This afternoon I made my weekly trip the grocery store to buy fruits and veggies, some milk and bread. I can never stick to the perimeter of the store, like all the health magazines I read suggest. So as I wandered through the aisles, I passed an end-cap stacked high with cases of Coke products on sale. I glance their way and had almost passed them, when I stopped my cart (or buggy if you prefer) abruptly and backed up, almost running over a tiny lady with an armful of cereal boxes.
I apologized profusely and then turned my attention back to the item that had halted me. "Diet Coke *plus," the box said, the "plus" spelled out in pretty rainbow letters. Now, I'm a big Diet Coke fan, so I of course read on. It turns out that the newest Diet Coke incarnation contains vitamins B3, B6, and B12, plus zinc and magnesium. Does anyone else find this a bit confusing?
In the Diet Coke Plus press release, senior vice president of Coca-Cola North America, Katie Bayne, made this statement:
"Consumers, including Diet Coke drinkers, are increasingly looking for more beverage options, and we wanted to offer them the convenience of a calorie-free beverage that is a good source of several essential vitamins and minerals, and one that delivers on the great taste that they have come to expect from us."By good source, Ms. Bayne means that an 8-oz. serving of Diet Coke Plus provides 15% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of the B vitamins mentioned above, and 10% of the RDA of zinc and magnesium. I'm not impressed. Yes, most of us could stand to increase our vitamin and mineral intake. And yes, many soda drinkers have other unhealthy habits that keep them from getting the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of most vitamins and minerals. So why not help them out by adding some nutrition to their Diet Coke, right? But I'm not convinced that "fortifying" soda, which is otherwise nutrition-less, is a good idea.
I think that touting Diet Coke Plus as a "good source" of vitamins and minerals will give consumers a false sense of the health benefits of drinking the product. Yes, drinking several cans of Diet Coke Plus a day is probably better than drinking the same number of cans of regular Diet Coke or other diet soda, if you're not getting your vitamins from elsewhere. But honestly, I think it's just another poor imitation of nutritious. It's one thing to fortify our cereals, which tend to contain other healthy ingredients like fiber, but adding vitamins to soda? I just don't get it. Then again, a lot of people buy Vitamin Water, and that's the same thing--vitamins and minerals added to water, a basically nutrition-less beverage. But water doesn't start out with added colors, natural flavors, preservatives, and caffeine like many sodas, including Diet Coke. So, while I'll continue to drink the occasional Diet Coke, I doubt I'll be picking up a Diet Coke Plus anytime soon. I'd rather get my vitamins and minerals from the place nature intended – a good old-fashioned multi-vitamin.