Coca-Cola: Calories and Caffeine

John Stith Pemberton (January 8, 1831 - August 16, 1888), a Confederate veteran and American druggist, invented Coca-Cola in the spring of 1886. It was first sold to the public at the soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta on May 8, 1886 and the first advertisement appeared in The Atlanta Journal a few weeks later on May 29. Coca-Cola was initially sold as a medicinal drink and Pemberton claimed it cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence.

Originally, Coca-Cola contained about nine milligrams of cocaine per glass, but in 1903 it was removed. Kola nuts act as a flavoring and source of caffeine, but most of the caffeine (see structure) is now added. Coca-Cola now contains 46 mg of caffeine per 12 fluid ounces, about 4 mg per ounce, but some caffeinated drinks, such as energy drinks, contain much more. Today, products of the Coca Cola Company are consumed at the rate of more than one billion drinks per day. Coca-Cola, along with other caffeine-containing beverages, make caffeine the most widely consumed stimulant in the world.

In addition to caffeine, soft drinks are a huge source of sugar in the diet, contributing “empty” calories and worsening the obesity epidemic around the world. Excess body weight is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses. Governments have recently considered taxing soft drinks in part because of their contribution to disease, but thus far soft drinks remain untaxed. There is now a very large industry that promotes consumption of soft drinks, which in essence are calories and caffeine. Children as well as adults should be encouraged to consume nutritious drinks free of excessive calories and caffeine, as well as adequate amounts of water, to maintain a healthy weight and protect their health.