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Cola Revolution

The idea of a healthy soda may seem like an oxymoron for some, but Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are working to change this perception.The two global companies, whose original formulas were both created in the late 19th century, are now introducing carbonated drinks promoted as “sparkling beverages.” These new beverages are fortified with vitamins and minerals, according to an article in the New York Times on March 7.

This month, Coca-Cola is introducing Diet Coke Plus, and PepsiCo will be offering its new beverage, Tava, in Fall 2007, according to the Times article.

According to the Coca-Cola Web site, Diet Coke Plus will contain niacin (vitamin B-3), vitamins B-6 and B-12, zinc and magnesium. Tava contains zero calories and zero caffeine and is enhanced with vitamins B-6 and E and niacin, according to Michelle Naughton, spokesperson for Pepsi-Cola North America.

“We have consumers that have told us they’re interested in beverages that have added health and wellness benefits,” Naughton said. “At Pepsi, we have something for everyone including Aquafina water and iced teas.”

Tava will be launched nationwide in three flavors: Tahitian Tamure, which is a tropical berry blend; Mediterranean Fiesta, a black cherry citrus; and Brazilian Samba, a passion fruit lime flavor, Naughton said.

Coca-Cola spokesperson Scott Williamson echoed Naughton’s concern for the consumers’ interest, but pointed out that Coca-Cola also offers a variety of beverage options including Dasani water and Minute Maid juice drinks.

“It all starts with what the consumer wants,” Williamson said. “We talk to people that drink our products every day, and got a positive response from loyal drinkers (on Diet Coke Plus).”

Accounting graduate student Carrie Gardiner is skeptical that the companies’ new health-promoting image will be effective.

“It’s like saying salads are served at a fast-food restaurant,” Gardiner said. “It’s still fast food and not good for you.”

Gardiner, who drinks two to three Cokes a day, acknowledged the health risks that are linked to drinking soft drinks.

When you are consuming soft drinks for an entire day, you are not drinking healthier beverages like water, juices or milk, Gardiner said.

“Milk is a good source of calcium, and women need two to three servings of milk a day,” said Dr. Gina Hill, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences. “Most women don’t achieve this.”

A 12-ounce soda contains 150 calories, Hill said. In addition to this calorie intake, Hill said soda drinkers also increase their risk of developing osteoporosis and contributing to obesity when they drink soft drinks.

It is the high fructose corn syrup located in some soft drinks that studies have shown to be linked to the development of obesity, according to a 2004 report by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) increased 1,000 percent just between 1970 and 1990, according to the report, indicating that people are not slowing down on their intake of soft drinks.

“If you drank one 12-ounce can of Coke every day for one year and you didn’t change any of your daily habits, you could gain 14.6 pounds,” said adjunct nutrition professor Judy Sargent.

Williamson said that though soft drinks have suffered from a lot of misperceptions, Coca-Cola continues to believe that all of its soft drinks can be part of a healthy diet.

“Issues like obesity are important and complex, but there is no one, single factor that contributes to it,” Williamson said. “Diet Coke Plus is not making any health claims; it’s just Diet Coke, which we know folks love, with added vitamins and minerals.”

Drinking soft drinks can also lead to osteoporosis because of the phosphorous they contain, Sargent said. An imbalance is created in the body between the body’s phosphorous and calcium levels, so to compensate, the phosphorous pulls the calcium out of your bones, Sargent said.

Sophomore nutritional sciences major Brooke Gilley, who “drinks Diet Coke like it’s going out of style,” said she thinks that the addition of vitamins and minerals to carbonated beverages may be beneficial. However, she added that the consumption of such drinks should still be done in moderation.

“Even if it’s enriched, it’s always better to have the nutrients come from the natural source,” Gilley said.

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