What is in Coke Zero

by humagaia

Ingredients of Coke Zero, their proportions and differences between countries, and the effects they could have on health.

'Coke Zero' is a product of the Coca Cola Company. As for all manufactured food products Coca Cola Company is obliged to place details of the ingredients contained in it's products on the container. We can all read the product list, but do we know exactly what the ingredients are, from a chemical make-up or effect point of view? This article completes the list of ingredients; gives an explanation about them; and explains the function and effects of each component.

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Reason for this Article

My Research

This article is not an advertisement for, nor a witch-hunt against, The Coca Cola Company or Coke Zero itself. It is written by a diabetic who uses the product and wanted to know what he was drinking and whether it was beneficial, unwise or dangerous so to do. I have no axe to grind and I will not give my opinion at the end. I take the knowledge I have gained and compared it to my situation. Now that I am sharing this information with you, you can compare it with your situation.

Coke Zero vs Coke


Coke Zero Ingredients

The Coca Cola Company lists and includes different ingredients in Coke Zero and on it's packaging, in different countries. If you drink Coke Zero in one country you may be drinking a slightly different product to that supplied in another country. It may be prudent, if you have a particular medical condition to check the list of ingredient's.

Here I have tried to bring together all of the information I have learned, in one place. I cannot guarantee that all ingredients are included as Coca Cola, the drink, has a Trade Secret. There may be essences that create the taste that are not available for dissemination.

The ingredients, in no particular order, are:

  1. Water - in all versions of Coke Zero. I will not dwell on this ingredient.
  2. Carbonic Acid - in all versions of Coke Zero. See Chapter below.
  3. Caffeine - C8H10N4O2. In all versions of Coke Zero. See Chapter below.
  4. Flavour - natural flavours. In all versions of Coke Zero. I will not dwell on these as the information on particular natural flavours is not available.
  5. Sulphite ammonia caramel (acid proof caramel, soft-drink caramel) - E150d. In all versions of the product. See Chapter below.
  6. Sodium benzoate - E211 - NaC6H5CO2. Only in versions for: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, See Chapter below.
  7. Potassium benzoate - E212 - C7H5KO2. Only in US versions. See Chapter below.
  8. Sodium citrate - E331 - Na3C6H5O7. Not in US version. See Chapter below.
  9. Potassium citrate - E332 - C6H5K3O7. Only in US versions. See Chapter below.
  10. Phosphoric acid or Orthophosphoric acid - E338 - H3PO4. In all versions of the product. See Chapter below.
  11. Acesulfame potassium - E950 - Acesulfame K or Ace K - C4H4KNO4S. In all versions of the product. See Chapter below.
  12. Aspartame - E951 - APM - C14H18N2O5. In all versions of the product. See Chapter below.
  13. Sodium cyclamate - E952 - aka Cyclamate - C6H12NNaO3S. Only in versions for: Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey. See Chapter below.
  14. Sucralose (Trichlorgalactosucrose) - E955 - C12H19Cl3O8. Only in China version. See Chapter below.

Carbonic Acid

Carbonic Acid - H2CO3 under pressure, as indicated by the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) when the pressure is released

  • Aqueous carbonic acid is included in Coke Zero by pressured introduction
  • On release of pressure it converts to CO2.
  • There is very little actual carbonic acid required to produce carbon dioxide on release of pressure.
  • The slightly burning sensation that you usually attribute to the bubbles is in fact a combination of phosphoric acid and carbonic acid
  • Carbonic acid is involved in the most important pH buffer system in blood. This mechanism controls blood pH, which in turn guards against sudden shifts in acidity and alkalinity. Whether there is sufficient present in normally ingested quantities of Coke Zero to cause an imbalance in this pH mechanism is unlikely.

Carbonic Acid



Caffeine - C8H10N4O2.

