Anatomy of a Diet Coke

diet coke ingredients

So a client and I were talking in our session the other day and he brought up how much diet coke his mother consumed in a day. Now she was starting to notice some health concerns, he was curious on if it was related to her addiction. Well I don’t know enough about her and her diet so I really couldn’t give an educated opinion but it lead me to think of how many people I run into that drink a TON of this stuff. So I wanted to break down what really was in diet coke and let you guys decide if you wanted anymore of it or not.

This is not a chemistry session, I simply just looked up the ingredients and did some web surfing. No fancy PI ninja tactics or cool formatting here, just telling it like it is.

Ingredients as read off the back of a can of diet soda:

Carbonated water: water into which carbon dioxide gas under pressure has been dissolved, a process that causes the water to become effervescent. Think club soda or sparkling water


Aspartame – artificial sweetener (nasty stuff)

  • Upon ingestion, aspartame breaks down into natural residual components, including aspartic acidphenylalaninemethanol, and further breakdown products including formaldehyde and formic acid
  • Aspartic Acid – amino acid
  • Phenaylalanine – amino acid
  • Methanol – (sometimes called wood alcohol) also used in antifreeze/highly toxic. Great let me just go drink that stuff.
    • Formaldehyde – an embalming agent (see side note below)
    • Formic Acid – Occurs naturally in the venom of bees (I’m serious about that), used as a preservative, used in leather tanning (like we need any more skin problems), also used for lime scale removal and toilet bowl cleaner (hehe potty mouth)

Crazy Side Note: I remember reading a book where they had an interview of several morticians (funeral directors) and the morticians noted that bodies were not breaking down near as fast or the same as they were 20+ years ago. This was due to the high levels of preservatives that the average American was consuming!

Potassium Benzoate – preservative (“is not recommended for consumption by children”, seriously it says that!), also makes the “whistle” in fireworks… really? If combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin c) may make benzene

  • Benzene is what gives gas its octane rating (very flammable stuff) and is rated as a carcinogen or cancer causing agent.

Phosphoric acid – preservative, tangy taste to the soda

  • Used in Rust Removal… seriously?
  • Been connected to bone loss, eats away at tooth enamel, kidney stones.

Citric Acid – Preservative, used to give some foods a ‘acidic’ taste

Caffeine – yum! 😉  I’ll rant about caffeine later.

Carmel color – Food coloring that also acts as a preservative and its also been labeled as a carcinogen. Like we need more.

Natural flavors – This one was a bit harder to come by so here is what I pulled up.

The exact definition of natural flavorings & flavors from 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.

In other words, natural flavors can be pretty much ANYTHING approved for use in food. Why do they do this? To keep their exact formulas secret so no one else can copy what they are doing. All about the $$$

Some other crazy things I found

  • I have a client who was an EMT and she told me that when they came upon a bloody seen they used this stuff to clean the blood and gore off the highway. Now that’s some potent material that can clean up and disinfect a highway!
  • Distributors bring the box of concentrated syrup for commercial distributions must have a chemical hazard sign for corrosive liquid on their truck due to the high level of acid
  • Chemical themselves are the lesser of two evils here, whats really gnarly is what the chemicals break down to and what else they are combined with when you eat. Even chemists will tell you that essentially its a chemical experiment when you ingest this with other foods that contain preservatives so no one really knows whats going to happen.


My take on thisdiet coke ingredients

You would think after reading this a trainer would absolutely hate this stuff, I’ll say that I’m most certainly not a fan but neither do I dislike it. We all know that major companies are profit driven and will continue to produce these experiments as long as there is a demand for it, it’s a business.

Should you not drink it? Well in the long run I would recommend it but in my opinion having one on a occasion, especially if you’re an addict, is NOT ok but you’ll survive 😉

Too many people get all doomsdayer on products such as this claiming that this will be the end all of your life and society as we know it. Those people have too much time on their hands. The human body is very resilient; I mean it has to be to have survived all these millennia so a diet coke on occasion won’t wipe out the human like a zombie apocalypse.

For some of those that may be reading this thinking, “Phew, I can have it on occasion and be ok” Well maybe you can but honestly with all the other crap we get subjected to how resilient do we really want our bodies to become? Hey I admit it that even I have a diet soda on occasion so I’m no saint in that department, but we’ve already seen plenty of cancers and other mutated physiological disorders come about from us constantly demand that our bodies be resilient to our subjected bombardments do you really want to risk more?

If you do that’s your call


Let me know what you think


1) Wikipedia contributors. “Aspartame.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 Apr. 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.



In Health and Fitness,

Travis Merritt




Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, CES, RBT is the owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.

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