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What is ‘Healthy Coke’ & Its Adverse Effect On Your Teeth

In the world of social media, nobody is a stranger anymore to the rapidly changing trends that seem to come and go. One such latest trend that has been doing the rounds of TikTok and other social media platforms is that of healthy coke. Well, you might think that this refers to the soft drink Coca-Cola, but this coke is not that. In fact, here, healthy coke refers to a combination of balsamic vinegar and sparkling seltzer water. Many may say the very sound of that is disgusting, while others might be ready to try it.

If you are wondering what healthy coke is all about, read on to find out what is healthy coke and is it really healthy?

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What is ‘Healthy Coke’?

What is ‘Healthy Coke’?

What is trending as healthy coke actually has nothing to do with the famous American soft drink Coca-Cola, commonly known worldwide as just Coke. Healthy coke is actually a combination drink of balsamic vinegar and sparkling seltzer water. The drink was concocted by California-based TikTok user Amanda Jones, who made the drink go viral after she posted a video of herself making the drink to her TikTok account. In the video, Jones proclaims that this mixture of drinks tastes just like coke. What made this drink trend go viral was primarily the many videos that followed of other people gagging and scrunching up their faces after taking a sip of the drink. Almost everyone who made similar videos agreed that the concoction tasted nothing like the famous soft drink Coke. But is this drink actually healthy?(1, 2)

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Well, according to medical experts, this drink is not named correctly because neither does it taste anything like the soft drink, nor is it healthy. In fact, the drink can actually have many adverse effects on your oral and digestive health. This is why it is so important to first research any new viral health trend and find out whether it can cause harm to you before you blindly go ahead with it.

Adverse Effect of ‘Healthy Coke’ On Your Teeth

In the original video that went viral, the TikToker Amanda Jones can be heard saying that this ‘healthy coke’ tastes just like ‘Coke.’ While she never expected her ‘fun’ video to go viral and become a big deal, people actually ended up getting quite worked up over the comparison and drinking such a weird mixture.(3)

After the video went viral, it forced the American Dental Association (ADA) to release a statement and released a new study that showed how this type of drink leads to wear and tear on the teeth.(4, 5) According to the association, their research found that acids present in sugar-free beverages can cause erosion to the tooth enamel. And a recipe that mixes balsamic vinegar with flavored sparkling water to create a so-called healthy drink should definitely not be consumed without researching on the effects of these ingredients.

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This new study was published in the JADA Foundational Science Journal, and it looked at how non-carbonated bottled water, regular sparkling water, and even flavored sparkling water can cause erosion of the teeth.(6) The research team soaked human teeth that had been extracted recently in seven types of different sugar-free drinks, one in soda that contained sugar, in order to have a point of comparison. The researchers soaked the teeth in these solutions for 24 hours. This time period was found to be equal to about one year’s worth of exposure to these different beverages for any average human being. The results found that the acids present in soda in combination with sugar and sugar-free beverages both caused erosion of the dental enamel.

The researchers found that it was not the type of sweetener but the acids contained in these beverages that led to the erosion of the dental enamel. Corrosion was discovered in the teeth that were soaked in flavored sparkling water, though it was of a lesser degree than what was observed in the sugar-free soda and sugar-containing drinks. Regular non-flavored and non-carbonated bottled waters were the only beverages that were found to cause no signs of erosion on the dental enamel.

When the researchers were asked about the effect of seltzer water and balsamic vinegar on the teeth, they disclosed that both seltzer water and balsamic vinegar are acidic. While seltzer water has a pH that varies between 3.5 to 5, balsamic vinegar has a pH between 2 to 3, depending on the brand. The neutral pH is 7, and demineralization of the dental enamel can take place when the pH falls below 5.5. The process of demineralization weakens the enamel of the teeth, which is the hard and shiny outer covering of teeth. This makes the teeth rougher and increases the possibility of developing cavities, gum disease, and plaque. So all this means is that consumers are only having a drink that is more acidic than if they were to have seltzer water alone.

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It is also essential to keep in mind that the impact of this kind of acidic drink on the dental enamel is also affected by the amount of time the teeth remain in contact with such a beverage. So if you drink this ‘healthy coke’ quickly or you sip it for over an hour, the longer the contact with the drink, the more will be the adverse effect on the enamel.

Are There Any Nutrients in ‘Healthy Coke’?