  • Flavouring ingredient of Coke Zero, with a bitter taste
  • In Coca Cola and related soft drinks it was originally from the kola nut but is now replaced by artificial ingredients
  • A psychoactive stimulant drug
  • In humans it is a central nervous system stimulant alleviating drowsiness and increasing alertness.
  • FDA classifies caffeine as 'generally recognised as safe food substance'.
  • Caffeine can be a diuretic. Regular use reduces it's effectiveness in this respect.
  • It increases the production of stomach acid.
  • Caffeine relaxes the internal anal sphincter muscles so should be avoided by those experiencing loose stools.
  • It's effectiveness in acting as a stimulant is reduced with use and this tolerant reaction can cause withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can show as headaches, nausea, irritability, fatigue, drowsiness, insomnia, an inability to concentrate and pain in the stomach and joints. Aspirin can relieve the pain.
  • Excessive amounts of caffeine over a long period can cause caffeinism.
  • Caffeine intoxication can occur with high doses (excess of 300 mg)
  • Extreme overdose can cause death
  • Caffeine induced sleep disorder and caffeine-induced anxiety disorder can occur with long-term excessive caffeine intake.
  • There is also evidence that it can induce changes to memory and learning.
  • Children experience the same effects as adults. One study has shown links to hyperactivity.
  • A recent study has shown that pregnant women consuming at least 200mg / day have double the chance of miscarriage, but the results have been disputed. The UK Standards Agency recommends that pregnant women consume less than the amount stated. This equates to about 2 cups of coffee a day.
  • Another study has shown that there could be a genetic correlation between having a particular gene and metabolising caffeine slowly. Slow metabolism may cause a higher risk of myocardial infarction. Those that metabolise faster may see a preventative effect of caffeine on this condition.
  • Caffeine consumption has recently been suggested to exacerbate open angle glaucoma.
  • Caffeine is less safe for certain species of animals e.g. dogs and horses.


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Sulphite Ammonia Caramel (E150d)

Sulphite ammonia caramel (acid proof caramel, soft-drink caramel) - E150d

  • Soluble food colouring, colour ranging from pale yellow to dark brown.
  • Produced by heat treatment of carbohydrates.
  • It has a bitter burnt-sugar taste.
  • It is very common and widely used in industrially produced food.
  • The ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) is recommended by JECFA as 0-200 mg / kg of body weight. This means that for a person, in total from all sources, of:
  1. 30 kilo / 5 stone = 0 to 6 grams / 0 to 0.2 oz.
  2. 60 kilo / 10 stone = 0 to 12 grams / 0 to 0.4 oz
  3. 100 kilo / 16 stone = 0 to 20 grams / 0 to 0.7 oz
  • The USFDA classifies it as exempt from certification.
  • The IPCS has found no evidence of carcinogenicity or mutagenicity in this ingredient.
  • It is essentially sterile.
  • If produced from genetically modified vegetable matter then there is a possibility that it will contain genetically-modified material.

Potassium Benzoate (E212)

Potassium benzoate - E212 - C7H5KO2

  • Only in US versions.
  • Preservative that inhibits the growth of mould, yeast and some bacteria.
  • Potassium salt of benzoic acid.
  • Approved for food use in US, UK, EU, Canada and most other countries
  • In the EU it is not recommended for consumption by children
  • See sodium benzoate, E211, above for suggested issues regarding DNA damage and ADHD; what is being done by The Coca Cola Company and the links between E211 / E212 and various colorants. Also, the possible implications of mixing E212 with Vitamin C.
  • The Food Commission, in the UK, have described E212 as 'mildly irritant to the skin, eyes and mucous membrane'.
  • E212 should not be given to animals as it has been found that cats and rodents have a low tolerance.

Potassium Benzoate

The substance you've never heard of

Sodium Benzoate (E211)

Sodium benzoate - E211 - NaC6H5CO2

  • Only in versions for: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey,
  • Preservative that is bacteriostatic and fungistatic
  • Produced by neutralisation of benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide
  • Do not mix with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300) as it does form benzene, a known carcinogen, but would be below the levels considered dangerous.
  • It has been claimed that E211 by itself can damage parts of DNA in cell mitochondria. If proven it could have an effect on the ageing process, neurodegenerative diseases and Parkinson's Disease.
  • It has also been suggested that consumption of certain mixtures of artificial food colours and sodium benzoate preservative are associated with increases in hyperactive (ADHD) behaviour in children.
  • In response to these links to DNA damage and ADHD and on consumer insistence on a more natural product than E211, the Coca Cola Company is in the process of phasing Sodium Benzoate out of Diet Coke. The company has stated that removal of E211 from Sprite, Fanta, and Oasis will take place as soon as a satisfactory alternative is discovered. No mention can be found for Coke Zero.
  • It should be noted that E150d, the colourant present in Coke Zero was not one of the colourants included in tests that came to the above suggestion. The colourants present in the test were:Sunset yellow (E110), Tartrazine (E102), Quinoline yellow (E104), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and Allura red (E129), in groups. The results of the tests were inconclusive and it was thought that there may be a link between E211 in combination with one or more of the colourants.
  • E211 should not be given to animals as it has been found that cats and rodents have a low tolerance.

