Study: Hey, Hipsters, Mexican Coke Might Be a Myth

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A study released on Oct. 27 in the journal Obesity looked at the chemical structure of sweeteners in Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other sodas. There were a lot of surprising findings, but for now, here’s one result that cut close to my Brooklyn-foodie fad-loving bones: Mexican Coke, which people thought to be superior to American Coke because it uses real cane sugar in place of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), could be a myth.

The cult of Mexican Coke has been well documented. In a 2009 trend piece in the New York Times Magazine, one fan described it as “more natural tasting” and “a little less harsh.” At the time, a spokesman for Coca-Cola told the magazine that, at least ingredient-wise, a Coke is not a Coke is not a Coke:

The Coca-Cola Company is by now quite familiar with the Mexican Coke cult. It is true, acknowledges a Coke spokesman, Scott Williamson, that different sweeteners are used by the company’s bottling partners in different parts of the world, for reasons having to do with price and availability. But, he says, “all of our consumer research indicates that from a taste standpoint, the difference is imperceptible.”

But tell that to the thousands of Facebook fans who subscribe to the Mexican Coke Facebook page. I admit, I’m a sucker for it too — whenever it’s available, I order the little glass bottle. To my palate, the Mexican version of the cola tastes more like caramel and has the weight of a real food (albeit a dessert). (More on Figuring Out Food Labels)

But, according to the new study [PDF] in Obesity, a lab analysis of the beverage found that it did not contain sucrose — the sugar compound contained in cane sugar. Instead, as nutrition expert Marion Nestle said on her blog, Food Politics:

The investigators could not find any sucrose in the Coke, but did find plenty of glucose and fructose. This suggests that Mexican Coke is also made with HFCS (or it could also mean that the sucrose had been split into its constituent glucose and fructose).

Before you start feeling too silly, that last parenthetical is kind of key; Nestle notes that the new study did not analyze enough samples of the beverages to come to a firm conclusion about their contents. So it’s still possible that Mexican Coke is deliciously different:

The failure to find sucrose in Mexican Coca-Cola could be [due] to two reasons: the Coke is old and the sucrose “inverted” (split into glucose and fructose), or the company used HFCS instead of sucrose.

Sip on, fans.

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