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Is Cherry Coke Zero Bad For You?

Also Known As: Cherry Coca-Cola Zero



Short answer

Cherry Coke Zero, which contains artificial sweeteners like aspartame and Ace-K, can be a low-calorie alternative but may have varied health impacts. Occasional consumption is likely safe but overconsumption may affect metabolic health, dental health, cause cravings, and impact insulin response. It also has ingredients like phosphoric acid and caramel color that pose potential health risks. Moderation and awareness of these potential risks are essential for consumers.



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Long answer

Artificial Sweeteners in Cherry Coke Zero: Health Impact

When discussing Cherry Coke Zero, a significant component to consider is its use of artificial sweeteners as a substitute for sugar. These sweeteners provide the sweetness we crave without the added calories, which on the surface seems beneficial for those monitoring their caloric intake. However, the health impact of these synthetic sweeteners remains a topic of debate within the nutritional science community.

The main artificial sweeteners used in Cherry Coke Zero are aspartame and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K). Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners and has been extensively studied for its safety and potential health effects.

  • Aspartame: Composed of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. It's considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when consumed within the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. However, it should be noted that individuals with phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic condition, must avoid aspartame as they cannot metabolize phenylalanine.
  • Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K): Another calorie-free sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Ace-K has been declared safe by the FDA at an ADI of 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. While Ace-K has not been linked to any serious health conditions in humans, some animal studies have raised concerns over its potential long-term impact.

Both sweeteners undergo extensive metabolism and excretion processes in the body, and their breakdown products are generally recognized as safe.

The debate around artificial sweeteners often revolves around their impact on weight management, metabolic health, and their potential to cause sweet cravings. Some research shows that consuming artificially sweetened beverages may not be effective in weight loss and could potentially lead to weight gain by triggering appetite and a preference for sweet flavors. Conversely, other studies have suggested that replacing sugary drinks with their artificially sweetened counterparts can lead to a modest weight reduction.

Moreover, research around the metabolic effects of artificial sweeteners is ongoing. Early studies have indicated a possible association between regular consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

More recent studies have explored how artificial sweeteners may interact with the gut microbiota, which is known to play a crucial role in our overall health. Some evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners could alter the gut bacteria in ways that affect glucose metabolism, yet the long-term consequences of this remain an area of active research.

In conclusion, while artificial sweeteners like those found in Cherry Coke Zero offer a low-calorie alternative to sugar, their health impact can vary depending on individual metabolic responses, existing health conditions, and dietary patterns. As with any food or beverage consumed in excess, moderation is key, and consumers should be mindful of their total daily intake of these substances.

Notably, reputable global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and American Heart Association (AHA), recognize the short-term benefits of artificial sweeteners in calorie reduction and endorse their cautious use amidst calls for more long-term research. Ultimately, individuals should make informed choices about artificial sweeteners based on their personal health profiles and the latest scientific evidence.

Caramel Color: Safety and Health Concerns

Caramel color is a common food additive used in the beverage industry, primarily for aesthetic purposes, to give drinks like Cherry Coke Zero their distinctive hue. While it makes for an appealing appearance, there are safety and health concerns associated with caramel coloring that consumers should be aware of.

The type of caramel color used in sodas, including Cherry Coke Zero, is often “Class IV” or “Sulphite Ammonia Caramel.” The manufacturing process for this class involves the use of ammonium compounds, which can lead to the formation of contaminants such as 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI).

  • Cancer Risk: Studies have shown that high levels of 4-MEI can lead to cancer in animals. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified 4-MEI as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" (Group 2B). This classification suggests that there is some evidence of carcinogenicity but it is not yet conclusive in humans. A study by the American Chemical Society (2015) found varying levels of 4-MEI in different samples of soda drinks.
  • Regulatory Standards: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set no specific limit for 4-MEI in foods or beverages, although they do monitor the levels in products and evaluate consumer exposure. Conversely, California's Proposition 65 has set a benchmark for 4-MEI, with products containing more than 29 micrograms required to carry a warning label.
  • Consumer Awareness: The awareness of potential health risks associated with caramel color has led some consumers to seek alternatives. There are petitions and pressure groups urging companies to reduce the levels of 4-MEI in their products or to find safer coloring alternatives.

Beyond the risk of carcinogenic contaminants, caramel coloring has minimal nutritional value and does not contribute to the nutritional profile of the drink in any beneficial way.

