Wendyl Wants to Know: Coke and Pepsi face off an even match
Coca-Cola $2.75 for 1.5 litres vs Pepsi $2.15 for 1.5 litres.
There is no doubting Coca-Cola is the most popular drink in the world with their website claiming that 1.7 billion servings are consumed each day around the world. And then there is Pepsi.
Both are cola-flavoured drinks which are more than a hundred years old and compete vigorously with each other.
In New Zealand it is cheaper to buy a bottle of Coca-Cola or Pepsi than it is to buy milk, which is of concern to health professionals who advise that drinks like this should be limited when given to children.
Trends in beverage consumption among children and adolescents over the past few decades suggest the consumption of soft drinks is increasing and may be replacing more nutritious beverages such as milk and fruit juices.
In the United States, 12- to 19-year-old females have doubled, and males have tripled, their consumption of soft drinks and have reduced their consumption of milk by more than 40 per cent, according to a report by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.
One of this column's readers suggested I might like to analyse and compare the two cola drinks, so let's take a look at what is in both.
Ingredients (in order of greatest quantity):
Carbonated purified water - Coke
Carbonated water - Pepsi
As you would suspect, both products are made up mostly of water. Coke's water has been purified which means it has been treated to remove chemicals.
Cane sugar - Coke
Sugar - Pepsi
Both these drinks are extremely high in sugar.
For each 250ml serve you will consume 27g or 5.2 teaspoons by drinking Coke and 27.6g or 5.26 teaspoons by drinking Pepsi. That's a lot of sugar for a child to be swallowing in one glass.
It is well known that excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages can contribute to obesity and dental problems in children.
Colour (Caramel 150d) - Coke
Colour (150d) - Pepsi
This is a highly controversial colour also known as Caramel IV or sulphite ammonia caramel.
The colouring has nothing to do with caramel but is made out of reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulphites under high pressures and high temperatures.
Those reactions produce the chemicals 2- mehylimidazole and 4-mehylimidazole (4-MEI).
A recent article in Time magazine reported that the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington-based consumer watchdog group, has petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to ban this colouring on the grounds that the chemicals are carcinogenic.
A 2007 study by the National Toxicology Programme found "clear evidence" of lung tumours in mice.
The state of California has also concluded that 4-MEI is a carcinogen and is crafting regulations that may require food and drinks containing significant levels of the chemical to bear cancer warnings. Coke and Pepsi would easily be over this threshhold.
However the American Beverage Association insists that it is not a threat to human health, there is no evidence that it causes cancer in humans and a lawsuit has been filed to block efforts to list 4-MEI as a carcinogen.
Biochemist Fred Guengerich told ABC news there were arguments on both sides but a human being would have to drink more than 1000 cans a day to suffer the same effects as the mice.
Food Acid (338) - Coke
Food Acid (338) - Pepsi
This is phosphoric acid which is added in beverages as an acidulant which means it gives a sharp taste to soft drinks.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the phosphoric acid in cola drinks leads to lower bone density. However a study funded by Pepsi suggests the opposite - that insufficient intake of phosphorus leads to lower bone density.
And another study found no impact on calcium levels because of phosphoric acid and said that if there was a decrease in calcium it was more likely to be caused by people not drinking enough milk.
Flavour - Coke
Caffeine - Pepsi
It is interesting to see that caffeine is listed higher up the label in Pepsi than in Coke.
The label does not tell you how much caffeine is in each serve.
The flavour used by Coca-Cola is a trade secret but attempts over the years to deconstruct it have found that it is mainly made up of vanilla and cinnamon with other tastes such as lime, orange and lemon with spices such as nutmeg and coriander.
Flavours - Pepsi
Caffeine - Coke
Pepsi's flavour is also a trade secret but you can hazard a guess from the ingredients said to be in Coca-Cola's secret recipe.
Caffeine in Coke features lower down on the ingredients list. Like Pepsi it is impossible to tell how much is in each serve.
A note on saltOne glaring difference between Coke and Pepsi is in the sodium levels listed on the nutrition panel. Coke contains 25mg of sodium per 250ml serve compared to Pepsi's 8.8mg.
Researching these products took me on a journey to many studies which either blamed these drinks for obesity, calcium deficiency and cancer-causing chemicals or defended them.
Personally I take a "where there's smoke there's fire" approach to controversial ingredients and avoid them but you can make up your own mind on the information.
What is a certainty is that children and teenagers worldwide are drinking more soda drinks and less milk and fruit juice which provide valuable nutrients.
And every health professional will advise that these two drinks should be considered as occasional treat foods rather than as a regular feature in the diet.
If your child loves fizzy drinks then my advice is to buy a Sodastream and make your own using fruit juice or a fruit syrup as the flavouring to reduce sugar intake and avoid artificial colours, flavours and preservatives and increase the nutritional value.
* Wading through all the studies for and against the ingredients used in these products will exhaust even the most dedicated researcher.
* Both are extremely high in sugar but Pepsi is much lower in salt.
* The caramel IV colouring used in both is highly controversial at the moment.