Sodium Benzoate

Is Sodium Benzoate harmful?

Sodium Citrate (E331)

Sodium citrate - E331 - Na3C6H5O7

  • Not in US version.
  • A food additive used as acidity regulator and flavouring
  • It has a tart, citrus taste
  • As an acidity regulator it is a buffering agent that resists changes to pH.
  • Tri-sodium citrate (E331) is used as an anticoagulant in blood transfusions. It is not suggested here that it would have any effect on blood coagulation when ingested in a fizzy drink.
  • It has been reported that it can improve running performance.
  • It is also used to relieve urinary tract infection discomfort.
  • It is used as an antacid, reducing risks associated with the drawing out of gastric juices, especially prior to caesarian section anaesthesia.

Tri-Sodium Citrate

Potassium Citrate (E332)

Potassium citrate - E332 - C6H5K3O7

  • Only in US versions.
  • Acidity regulator and buffering agent (adjusts pH)
  • Salty tasting
  • It is rapidly absorbed when taken orally and is secreted in the urine as a carbohydrate.
  • Reduces pain and frequency of urination caused by acidic urine
  • Used medically where a patient is hypokalaemic (hypokalemic) [low blood potassium]. 
  • It is used to treat gout and arrhythmia.
  • Medicinally it may be used to control kidney stones.

Potassium Citrate

Phosphoric Acid or Orthophosphoric Acid (E338)

Phosphoric acid or Orthophosphoric acid - E338 - H3PO4

  • In all versions of the product.
  • Provides acidity much more cheaply than using Citric acid
  • Tangy or sour, that gives the 'bite' taste
  • Studies have linked it to lower bone density in women with lower calcium-to-phosphorus ratios.
  • Pepsi funded tests that concluded that insufficient intake of phosphorus leads to lower bone density but the tests were not specifically using phosphoric acid.
  • A further study concluded that E338 consumed on it's own had no effect on calcium loss either with or without caffeine being present. The conclusion was that the calcium loss was due to the replacement effect it had on milk intake.
  • Preliminary medical research results associate chronic kidney disease and kidney stones with the consumption of Cola.
  • Phosphoric acid is used in dentistry as an etching agent, teeth whitening agent and as a plaque eliminator.
  • It is used as a pH regulator in cosmetics and skin-care products
  • It is used in anti-nausea medications

Phosphoric Acid

Side effects and uses

Acesulfame Potassium (E950)

Acesulfame potassium - E950 - Acesulfame K or Ace K -C4H4KNO4S

  • In all versions of the product.
  • Calorie-free artificial sweetener
  • It is marketed under the trade names Sunett and Sweet One
  • Around 200 times sweeter than table sugar, 1/2 as sweet as saccharin, 1/4 as sweet as sucralose and equal in sweetness to Aspartame.
  • It has a slightly bitter after-taste
  • It is blended with Aspartame in Coke Zero in order to mask each other's after-taste and to obtain a closer approximation to the taste of sugar.
  • USFDA approved
  • No evidence, although speculation, for carcinogenic properties
  • Research by National Toxicology Program has shown safe levels of consumption up to 3% in edible form.
  • Rodent studies (not human) have shown stimulation of dose-dependent insulin secretion, but no hyperglycaemia.

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Aspartame (E951)