While the occasional consumption of Cherry Coke Zero with caramel coloring is unlikely to pose a significant health risk, regular and long-term consumption may raise concerns, particularly considering the cumulative effect of 4-MEI over time. It is recommended that individuals who consume caramel-colored beverages do so in moderation, and stay informed about further research into the implications of 4-MEI and other byproducts of caramel coloring.

It is worth noting that while we consider these potential risks, scientific opinions on the matter can vary and ongoing research continues to refine our understanding. As a health writer deeply invested in providing accurate and current information, it is essential to reconcile various perspectives and present a balanced view. As part of this commitment, further investigations and studies should continue to be monitored for the most up-to-date evaluations on caramel color's safety and related health concerns.

The Role of Phosphoric Acid in Cherry Coke Zero

When discussing the implications of consuming Cherry Coke Zero and similar diet sodas, it is crucial to explore the role of phosphoric acid, a common ingredient found within these beverages. Phosphoric acid is added to soda not only for its tangy flavor but also to enhance the shelf-life by inhibiting the growth of molds and bacteria. However, its inclusion in the daily diet should be approached with caution for the following reasons:

  • Effect on Bone Health: Some research has proposed a link between the consumption of phosphoric acid in sodas and the reduction of bone mineral density. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that cola beverages, in particular, may be associated with lower bone mineral density in women (Tucker et al., 2006). This has raised concerns about the potential risk of osteoporosis when consuming excessive amounts of soda containing phosphoric acid.
  • Impact on Kidney Health: There is also evidence to suggest that high intake of phosphoric acid may be related to the development of kidney stones and other kidney issues. The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology published a study indicating that consumption of two or more colas per day was associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease (Saldana et al., 2008).
  • Dental Erosion: Phosphoric acid can contribute to dental erosion due to its acidic nature. The Journal of the American Dental Association has noted that phosphoric acid in sodas leads to the demineralization of tooth enamel, increasing the risk of cavities and dental decay (ADA, 2003).
  • Altered Phosphate Levels: Excessive consumption of phosphate, particularly from additives like phosphoric acid, could lead to an imbalance in the body's phosphate levels. This may potentially disturb the delicate balance of minerals and lead to health issues, especially for individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions.

Despite these potential health concerns, phosphoric acid is deemed to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the United States Food and Drug Administration when consumed in moderation. However, it is essential to consider the cumulative intake of phosphates from all dietary sources, not just soda, to avoid possible negative health outcomes.

Moderation is key, and it's advisable for individuals to be mindful of their overall consumption of foods and drinks containing phosphoric acid. It's also worth noting that Cherry Coke Zero may include other ingredients that could pose additional health risks or benefits, therefore a holistic approach should be taken when evaluating its safety and impact on one’s well-being.

Impact on Dental Health: Acidity and Tooth Enamel

The impact of Cherry Coke Zero on dental health primarily revolves around its acidity level, which is a pivotal factor in the potential erosion of tooth enamel. Tooth enamel, the hard, protective outer coating of our teeth, is highly vulnerable to acid. When the pH level in the mouth falls below 5.5, enamel starts to demineralize, leading to weakening and potential decay.

Cherry Coke Zero contains phosphoric acid and citric acid, common additives in soft drinks that serve as flavor enhancers and preservatives. The presence of these acids reduces the beverage's pH level, which can vary depending on formulation, but for most cola-type sodas, it typically ranges between 2.5 and 3.5. This means that Cherry Coke Zero is highly acidic and could contribute to enamel erosion if consumed in excess.

Research has pointed toward a relationship between soft drink consumption and dental erosion. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health indicated that regular consumption of carbonated soft drinks, including zero-calorie versions, could lead to significant enamel loss.

  • Phosphoric Acid: While it enhances the soda's flavor profile and extends shelf life, it contributes to enamel demineralization.
  • Citric Acid: Adds a tangy flavor but can soften and erode enamel over time.
  • Carbonation: The carbonation process creates carbonic acid, contributing marginally to the drink's overall acidity.

In addition to the type of acid, the frequency and manner of consumption also play a crucial role in the amount of damage inflicted on our teeth by acidic beverages. Sipping Cherry Coke Zero throughout the day keeps the teeth in constant contact with acid, not allowing saliva to rebalance pH levels and remineralize enamel effectively. The American Dental Association recommends limiting intake of acidic drinks and, when consuming them, to do so with meals to reduce exposure.

