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In the late 18th century, Englishman Joseph Priestley, was credited for discovering a new beverage that infused carbon dioxide with water to create a bubbly and refreshing soda water. To enhance the flavor, people began adding wines, fruit juices, spices, and lemony phosphoric acid. This became a hit, and not long after, people were asking for larger amounts of this beverage. Chemists then began creating their own soda water-making apparatuses to sell to pharmacies to help distribute and make profits.

Currently, there are thousands of different varieties and flavors of soda that fly off the shelves on a daily basis. However, the soda water we see today is not as simple as the original version that first appeared in the 18th century. Today, the soda industry adds sugar for sweetness, preservatives for shelf-life, and food coloring for appearance. Today we’ll be taking a closer look at the main ingredients present in your favorite sodas.

Canada Dry Caffeine Free Ginger Ale Soda
Ingredients: Water Carbonated, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Sugar and/or Citric Acid, Flavoring Natural, Sodium Benzoate, Preservative, Caramel Color
High fructose corn syrup is created by a complex process that involves breaking down cornstarch with enzymes, and the result is a roughly 50/50 mix of fructose and glucose. Americans are now consuming at least 200 calories of high fructose corn syrup each day. We would also like to note that the increasing use of this sweetener is along the side of rising obesity numbers in the US. Some researchers argue that the body metabolizes HFCS differently, making it easier to store as fat, but this theory has not been proven.

Coca-Cola Sprite Caffeine Free Lemon-Lime Soda
Ingredients: Water Carbonated, Corn Syrup High Fructose and/or Sucrose, Citric Acid, Flavor(s) Natural, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate To protect taste
According to labeling laws and regulations, some ingredients do not have to be listed as specific names. This is when you commonly see the terms flavors, spices, artificial flavors, and natural flavors. Most of us recognize artificial flavors as an immediate red-flag, because they are commonly man-made, synthetic ingredients that many choose to avoid. However, natural flavors must mean they’re made from natural sources, right? Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true. Just like any others, natural flavors are often man-made by flavorists within different food companies. To give you a better description, we found the exact definition as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations:

Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations is as follows:
“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in Secs. 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in Sec. 172.510 of this chapter.

Sodium Benzoate is a preservative that is known to form a chemical known as benzene when in the presence of vitamin C. Benzene not only causes damage to DNA; it’s also a known carcinogen and appears to play a role in a variety of diseases due to it’s DNA damaging capabilities. Recently, sodium benzoate has also been shown to increase hyperactivity in children when in the presence of food coloring. (i.e. caramel color)

Dr. Pepper Soda
Ingredients: Water Carbonated Corn Syrup High Fructose, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Flavor(s) Natural & Artificial, Sodium Benzoate, Caffeine

Caramel color can be found in darker colas and drinks. What is it? We know it’s not the process of heating sugar in a saucepan at home. Instead, it is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures. This creates two chemical compounds, 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole, carcinogenic products that have been shown to cause lung, liver, thyroid cancer, and leukemia in laboratory mice. Chemicals that cause cancer in animals are considered to pose cancer threats to humans. The Center for Public Interest in Science petitioned to have caramel coloring banned from all food supply products this past year. If this ingredient is not removed, they suggest they be labeled more honestly. Their suggestion: ” ammonia process caramel.”

Coca-Cola Classic Cola Soda
Ingredients: Water Carbonated, Corn Syrup High Fructose and/or Sucrose, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Flavor(s) Natural, Caffeine
Phoshporic acid and caffeine share a similar effect in regards to calcium. These ingredients eliminate calcium from the body, by being excreted through the urine. For every 100mg of caffeine, the body loses 6mg of calcium. Also, caffeine can be dangerous in larger amounts because of its effects on the central nervous system. Over consumption of caffeine has been linked to anxiety attacks, depression, sleep disorders, decreased memory function, and ADHD.