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Colas, health and consumer choice

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For good health, a person needs to take 80 per cent alkaline food and 20 per cent acidic.

Chennai , Aug. 8

Do the cola drinks contain more than permissible levels of pesticides or not? The answer is irrelevant. There is a school of thought that cola drinks are no good-healthers anyway, pesticides or no pesticides.

"The controversy is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that the cola drinks are to be avoided," says Dr C.H. Krishnamurthy Rao, a Ph.D in chemical engineering from BITS, Pilani, who isthe Chairman and Managing Director, Chemfab Alkalies.

Highly acidic

It is no secret that the cola drinks (indeed, all soft drinks) are highly acidic.

Acidity in substances is measured by `pH (power of hydrogen) value'. If pH value is less than 7, the substance is acidic. More than 7 is alkaline.

pH value of cola drinks is 2.5 — they are highly acidic. This is because of acids such as carbonic acid, phosphoric acid and citric acid.

"The secret of healthy life is maintaining pH balance," says Dr Rao. For good health, a person needs to take 80 per cent alkaline food and 20 per cent acidic.

Higher acidity will lead to obesity, high blood pressure and kidney problems.

So, why drink cola drinks? Nobody denies that these soft drinks have no nutrituional value whatsoever. There is also no dispute over whether or not they are acidic. It is in the effect of the acidity that there are different views. While Coca-Cola and Pepsi say that the acidity levels are not harmful, others say they are.

It has been reported that the TV programme Mythbusters (that comes also on Discovery channel) once showed that cola could be used as an agent to clean floors of any spilled blood.

Another UK-based TV programme, Brainiac: Science Abuse, once tested the theory that the acids in cola drinks eat into bones and teeth leading to osteoporosis, (a disease which causes loss of bone density) something that Coca-Cola denies. The test left a tooth in a bottle of cola for a period of a night.

The next day, the tooth was not dissolved but had acquired a black stain. Critics have responded to this test saying that the tooth would have been dissolved if left in the bottle for a week or so.

The name Coca-Cola itself comes from Coca for Coca leaves used in preparation of the concentrate, the same leaves from which cocaine is extracted.

However, the leaves used in making the concentrate are those out of which cocaine has been already extracted. Still, some small traces of the cocaine alkaloids remain in the drink. `Cola' stands for Kola nuts used to flavour the beverage, a source of caffeine. "Scientific evidence does not support any relationship between caffeine and health problems," notes the Coca-Cola company's Web site. While the cocaine alkaloids or the caffeine may not be toxic, they do help create an addiction to the drink.

But do you not drink coffee or tea? Or alcohols or smoke cigarettes which are undisputedly harmful for health?

Ultimately, it is a matter of individual choice. Drink the colas knowing what they are and what they do — it is a matter of consumer choice.

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