Always Coca Cola? UK diet soda addict raises concerns in Mideast

Diet Coke and regular Coke have a lot of phosphoric acid which can affect the calcium and the bones

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The shocking recent story of a UK woman who went public with her heavy addiction to Diet Coke has raised questions over similar beverage consumption in the Middle East, where diet soft drinks are highly popular.

Jakki Ballan, who first tried Diet Coke at the age of 14, can drink up to 50 Diet Coke cans a day, the equivalent of double her own body weight in a week.


She now spends almost $249,660 over the last three decades, drinking up to 16 litres of fizzy drinks every day, the British daily news website The Daily Mail reported Sunday.

Sugar-free Diet coke does not participate to weight loss but can lead to more sugary food consumption, according to some dieticians.

“When you drink a Diet Coke your body prepares for the digestion of the sugar but it never really gets any calories or sugar because it’s artificial. So you start craving for sugar and end up eating more sugar and gaining weight,” Racha

Adib, a Beirut-based licensed dietitian and health columnist told Al Arabiya News.

coke 2
coke 2

Regional appeal

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates is the fifth highest consumer of soft drinks, with each resident on average guzzling 103 liters per year, according to a World Health Organization study.

Soft drinks are also leading the beverage market in Saudi Arabia with a large number of products, wide availability of flavors and many different packaging shapes and sizes, to satisfy a broad consumer base.

A 2012 Euromonitor report stated: “PepsiCo Inc. accounts for approximately one third of the soft drink off-trade volume and its volume share grew in 2012, making the company the absolute leader in the market.

The next most important company, Coca-Cola Co, holds less than a 10% volume share. This, coupled with Saudi’s renowned brand loyalty, make Pepsi an even stronger competitor.”

While this is lucrative news for beverage companies, addicts may face a tough road ahead.

“This addiction is taking over my life. I can’t even go out of the house without making sure I’ve got enough Coke on me,” said Ballan.

“I won’t let my kids go without, but when it comes to my own needs Diet Coke comes first. It’s as important as paying the electricity bills,” she added.

Health warnings

Ballan is now seeking medical treatment in order to overcome her addiction as she is suffering from hallucinations as a result of drinking that much Diet Coke.

“It was really scary as at first I didn’t know what was going on. I see strange things like oranges flying across the room.

Then I have to sit down and calm myself before carrying on,” she said explaining her symptoms.

Diet Coke and regular Coke have a lot of phosphoric acid which can affect the calcium and the bones, Adib said.

“The fizzy drink is also very acidic which can cause an ulcer or acidity in the stomach which could lead to reflux,” she added.

Diet coke should be replaced by milk, juice, water or healthy beverages that have a nutritional value, Adib recommends.

*Racha Adib writes a weekly health column for Al Arabiya News, her archive can be found here.

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