While the drink itself does not contain sugar, which is another leading cause of tooth decay, it's essential to acknowledge that sugar-free does not mean risk-free when it comes to dental health. People considering Cherry Coke Zero as a healthier alternative to regular soft drinks should still be aware of the potential threat to their enamel caused by the beverage's acidity.

It's advised to minimize the risk by drinking these beverages in moderation, using a straw to limit contact with teeth, and rinsing the mouth with water after consumption. Wait approximately 30 minutes before brushing teeth post-consumption to allow enamel to re-harden, as brushing too soon can cause additional damage to softened enamel.

Health-conscious individuals should be informed about these risks and consider them alongside the enjoyment of such beverages to maintain optimal dental health.

Cherry Coke Zero and Weight Management: Myths and Facts

The relationship between zero-calorie drinks like Cherry Coke Zero and weight management is complex and often laden with myths. Let's investigate the myths and facts to determine the role this beverage can play in a weight management strategy.

Myth: Zero-Calorie Drinks Cause Weight Gain

One prevalent myth is that zero-calorie sodas, such as Cherry Coke Zero, directly cause weight gain. The reality is that these beverages have no calories and therefore cannot directly contribute to weight gain in the way that high-calorie foods and drinks can. However, studies have shown mixed results, with some research suggesting that artificial sweeteners might stimulate appetite or lead to a preference for sweet foods, potentially increasing overall calorie intake. A review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2017 noted a potential link between non-nutritive sweeteners, including those found in zero-calorie drinks, and weight gain, but emphasized the need for more research.

Fact: Cherry Coke Zero Can Be a Tool for Reducing Caloric Intake

For individuals looking to decrease their daily calorie consumption without giving up soda, Cherry Coke Zero is an option as it contains zero calories. This can be particularly useful for those transitioning from regular Cherry Coke, which contains a significant amount of sugar and calories. The reduction in calorie intake could theoretically support weight loss efforts, as long as it is not compensated by consuming more calories from other sources.

Myth: Drinking Cherry Coke Zero Is an Effective Weight Management Strategy

Simply incorporating Cherry Coke Zero into one's diet without other nutritional and lifestyle modifications does not automatically lead to weight loss. Effective weight management requires a holistic approach, including regular physical activity and a balanced diet. While switching to lower-calorie beverages can play a role in a broader weight management strategy, it should not be relied upon solely for weight loss.

Fact: Artificial Sweeteners May Influence Taste Preferences

Artificial sweeteners in Cherry Coke Zero, such as aspartame, can be much sweeter than regular sugar. Consequently, regular consumption might alter taste preferences, making naturally sweet foods like fruits less appealing. This effect, suggested by some nutritional experts, could challenge long-term dietary choices and potentially disrupt a balanced diet important for weight management.

Myth: All Zero-Calorie Drinks Are Interchangeable for Weight Loss

While Cherry Coke Zero and other diet sodas are similar in that they are low in calories, they are not all identical in their compositions. Some may contain different sweeteners or additional ingredients that could impact blood sugar levels or gut health, which might indirectly affect weight management. Always check the ingredient list to better understand what you're consuming.

In conclusion, Cherry Coke Zero can be part of a weight management diet when used sensibly and as part of a comprehensive plan that includes physical activity and mindful eating. However, relying solely on the consumption of zero-calorie sodas is an oversimplified and potentially ineffective strategy for weight control. It is vital to remain informed and critical of how diet beverages fit into your overall nutritional goals.

Potential Effects on Metabolism and Insulin Sensitivity

While Cherry Coke Zero is a beverage that offers the sweet taste of cherries and cola without the sugar and calories, its impact on metabolism and insulin sensitivity is a topic of debate and research in the nutritional science community. Understanding these potential effects is critical for individuals who are concerned about their metabolic health and for those managing conditions like diabetes.

Artificial Sweeteners and Insulin Response:

Cherry Coke Zero contains artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame potassium to mimic the sweetness of sugar. Studies on artificial sweeteners have shown mixed results regarding their impact on insulin response. Some research suggests that artificial sweeteners can cause an increase in insulin levels similar to sugar, while others demonstrate minimal effects on blood glucose and insulin response.

