Just because it is called Coca-Cola Life and comes in a bright green packaging, doesn’t make it healthier than it’s Coke regular cousin. I’m not sure if Coke Life has reached Philippine shores yet but I saw several friends posting in Facebook. I can understand the excitement considering this is only the fourth Coca-Cola branded product launched in its 128-year history. What concerns me is when people think Coke Life is healthier when it’s not.
Coke Life was first launched in Argentina and Chile in 2013 where the product was created through research done in the two countries. This is the first version of Coke to contain the sweetener steviol glycosides which is extracted from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana. This is really nothing new in using stevia as sweetener. In fact, a local company in Bacolod, Herbanext Laboratories Inc. is using stevia as sweetener for their products and produces their own brand of stevia-based sweetener. But of course they don’t have the marketing muscle of Coca Cola so we don’t hear much about them.
So what’s the hullabaloo with Coke Life with stevia? Well, basically because stevia extract is 200 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose) without the calories. And because there are claims that aspartame which is the sweetener for Coke Lite and Coke Zero is cancer-causing, a plant-based alternative is considered healthier. I guess that’s where we get the impression that Coke Life is healthier because it has sweetener from stevia. So is it really healthier? Let’s take a look at the label.
The US Food and Drug Administration mandates that ingredient in food labels should be listed in decreasing order. So whatever is listed first, that is the ingredient with the biggest amount. This is also the same in the Philippines. If we read the list of ingredients in the label of Coke Life, Sugar is clearly listed next to Carbonated Water and Sweetener from Stevia last. Take a closer look at the Nutritional Information portion of the label, Sugar amounts to 17g. So if you drink a 500ml Coke Life, you will be getting 34g of sugar which is equivalent to 136 Calories!
So why would you care? If you care about your health, then you should count those calories. I started to read labels seriously when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. After I gave birth and my sugar level became normal, I remained conscious of the calories because I’m already at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
I think it’s about time that we should read and understand food labels because if we don’t, we won’t know what we are ingesting. Food ingredients can be harmful to our bodies if the amount we are ingesting is more than the allowable amount. If you already have diabetes, please consult your doctor first before getting too excited with Coke Life.