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What is in Coke Zero :: Constituents Coke Zero :: Ingredients Coke Zero

Updated on September 4, 2011

Coca Cola Zero - What's in it?

Coca Cola Zero, or as it is better known 'Coke Zero' is a product of the Coca Cola Company. It is a carbonated drink that is in the drinks product range that includes Coca Cola itself and other branded drinks. As for all manufactured food products Coca Cola Company is obliged to place details of the ingredients contained in it's products, on the packaging of those products. We can all read the product list of any product but do we know exactly what the ingredients are from a chemical make-up or effect point of view? This article will complete the list of ingredients; give an explanation about them; and, explain the function and effects of those ingredients.

This is not an advertisement for, nor a witch-hunt against The Coca Cola Company or Coke Zero itself. This is an article that will form part of the 'What's in:' series of articles written by a diabetic who uses the products and wanted to know what he was eating and drinking and whether it was beneficial, unwise or dangerous. 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's.

Coke Zero 20 oz Bottle

Coke Zero bottle and contents. Courtesy of Coca Cola Company
Coke Zero bottle and contents. Courtesy of Coca Cola Company

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.


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 metabolise 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.

Sulphite Ammonia Caramel (E150d)

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

  • Soluble food colouring, colour ranging from pale tellow 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.

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.

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 colourants. 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.

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.
  • Trisodium 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.

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.

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

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.

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 ( sodium cyclamate as a chemical: symptoms of exposure include irritation of the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract, softness of the stools, diarrhea, photosensitization and chromosomal changes and is considered a poison in "high" doses. Exposure for pregnant women has resulted in Down's syndrome and behavioral 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.

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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

--- Remarks, Observations and/or Criticisms are Welcomed ---

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    • profile image

      Tana 2 years ago

      Are there any journals available for this research?

    • giingar profile image

      Ingar Grondahl 5 years ago from Buskerud, Norway

      WOW!! You are awesome! Thank you so much in investigating this. PLEASE CONTINUE FOR OTHER PRODUCTS AS WELL! In my country we have many challenges in our life as a Diabetic. If you just read "NO SUGAR ADDED" / "SUGAR FREE" then you are out on the ice! Many of these products consists of 48-98% Carbohydrates as SUGAR FREE/NO SUGAR ADDED PRODUCTS! Thank you for bringing this to us!!;-)Ingar

    • holistic-health profile image

      Clara Myers 5 years ago from USA

      I've always been leery of 'diet' drinks. I don't like the sugar substitutes being used. I prefer real sugar since I at least know the side effects. Excellent article.

    • Shona Venter profile image

      Shona Venter 6 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent hub, humagaia. it's good to find someone else who dissects ingredient labels like I do.

    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Pamela - this sounds like a reaction to caffeine. If you had coffee as well with your meal this could increase the probability that your stomachs reacted to the caffeine content. There is always the possibility that more than the usual amount of caffeine was present in the drinks. When these things happen it is wise to keep some of the product in order to have independent analysis done. That way you have a base from which to undertake legal action if there is not a satisfactory response from the manufacturer.

      And what will you be spending the £10 gift vouchers on - not Coke Zero I hazard to guess!

    • profile image

      pamela gurney 7 years ago

      I had my daughter and her partner over for a meal some weeks ago and we (my daughter and I) decided to be alcohol free that day and instead drank Coke Zero. Within half an hour suddenly (simultaneously) started having the most weird gassy noises going on in our stomachs and thereafter we were both very ill. Coca Cola were informed and they sent a package to return the bottle, but true to form, they have found nothing wrong with the product. When this drink was poured, it acted more like Guinness in that a frothy head appeared (much more than the norm) and it stayed in the glass while the drink was being downed! Something very wrong with this product and I never want this feeling again, so I shall be steering clear from now on. Daughter feels the same way. Ah! Coca Cola Enterprises did send £10 worth of vouhers however!!!

    • manthy profile image

      Mark 7 years ago from Alabama,USA

      Thanks for the info, I am a coke drinker but I drink the regular coke ( the original secret formula..LOL) not any of the diet brands, I have drank a coke everyday for as long as I can remember anyway this is a gr9 hub that I think is very accurate, soon I am gonna switch over & drink nothing but water, I'm dreading it because I actually go through a withdrawal coming off of coke.

      Have a great weekend and thanks again for the info! I know it will be beneficial to anyone with diabetes etc

    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks again Valerie for taking the time to comment. It is not so much the contents of the drink that concern me as they are in very small quantities - well below RDI - even if you drink as much as you say you did. What concerns me is the attitude of the drinks industry. Although an ingredient is banned in one country it may crop up in the drink that is produced in other countries. Why for instance is it only Chinese manufactured Coke that has the only sugar substitute that has been declared as completely safe. If Coca Cola can develop a product with this ingredient in it why do they not roll it out everywhere? I think you can answer that one yourself.

      I still drink Coke Zero as I do not drink Tea or Coffee. But then I'm too far gone to worry too much.

      Personal choice.

    • valeriebelew profile image

      valeriebelew 7 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      As someone who once drunk diet coke all day long, I stopped drinking it almost entirely, earlier this year. This was a well researched hub, and one I plan to bookmark, because I don't have time to consider all the research in a single setting. My reason for stopping, was not related to the caffeine (probably mispelled), but due to fear that there might be cancer causing chemicals in the drink, especially in the amount I was drinking. I still drink it very occasionally, but very seldom. Good work? Thumbs up for this one.

    • jandee profile image

      jandee 7 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      You will probably cure yourself or as near.... with your determined attitude. looks like Leptin is important ?

    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      HealthyHanna - let me know the expose you would like to see. I can do a hatchet job on anything - really cut through to the centre of the product and do open-heart surgery, right there in front of you. It's almost like real - splurge-splot!!!!!!!

    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 7 years ago from Utah

      It's really scary when you do the research. Reading labels doesn't really help unless we know what the ingredients do/are.