If you spend any time on TikTok, you’ve likely seen the latest trend going viral on the popular social media platform: a concoction called “healthy coke.”
“Healthy coke” refers to a very simple combination of sparkling seltzer water and balsamic vinegar.
TikTok user Amanda Jones, a California-based actor, made the drink a viral sensation after posting a video of her making it to her account. She says the idea for the mixture came from her Pilates instructor.
In the video, she says “it tastes just like Coke.”
What made the drink really go viral was the series of videos made by others gagging and scrunching up their faces in disgust after giving it a sip, joking about how it doesn’t necessarily taste like the famous American soft drink.
So, just how healthy is “healthy coke?”
According to experts, the concoction’s name is a bit of a misnomer. The drink could have negative effects on your digestion and oral health.
Here’s why they say it’s important to research new health trends and why it’s important to remember that just because something is going viral, doesn’t mean it’s true.
In her original video, Jones says that “healthy coke” “tastes just like Coke.”
She didn’t expect what started out as a fun, escapist video would become such a big deal. She told CNN’s Jeanne Moos in an interview that she “did not think people would get so riled up over a fun drink.”
Is it worth getting riled up over?
Recently, the American Dental Association (ADA) released a statement on a new study that shows this kind of drink might cause some wear and tear on your teeth.
“New research finds acids in sugar-free beverages could erode tooth enamel, as a recipe mixing flavored sparkling water with balsamic vinegar to create a so-called ‘healthier’ alternative to soda takes TikTok by storm,” said the ADA.
The new study published online in the journal JADA Foundational Science took a look at how non-carbonated bottled water, flavored sparkling water, and regular sparkling water could potentially cause dental erosion, according to the release.
The researchers soaked human teeth that were recently extracted in seven different sugar-free beverages, as well as in one soda with sugar for a point of comparison. They soaked the teeth for a 24-hour period. This was determined to be equivalent to a “year’s worth of exposure” to these various beverage items.
The results showed that acids in soda with sugar and sugar-free soda resulted in the erosion of dental enamel.
They discovered that it was the acids, not the type of sweetener, in these drinks that caused the enamel erosion. Erosion was shown in teeth soaked in flavored sparkling water as well, but it was to a lesser degree than what was seen in sugar-containing and sugar-free soda.
Regular non-carbonated and non-flavored bottled waters were the only drinks to show no signs of enamel erosion.
When asked what effect the TikTok drink’s mixture of balsamic vinegar and seltzer water could have on one’s teeth, Kenneth L. Allen, DDS, MBA, clinical professor and vice chair at the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at NYU Dentistry, told Healthline that it’s important to note that both balsamic vinegar (with a pH between 2 and 3) and seltzer (with a pH that varies by brand from 3.5 to 5) are acidic.
“For reference, a neutral pH is 7. Demineralization of enamel can occur when the pH drops below 5.5. Demineralization weakens the enamel, the hard – and shiny – outer covering of teeth. This makes your teeth rougher, increasing the possibilities of plaque, cavities and gum disease,” Allen said. “So, what this mix is doing is giving the consumer a beverage that is more acidic than seltzer alone.”
He added that the effect of this acidic beverage on enamel is “also affected by the length of contact.”
“Are you sipping your ‘healthy coke’ for over an hour or drinking it quickly? The longer the contact, the more enamel destruction,” he said.
But what about other acidic drinks and are there alternatives to this one?
“Plain water is the best beverage out there,” Allen explained. “If you are going to drink more acidic beverages there are some ‘tricks.’ Use a straw, avoid prolonged drinking times, wait one hour after having an acidic beverage to brush your teeth (this gives saliva a chance to repair the enamel), and use a fluoride-based toothpaste.”
Amber Pankonin, MS, LMNT, a registered dietitian and personal chef, said that, from a nutrition perspective, “healthy coke” is “really not any different from drinking sparkling water and having balsamic dressing on your salad for dinner.”
“As a Chef, I’d rather save the balsamic vinegar for my salad or as a dipping sauce for my bread instead of adding it to my beverage,” she added.
She said one digestive concern people might have around this drink is the fact that it “could be harmful” to people who experience GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or acid reflux.
Additionally, she said it could negatively affect people who have heartburn or heartburn related to pregnancy.
“Foods and beverages that are very acidic can irritate the esophagus and stomach which could be an issue especially if you have a history of heartburn,” she explained.
When asked what the nutritional benefits might be, Pankonin said that high quality balsamic vinegar can contain antioxidants, which can in fact be beneficial for your skin and heart health.
“Depending on the type or brand of balsamic vinegar used, some can contain more added sugars than others. So, it’s important to check out the difference between brands and read the nutrition facts label. Keep in mind that balsamic vinegar is not calorie-free,” she said.
She explained that It does contain calories coming from carbohydrates, with most providing about 14 calories per tablespoon.
Pankonin also pointed out that this kind of high quality balsamic vinegar “can be expensive” and with the rise in food costs many are experiencing nationwide, those costs “can add up quickly if you are adding it every time you drink sparkling water.”
When asked if there are healthier alternatives for those who enjoy carbonated drinks, Pankonin said that you could add “any type of fruit” (think lemon, lime, or even berries) to sparkling water and “it would give you a similar flavor profile.”
“The addition of acid to a flavored, calorie-free carbonated beverage is what gives the drink a similar flavor to Coke or regular soda,” she explained.
Before trying drink-related trends like “healthy coke,” Allen urges people to be “an educated consumer.”
He said that you should look up the pH of the beverage you’re drinking, and given that seltzer waters vary in pH levels, try to choose one that is “closest to 7.”
Pankonin said the explosion of these kinds of trends shed light on the fact that “people like easy hacks” when it comes to what they are drinking and eating and they will readily “take advice from people who are offering simple strategies.”
“These strategies might have good intentions and be helpful for some people, but might not be appropriate for everybody,” she said. “It’s definitely important to be cautious before jumping on the next food and beverage diet trend or hack.”