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Soda: The next great health trend?

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In a campaign to create vitamin-enhanced sodas, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are introducing two new "sparkling beverages," Diet Coke Plus and Tava, respectively.,”

What nutritional value will the drinks have?

  • Diet Coke Plus will contain niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium and zinc
  • Tava will contain chromium and vitamins B3, B6 and E
  • Both contain zero calories and caffeine

What the vitamins do:

  • B6 used for protein metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, efficient functioning of nervous and immune systems and controlling blood glucose
  • B12 helps maintain nerve cells and red blood cells and make DNA
  • B3 helps get rid of toxic chemicals, make hormones, improve circulation and reduce cholesterol levels
  • E protects cells against damage, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer

Source: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo spokespersons and the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, University of Maryland Medical Center

Could a Pepsi a day keep the doctor away?

In a campaign to create vitamin-enhanced sodas, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are introducing two new "sparkling beverages," Diet Coke Plus and Tava, respectively.

Diet Coke Plus will be introduced this spring. It will contain vitamins B3, B6 and B12, zinc and magnesium.

"If you look back 10 years, we didn't have as many choices in sparkling beverages," said Michelle McDermott, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola. "Now we have a lot more varieties of beverages that meet people's needs."

Tava will be introduced in the fall in three flavors. It will contain vitamins B6 and E, niacin and chromium, and have no calories or caffeine.

"To take the negative away from the term 'soda,' both will be referred to as 'sparkling beverages,'" said Barbara Troy, a clinical assistant professor of biomedical sciences.

Troy said the surge in nutritional sodas is due to accusations that the soda industry is connected with obesity.

"This is an attempt to bring health-conscious consumers back to the fold," Troy said.

She said the taste will be the huge issue if these beverages catch on.

A study by Morgan Stanley found that 10 percent of consumers in 2006 thought diet colas were a healthy choice, versus 14 percent in 2003.

Troy said although the nutritional sodas are a better step than drinking regular sugar soda, "there is not a huge health advantage in putting synthetic sweeteners into your body. "

Marilyn Frenn, an associate professor in the College of Nursing, agreed.

She said carbonation can present a risk to bone health.

"Moderation would still be wise," Frenn said. "One or less a day is my recommendation."

The coffeeshops are also selling versions of nutritional soda called Nutrisoda, "The Original Health Spa in a Can."

Nutrisoda contains zero calories, sugar, caffeine or sodium. It has eight varieties, from "Calm" to "Slender."

"Calm" contains chamomile and vitamins to help relax muscles, and "Slender" even has a vitamin that is touted to reduce appetite.

Still, Troy said food is the clear advantage in obtaining nutrients.

"Foods do not provide a wider variety of nutrients," Troy said, "but they contain thousands of phytochemicals now identified as having many health benefits."

Frenn also recommended drinking plain water and skim milk instead of other beverages.

Yet she said in choosing between sugar soda and the newer sodas, the newer sodas would be better.

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