But, do we actually know what comes in this multi-coloured cans and bottles?
Sure, you can probably tell the difference between Coke with vanilla, and cherry Coke. But what about when the changes are more subtle – like with Coke Zero and Diet Coke?
Both options claim to have zero sugar, and both promise you a healthier alternative to the traditional full-fat coke that launched the brand’s claim to fame.
So, what’s the difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke?
Diet Coke vs Coke Zero: The ingredients
The first thing we should point out is that this isn’t a trick question.
There is a difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke – it’s just very small.
Beyond the alternative cans that the drinks come in, both diet coke and zero coke have a different list of ingredients. This is to give you a different taste experience.
According to the Coca-Cola brand, Coke Zero is meant to mimic the taste of traditional Coke, while Diet Coke has a very different and unique flavour.
For the most part, the ingredients between Diet Coke and Coke Zero are very similar, which begs the question – how could they taste different?
Both options come with a kind of amino acid called phenylalanine, carbonated water, caramel colourings, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, and aspartame.
The Cola brand even scrapped their Coke Zero original product completely to replace it with a new “Coke Zero Sugar” option, which claims to offer an even healthier experience. However, once again, the ingredients are very similar.
If you’re concerned about chemicals in your drink, it’s also worth noting that all of these low-cal sodas also include ingredients from Genetically Engineered crops.
If you take a closer look at the ingredients, you’ll learn that the biggest fundamental difference between Coke Zero vs Diet Coke, is that Diet Coke misses two ingredients from Cola’s other sugar-free beverage options:
Acesulfame Potassium is a calorie-free substitute for sugar, while potassium citrate is a common additive intended to deliver a specific flavour in beverages.
What’s the taste difference between Diet vs Zero Coke?
Diet Coke was the first sugar-free version of Cola that the brand created, launching in 1983.
Rather than just giving clients a sugar-free version of their favourite drink, the team decided to provide a slightly different experience. Perhaps to remind you that you’re drinking something healthier when you pop open a can of diet coke.
When Coke Zero emerged in 2005, it was intended as a way to give people the best of both worlds – a calorie and sugar-free drink that also had all the same flavours of the old Cola.
The good news is that Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and Coke Zero Sugar all have the same nutritional values. That’s:
0g of fat
40mg of sodium
0g of total carbs
0g of protein
The only real difference is in the ingredients, and therefore the taste. Many people in the Diet vs Zero Coke debate pledge their allegiance to one drink or the other, simply because they say that one tastes better.
Whether you believe that the taste is truly different, or whether it’s just good branding, depends on you.
Way back in 2012, HuffPost conducted a test to find out how many people could genuinely taste the difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke. The company discovered that only 54% of testers were accurately able to say which drink was which.
It’s worth noting that even if you think that you know the difference between Zero, and Diet Coke sugar free options, the chances are that you are being influenced a little by the label on the can or bottle that you’re drinking from.
One of the main reasons that Coke decided to create a Coke Zero version of the drink was that they worried the word “diet” on the label of one of their drinks was stopping them from appealing to a wider audience.
Some people still believe that buying something with the word “diet” on the label indicates that they’re actively trying to lose weight.
Not everyone feels comfortable with that.
The difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke for your health
Okay, so if we say that the change of ingredients between Diet Coke vs Coke Zero doesn’t make a difference to the taste, it has to affect how healthy the drinks are, right?
We hate to say it guys, but although your Coke Zero or Diet Coke habit might be better for you than drinking full-fat Coke all the time – it doesn’t make as much of a difference to your health as you might think.
There are still a lot of potential health risks associated with drinking sugar-free drinks, even if you’re not going to be consuming the same number of calories.
For instance, in one 6-month controlled and randomized study, people with obesity, or who were classed as overweight experienced a moderate loss of 2.5% of their body fat when switching from calorie-rich beverages, to sugar-free options like Diet vs Zero Coke.
Elsewhere, other studies have revealed the exact opposite results.
For instance, one study found that drinking diet soda actually created a greater waist circumference after regular exposure. Experts believe that although diet sodas might not have the same calories, they can encourage weight gain in other ways.
Are diet drinks still bad for you?
Although drinking Coke Zero or Diet Coke might make you feel better about the steps that you’re taking to improve your health, the truth is that you’re probably not going transform your life just by adding a diet drink to your weight-loss routine.
Aside from the mixed results that Coke Zero and Diet Coke have when it come to weight loss, these two drinks have also been associated with a higher risk of enamel and tooth erosion too.
If you really want a reason to drink Coke Zero vs Diet Coke, however, then you might want to focus on the effects both of these drinks have on your teeth.
Some studies have found that citric acid erodes teeth more rapidly than phosphoric acid. This means that Coke Zero might not be as bad for your teeth as Diet Coke.
Notably, however, Diet Coke still has less erosive effects than other beverages like Mountain Dew, Sprite, or apple juice.
Regardless of which option you go for, both Diet Coke sugar-free options and Coke Zero come with risks like:
Chances of kidney disease: The high levels of phosphorous content in sodas might lead to problems with your kidneys. On survey found that those who drank about 7 glasses of diet sodas per week had twice as much chance of getting kidney disease.
Problems with your gut microbiome: Research is starting to indicate that beverages which have been artificially sweetened could cause issues with your gut microbiome and reduce your ability to control your blood sugar levels.
Higher chances of osteoporosis: One piece of research found that a daily intake of Coca Cola could be linked to a lower bone mineral density of around 3.7% (and above). Similar results were found, regardless if the participants drank Diet Coke or not.
So what should you drink?
If you’re trying to improve your health by altering what you put into your body, we’re behind you.
However, we probably wouldn’t recommend Diet Coke or Coke Zero as the ultimate healthy drink. Both can be a little better for you than full-fat coke, but they’re not going to give you the health benefits of a nice glass of water or a cup of tea.
Our best advice? Try to cut down on carbonated drinks altogether. Don’t rely on artificial sugars to change your life. Switch to herbal teas, fruit-infused water and black coffee.
In the meantime, it won’t make too much of a difference to your health whether you chose Coke Zero vs Diet Coke. Pick the one that tastes best to you!