From a nutrition point of view, ‘healthy coke’ is not really any different from having balsamic vinegar as a dressing on your salad or from drinking sparkling water. However, it is still better to have balsamic vinegar in your salad instead of adding it to make a beverage.

In fact, there could be some digestive concerns associated with this drink since it might actually be harmful to those who suffer from acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).(7, 8, 9)

Furthermore, it can also adversely affect those who have heartburn or heartburn caused by pregnancy. Certain foods and drinks that are very acidic in nature can cause irritation to the esophagus and the stomach, which could be a problem for people who have a history of heartburn.

When it comes to the nutritional benefits, some high-quality balsamic vinegar may contain antioxidants, which are beneficial for the heart and also your skin. Some brands or types of balsamic vinegar may contain more added sugars than others, which is why it is essential to read the nutrition label before buying. It is also important to remember that balsamic vinegar is not entirely calorie-free. It contains calories from carbohydrates and comes to around 14 calories per tablespoon. However, buying this type of high-quality balsamic vinegar will prove to be expensive, and with the rising food costs, your bill will quickly pile up if you keep adding high-quality balsamic vinegar every time you drink sparkling water.(10, 11)

Conclusion: Are There Some Better Alternatives To ‘healthy coke’?

It is necessary to understand that ‘healthy coke’ is not healthy at all. If you want a healthier alternative to carbonated drinks, any type of fruit juice or simple sparkling water will provide you with a similar flavor profile without the harmful effects of fizzy drinks. The best option is, of course, just plain water.(12)

Adding any type of acid, like vinegar, to a calorie-free, flavored carbonated beverage will give a similar flavor to regular soda or Coke. However, this is not healthy. This is why before trying any of these viral trends like ‘healthy coke,’ you should do your research properly. Be an educated consumer. Don’t follow trends blindly.

It is also a good idea to check out the pH level of the drink you are about to have. Since seltzer water has varying pH levels depending on the brand, you should choose one that is the closest to the neutral pH of 7.

While these viral videos might have been made with good intentions, but it is not necessary that they will be appropriate for everyone. It is, therefore, important to be careful before jumping onto the next food and beverage hack or trend.

References:

  1. Giudici, P., Gullo, M. and Solieri, L., 2009. Traditional balsamic vinegar. In Vinegars of the World (pp. 157-177). Springer, Milano.
  2. Smith, K.N., 2021. Add Nuts to Your Diet; Is Seltzer Water Healthy?. Environmental Nutrition, 44(11), pp.2-3.
  3. Anon, Amanda Jones on Tiktok. TikTok. Available at: https://www.tiktok.com/@mandyvjones/video/7106302944194071851 [Accessed September 30, 2022].
  4. Anon, TikToks alternative soda trend could be tough on teeth. TikTok’s Alternative Soda Trend Could Be Tough on Teeth | American Dental Association. Available at: https://www.ada.org/about/press-releases/tiktoks-alternative-soda-trend-could-be-tough-on-teeth [Accessed September 30, 2022].
  5. Anderson, S., Gonzalez, L.A., Jasbi, P. and Johnston, C.S., 2021. Evidence that daily vinegar ingestion may contribute to erosive tooth wear in adults. Journal of medicinal food, 24(8), pp.894-896.
  6. Eckhart, S.D., Brewster, J.A. and Curtis, D.C., 2022. The erosive potential of sugar-free waters on cervical dentin. JADA Foundational Science, 1, p.100009.
  7. Kahrilas, P.J., 2008. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. New england journal of medicine, 359(16), pp.1700-1707.
  8. Kahrilas, P.J., 1996. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. Jama, 276(12), pp.983-988.
  9. Katz, P.O., Gerson, L.B. and Vela, M.F., 2013. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology| ACG, 108(3), pp.308-328.
  10. Gullo, M., Caggia, C., De Vero, L. and Giudici, P., 2006. Characterization of acetic acid bacteria in “traditional balsamic vinegar”. International journal of food microbiology, 106(2), pp.209-212.
  11. Masino, F., Chinnici, F., Bendini, A., Montevecchi, G. and Antonelli, A., 2008. A study on relationships among chemical, physical, and qualitative assessment in traditional balsamic vinegar. Food chemistry, 106(1), pp.90-95.
  12. Madden, V., 2000. Nurtitional benefits of drinks. Nursing Standard (through 2013), 15(13-15), p.47.
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