  • A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that despite providing no calories, artificial sweeteners can trigger the release of insulin, potentially affecting insulin sensitivity over time.
  • Conversely, another study presented in Diabetes Care found that the consumption of low-calorie sweeteners in beverages had negligible effects on glycemic and insulinemic response in subjects.

Metabolic Adaptation:

The long-term consumption of zero-calorie sweetened beverages like Cherry Coke Zero may contribute to changes in metabolism. Some researchers speculate that regular exposure to sweet tastes without the associated increase in calories could confuse the body's metabolic processes, potentially leading to altered responses to real sugars in the diet.

  • Research from the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine suggests that artificial sweeteners, although they do not raise blood sugar levels, may alter the body's ability to regulate blood sugar effectively, impacting metabolism negatively in some cases.

Risks for Weight Gain and Obesity:

Despite being calorie-free, there is evidence suggesting that the consumption of beverages with artificial sweeteners could be associated with weight gain and a higher risk of obesity. This may be due in part to the effects these sweeteners have on metabolism and the body's ability to gauge calorie intake.

  • Findings from the San Antonio Heart Study pointed out an association between diet soda consumption and weight gain, although causality was not established.
  • Experts theorize that artificially sweetened beverages may lead to increased appetite or cravings for sweet, high-calorie foods, although consensus on this is still not unequivocal.

Influence on Gut Microbiota:

The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in metabolism and overall health. Some studies indicate that artificial sweeteners like those found in Cherry Coke Zero can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, potentially leading to metabolic issues.

  • A study in the journal Nature showed that artificial sweeteners could induce glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota in mice. While additional research is needed to fully understand these effects in humans, this study raises important questions about the impact of zero-calorie sweeteners on metabolic health.

While Cherry Coke Zero offers a no-sugar alternative for soda enthusiasts, its potential effects on metabolism and insulin sensitivity are complex and warrant cautious consideration, particularly for individuals with or at risk for metabolic disorders. It's important to consult healthcare professionals and keep up with ongoing research to make informed dietary choices.

Frequently asked questions

Natural alternatives to Cherry Coke Zero include water infused with fresh fruits like cherries or a splash of 100% cherry juice for flavor. Herbal teas and sparkling water with a dash of natural fruit juice can also provide a flavorful substitute without the potentially harmful effects of phosphoric acid and artificial sweeteners on bone and dental health. Always opt for unsweetened or naturally sweetened drinks to avoid added sugars and artificial additives.

While Cherry Coke Zero does not contain sugar, it includes artificial sweeteners that might influence insulin response and glycemic control. Studies have shown mixed results; some suggest artificial sweeteners could trigger an insulin response similar to sugar, while others indicate a negligible effect on blood sugar. Individuals with diabetes should consult their healthcare provider and consider continuous monitoring of their blood sugar levels when consuming products with artificial sweeteners.

Emerging research suggests that artificial sweeteners, such as those in Cherry Coke Zero, could impact the gut microbiome, potentially leading to altered glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. For example, a study published in 'Nature' indicated that artificial sweeteners might induce glucose intolerance by changing gut bacteria in mice. However, the long-term effects on human gut microbiota and metabolism are still under investigation and require further research.

To reduce dental erosion when drinking Cherry Coke Zero, it's recommended to limit consumption, use a straw to avoid direct contact with teeth, rinse the mouth with water after drinking, and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing teeth to allow enamel to re-harden. This strategy can help protect tooth enamel from the acidic components of the beverage, such as phosphoric acid and citric acid.

Ask a question about Cherry Coke Zero and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased appetite
  • sweet cravings
  • headache (aspartame-related)
  • phosphoric acid may reduce bone mineral density

Possible long-term side effects

  • potentially altered insulin response and glucose metabolism
  • possible weight gain and metabolic syndrome
  • risk of tooth enamel erosion
  • lower bone mineral density
  • increased risk of chronic kidney disease
  • possible disturbance in gut microbiota
  • potential increased cancer risk due to 4-mei

Ingredients to be aware of


  • low-calorie alternative to sugary drinks
  • can aid in reducing caloric intake when used wisely
  • temporary sweet craving satisfaction

Healthier alternatives

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Zevia Cherry Cola

  • Zero-calorie beverage
  • Sweetened naturally
  • No artificial colors
  • Cherry Cola flavor
  • 24-pack of 12oz cans
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-22-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-22-2024

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