THE BLOG

Generation Zero

12/02/2015 10:33 GMT | Updated 13/04/2015 10:59 BST

Are we becoming a generation of zero calorie junkies? As the obesity epidemic soars we are being bombarded with fat free and sugar free alternatives to supplement our old, destructive habits and this is usually combined with zero-calorie drinks too. So what? We all do it, what's the harm?

Unfortunately, very few of us read past the number of calories and carbohydrates; the problem lies beyond the zeroes. One of the major ingredients in a lot of these zero calorie drinks is phosphoric acid, which could lead to kidney disease if taken in high doses. Phosphoric acid finds its way into most fizzy drinks, but other obscure culprits inside several zero-calorie drinks is Aspartame.

Although many of us see this artificial sweetener as a harmless additive that multiplies the flavour of sucrose, there are severe neurological problems Aspartame may cause. Some experts link Aspartame to headaches, migraines, heart palpitations, and seizures. Another artificial sugar found in a lower dosage in Coke Zero, Acesulfame Potassium (listed on the nutrition label as Acesulfame K), provides its share of side effects. Some studies show that Acesulfame Potassium causes tumors if used in heavy doses and too often.

Furthermore, the ingredients section on any Coke Zero product says, "Contains a source of phenylalanine." The scariest fact about Phenylalanine is how little we know about the risks. Studies show that some brain damage, behavioral disorders and emotional disorders stem from combining Phenylalanine and Aspartame. Phenylalanine poses a major risk to people with certain genetic disorders, especially Phenylketonuria, a disorder by which excess levels of Phenylalanine cause mutations to occur inside the body with adverse side effects.

Some sugared drinks do not try to hide their calories. Many of these add high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and honey to their recipes. However, most people are at least able to read and understand what they allow into their body. In the case of low-calorie and zero-calorie drinks, the supplements are not so easy to identify. High-fructose corn syrup is advertised as an additive that makes sugared drinks delicious and disgusting. However, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, and Phenylalanine are far from household names.

In the states, The Food and Drug Administration does approve companies to add each one of the previous supplements to their low-calorie and zero-calorie options, but their track record of approvals is not completely squeaky clean. In 2004, the markets pulled Vioxx, a prescription painkiller approved by the Food and Drug Administration, from pharmacy shelves because consumers experienced an increased number of heart attacks and strokes. It proves that the Food and Drug Administration has the tendency to approve products too quickly as they did for Aspartame in 1981.

Supplements exist to solve the weight problem because consumers refuse to read the fine print and fail to research what they put inside their bodies. These products are not only found in Coke Zero but several other zero-calorie and low-calorie drinks as well. This is the major reason why companies get away with adding these supplements without repercussions. In the end, calories are only part of the problem. Rather than losing weight, the uneducated populous replace one biological hazard for another. If a product contains no calories, think about what the manufacturer added to replace them.