Sugary drinks are considered a major contributor to health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. But have you ever wondered exactly what these beverages do to your body after consumption? One researcher has created an infographic that explains what happens to the body within an hour of drinking a can of Coca-Cola.

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A 12-ounce serving of Coca-cola contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around half of the US population drink sugary beverages on any given day, with consumption of these drinks highest among teenagers and young adults.

There are approximately 10 teaspoons of added sugar in a single can of cola. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily, meaning drinking just one serving of cola a day could take us well above these guidelines.

As such, it is no surprise that sugary drink consumption is associated with an array of health conditions. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people who drink 1-2 cans of sugary beverages daily are 26% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and last month, Medical News Today reported on a study claiming 184,000 global deaths each year are down to sugary drink consumption.

Now, an infographic created by British pharmacist Niraj Naik - based on research by health writer Wade Meredith - shows the damage a 330 ml can of Coca-Cola can do to the body within 1 hour of consumption.

Coca-Cola 'comparable to heroin' in how it stimulates the brain's reward and pleasure centers

According to Naik, the intense sweetness of Coca-Cola as a result of its high sugar content should make us vomit as soon as it enters the body. However, the phosphoric acid in the beverage dulls the sweetness, enabling us to keep the drink down.

Blood sugar levels increase dramatically within 20 minutes of drinking the Cola, explains Naik, causing a burst of insulin. The liver then turns the high amounts of sugar circulating our body into fat.

Within 40 minutes, the body has absorbed all of the caffeine from the Cola, causing a dilation of pupils and an increase in blood pressure. By this point, the adenosine receptors in the brain have been blocked, preventing fatigue.

Five minutes later, production of dopamine has increased - a neurotransmitter that helps control the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. According to the infographic, the way Coca-Cola stimulates these centers is comparable to the effects of heroin, making us want another can.

An infographic showing what Coca-Cola does to the body
This infographic reveals what Coca-Cola does to the body within 1 hour of consumption.
Image credit: Niraj Naik/Wade Meredith

An hour after drinking the beverage, a sugar crash will begin, causing irritability and drowsiness. In addition, the water from the Cola will have been cleared from the body via urination, along with nutrients that are important for our health.

According to Naik, the infographic is not only applicable to Coca-Cola, but to all caffeinated fizzy drinks.

"Coke is not just high in high fructose corn syrup, but it is also packed with refined salts and caffeine," writes Naik on his blog The Renegade Pharmacist. "Regular consumption of these ingredients in the high quantities you find in Coke and other processed foods and drinks, can lead to higher blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity."

"However a small amount now and then won't do any major harm," he adds. "The key is moderation."

In a press statement, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola says the beverage is "perfectly safe to drink and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle."

Our Knowledge Center article - "How much sugar is in your food?" - looks at the sugar content of some of the most popular foods and drinks.

In August, another infographic went viral, revealing how energy drinks affect the body within 24 hours of drinking them.

Q:

What can I drink instead of soda?

A:

By swapping soda out for a low sugar alternative, you can not only reduce your sugar intake, but by making the right choices, you can also add many beneficial antioxidants to your diet.

Try unsweetened iced tea, iced coffee, or fruit infused water, or blend the two and have a fruit-infused iced tea. Add a splash of fruit juice to sparkling water or seltzer or try some coconut water without added sugar for a sweet treat.

Homemade smoothies with no added sugar are always a fun addition to a healthful diet, but remember that variety is the key to keeping things interesting.

Katherine Marengo LDN, RDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.