1. April Fools' science fables2. Suicidal rodents3. Half rot, half right4. Mocking mimics5. Booked for bunk6. Ignorance = bliss


Will this stuff rot this innocent child's teeth? Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, and soon...




Soft-drink drinking among young people is linked to tooth decay -- and other health problems.

  April Fools! Science fable vs. science fact
    Coke don't rot
Was it your parents or your teacher? At some point in your life, a health-crazed adult told you Coke was nasty enough to rotcha teeth overnight, if you happened to leave a tooth in a glass of the real thing.

We Why-File cynics think adults, not kids, are prone to leaving teeth in a glass...

Child holds bottle of Coke, stares at cameraAt any rate, the fable gets little credit among scientists. They know you could test it by fetching a fang from under a five-year-old's pillow and plopping it into a quarter's worth of soda. And who wants to do science that's too cheap to justify a federal grant?

Although the fable has some credibility in the wider world, it won't hold carbonated water. We eat plenty of acidic foods, including salad dressing, and orange or grapefruit juice, and don't worry about losing teeth. If the fable was true, we'd be a nation of toothless tigers, since soft-drink consumption is soaring: The average adolescent American guy, for example, guzzled 19.3 ounces per day in 1995, up from 11.7 ounces in 1989. Despite a 65 percent increase in six years, there's been no epidemic of tooth-rot.

Birth of a legend
The urban-legend sleuths have traced the fable to 1950, when an anti-Coke crusader told Congress that teeth would soften after two days in Coke. Although he didn't explain how anybody would hold pop in their mouth for 48 hours, the notion was instantly elevated to the status of conventional wisdom.

(We armchair psychoanalysts at The Why Files wonder if the quick acceptance reflected guilt over the surging popularity of soda...)

While soda don't rotcha teeth, at least right away, soft drinks are a major source of sugar in the diets of young Americans. So as the vendors of fizzy sugar-water scramble to defend or abandon their efforts to sell soda in schools, how 'bout we uncork some true facts?

Soft-drink drinking among young people is indeed linked to tooth decay -- but the culprit is sugar, not acid. Furthermore, the New York Times reported that the phosphorus in cola can make calcium less available: "A series of studies by Dr. Grace Wyshak at the Harvard School of Public Health has found about a fivefold higher rate of bone fractures among physically active teenagers who consume the most colas."

 A pallet of Pepsi 24-packs on a supermarket floor.Ever notice how much floor space supermarkets devote to soft drinks?

According to David Ludwig, an obesity expert at Children's Hospital in Boston, who helped write a new study on soda consumption, "It is not uncommon for teenagers to receive 500 to 1000 calories per day from sugar-sweetened drinks. These drinks may be easy to over-consume, because calories in liquid form seem to be less ... filling than calories in solid form."

And don't think you can get off the hook by drinking those "healthy" uncarbonated fruit drinks, which also have plenty of sugar.

In fact, soft drinks are a major contributor to the ongoing epidemic of childhood obesity (see "Added Sugars ..." in the bibliography). So the reality behind the Coke fable may be even grimmer than the fable itself!

The viceroy butterfly evolved to look like the monarch because monarchs taste puky. (Agree? Then we have a bridge to sell you...)


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