It’s the carbonated beverages with the added sugars that pose the mentioned health risks. Regarding caramel, like you said, the homemade one is unhealthy because of its high sugar and fat content. But I am not one to refrain from indulging in that. Occasional sweet treats are welcome. It’s the extra-processing that scares me off. Like I mentioned, the caramel in colas is nothing like the homemade and releases carcinogenic by-products. Some argue the level is minimal to cause any real damage, but would I wanna risk it? An occasional coke is not the end of the world, but like you said, once you stop or reduce your intake, your taste buds change and will start perceiving the ultra sweet taste. I’ve seen caramels using apple juice or dates but I still haven’t given any a try to compare to the original.

      And they’re extra smart indeed but by the end of the day, we’re all better off!

  2. Pingback: Coca-Cola Sponsored Health Round Table at Phoenicia Beirut | Health and Horizons

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