Happy Calories or Fattening Calories?

Happy Calories? Or Fattening Calories?
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One of my clients pointed out to me last week after my blog post on Water vs. Cola that the new Coca-Cola advert gives consumers guidance on what activities they can do to  help ‘burn off’ the 139 calories they’re consuming when they drink a can of Coca-Cola!

It suggests things like waking your dog for 25 minutes, dancing for 10 minutes, laughing for 75 seconds or celebrating a bowling win as suitable activities to burn those 139 calories.

In case you’ve not seen the advert you can catch it here…

It’s great that Coca-Cola are addressing obesity with their new advert but the problem I have with it is it doesn’t show just what affect those 139 calories have on your body!

First of all I need to get across the point all calories are not created equally! The affect 139 calories of Coca-Cola or indeed any similar product has on your body is vastly different to say the affect 139 calories of chicken and broccoli.

So what is a Calorie anyway?

We hear the word calorie day in and day out where diet and exercise is concerned, but in reality what exactly is a calorie? Well the technical definition is “the amount of energy it takes to raise 1g of water by 1 degree centigrade” basically scientists burn a piece of food in an oxygen rich environment in a device called a ‘bomb calorimeter’ they then measure the temperature rise of the water in the calorimeter, do a little bit of maths and come up with the calorie value for that piece of food! I remember doing this back in A Level science, can’t remember now if it was Biology or Physics but anyway we used a piece of kit that looked a lot like this…

 Simple Calorimiter

The thing is, it’s one thing to measure the amount of energy burning a bit of food in a lab produces but that doesn’t really tell us just what’s done with that food in the body – I mean your body’s a lot more complicated than that calorimeter right?!?

What the process of determining the calorie content of food doesn’t take into account is the digestive processes in the human body and how it deals with the carbohydrates, proteins and fats within the food. You see the body processes each of these in a very different way, for example 139 calories of chocolate or a sugary soft drink – both which are mainly made up of simple carbohydrates (sugars) are processed in a very different way to 139 calories of chicken and broccoli which is mainly protein and starchy carbohydrate.


So enough of that, let’s take a look at what happens in your body when you drink a can of pop

I found this description a little while ago (so can’t credit the source); but it shows just what happens in your body when you consume a can of a sugar sweetened soft drink…

  • Within the first 10 minutes up to 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your digestive system (yes that’s how much some brands contain!). You’d immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness but the phosphoric acid cuts the flavour down allowing you to keep it down!
  • 20 minutes in and you’re blood sugar levels spike through absorption of all of that sugar. This causes an insulin release after which your liver responds and turns any sugar it can get its hands on into fat just to get it out of your bloodstream
  • 40 minutes in and caffeine (yes another ingredient) absorption is just about complete. Your pupils dilate, blood pressure rises and as a response your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain start to become blocked preventing drowsiness.
  • 45 minutes in and your body increases your dopamine (a neurotransmitter) production which in turn stimulates the pleasure centres of your brain – in physically the same way heroin works!

It doesn’t just stop there…

Research published last year by Bangor University has shown that regularly drinking sugar sweetened soft drinks can increase fat gain, inhibit fat metabolism, and increases blood glucose in your body. It proved that regularly drinking soft drinks changes the way our muscles use food as fuel, making them prefer to burn sugars over fats.  The research also showed that these changes are lasting and are similar to those found in people with obesity problems and type 2 diabetes!

Worse than that, if you were to drink a can of drink one can of a popular brand each day, over the course of the year you’ll have consumed fifteen, yes 15kg of sugar!

So if you’re thirsty and think of reaching for a sugary soft drink- don’t – it can compromise your long-term health.

Still think those are ‘Happy Calories?’ Just saying!




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Marti Whitaker, EzineArticles Basic Author