Aspartame - E951 - APM - C14H18N2O5

  • In all versions of the product.
  • Artificial non-saccharide sweetener
  • USFDA approved in 1980 after much 'conflict of interests' controversy. EU-wide approval in 1994.
  • Research has found that people with mood disorders are particularly sensitive to Aspartame. It concludes that, for this group, its use should be discouraged.
  • Phenylalanine is a breakdown product of E951 so people with PKU (phenylketonuria - genetic condition) must avoid products containing E951.
  • Products sold in the US containing Aspartame must state 'Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine'.
  • In the UK the FSA (Food Standards Authority) requires that Aspartame is listed as a product ingredient and warns ' Contains a source of phenylalanine'.
  • Other breakdown products include aspartic acid, methanol, formaldehyde, formic acid and Aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperazine (DKP)
  • It is marketed under the trade names: Canderel, Nutrasweet, AminoSweet and Equal.
  • One of the main sugar substitutes used by people with Diabetes.
  • Sucralose is gradually substituting E951
  • Around 200 times sweeter than table sugar, 1/2 as sweet as saccharin, 1/4 as sweet as sucralose and equal in sweetness to Acesulfame potassium
  • Calorific value of 4 kcals / gram
  • Usually combined with Acesulfame potassium to create a more sugar-like taste.
  • Under elevated temperatures it may break down into it's constituent amino acids (hence the suggestion that Coke Zero is 'best served ice-cold')
  • It has been found that chronic intake of Aspartame significantly reduces (by 34%) leptin (plays a key role in inhibiting energy intake and expenditure - including appetite and metabolism). The absence of leptin leads to uncontrolled food intake with resulting obesity.
  • Recently researchers reported that mice with type 1 diabetes treated with leptin alone or in conjunction with insulin saw a lessening of blood sugar fluctuations, a lowering of cholesterol levels and a subsequent decrease in body fat, than mice with type 1 diabetes treated with insulin alone This raises the prospect of a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes.


Sodium Cyclamate (E952)

Sodium cyclamate - E952 - aka Cyclamate - C6H12NNaO3S

  • Only in versions for: Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Estonia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.
  • An artificial sweetener with a reported unpleasant after-taste
  • Trade names: Assugrin (Switzerland, Brazil), Sucaryl and SugarTwin (Canada)
  • It is 30-50 times sweeter than sugar and usually used in conjunction with other artificial sweeteners
  • Less expensive to create than other sweeteners.
  • A metabolite of sodium cyclamate, cyclohexylamine, was reported to pose some potentially serious health risks, including cancer, and was withdrawn for use in the United States and the UK. One study concluded that it would take a daily intake of 350 cans of carbonated drink to have an effect on humans.
  • From UK (http://cameochemicals.noaa.gov) sodium cyclamate as a chemical: symptoms of exposure include irritation of the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract, softness of the stools, diarrhoea, photosensitization and chromosomal changes and is considered a poison in "high" doses. Exposure for pregnant women has resulted in Down's syndrome and behavioural problems in the offspring. No direct evidence is cited to confirm or deny these postulations.
  • FDA banned the use of sodium cyclamate in the USA in 1969.
  • Approved extensively elsewhere.

Sucralose [Trichlorgalactosucrose] (E955)

Sucralose (Trichlorgalactosucrose) - E955 - C12H19Cl3O8

  • Only in China version.
  • A zero-calorie artificial sweetener
  • It is 600 times as sweet as sugar
  • It is heat-stable
  • Trade names: Splenda, SucraPlus, Candys and Cukren
  • It does not promote dental cavities
  • It is safe for diabetics
  • Approved or accepted by: USFDA (Food and Drug Administration), JFAO (Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation) / WHO (World Health Organisation), EU SCF (Scientific Committee on Food), HWC (Health and Welfare Canada - Health Protection Branch) and FSANZ (Food Standards Australia-New Zealand)
  • One of only two artificial sweeteners (other = Neotame - E961) ranked as 'safe' by CSPI (Center for Scientific and Public Interest).
  • CDA states that safe daily intake, over a lifetime, is 9 mg / kg / day.
  1. 30 kilo / 5 stone = 0.27 grams / 0 to 0.01 oz. equivalent to 6 oz of sugar a day
  2. 60 kilo / 10 stone = 0.54 grams / 0 to 0.02 oz equivalent to 12 oz (about 3/4 lb) sugar a day
  3. 100 kilo / 16 stone = 0.9 grams / 0 to 0.03 oz equivalent to over 1 lb of sugar a day
  • Most sucralose is excreted in faeces.


Healthy or Unhealthy?

Coke Zero

How Many Calories in Each Package

Calories = 0.2 to 0.5 kcal / 100 ml according tfrom where the can was bought.

  • 330 ml can = 2/3 to 1 2/3 kcal per can
  • 1 litre bottle = 2 to 5 kcal per bottle
  • 20 oz bottle = 1.1 to 2.85 kcal per bottle
Updated: 02/05/2021, humagaia
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