While some swear it’s the overlooked secret to longevity, experts are more concerned about the ingredient list and how potentially dangerous Dr Pepper drinks can be to our health.
Is there a healing uniqueness to this secret combination of ingredients or should we be wary of the lurking side effects?
We’ve scrutinized popular Dr Pepper drink to help you understand its effect on your health and in which amounts it is good or bad to drink.
Dissecting Dr Pepper – What can we find in the ingredient list?
What makes Dr Pepper so special and intriguing is the tangy taste the consumers just can’t wrap their heads around.
The company proudly addresses this phenomenon to the ‘unique blend of 23 flavours’ that are not open to the public. Some consumers tried to get to the truth, comprising a list that circulates the internet: amaretto, blackberry, almond, black licorice, carrot, clove, cherry, caramel, cola, ginger, juniper, lemon, molasses, nutmeg, orange, prune, plum, pepper, root beer, rum, raspberry, tomato, and vanilla. Still this remains only a speculation as the exact formula, as well as the combination, are kept company secret.
Apart from the brisk flavour blend, most of the listed ingredients in Dr Pepper drinks are more or less common in sodas:
- carbonated water
- high-fructose corn syrup (sugar)
- caramel colour
- phosphoric acid
- natural and artificial flavors (not fully known)
- sodium benzoate (preservative)
Dr Pepper also released low-calorie options like the Diet Dr Pepper and Zero Sugar Dr Pepper, (Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper, Dr Pepper Diet, Dr Pepper Cherry) which are sugar-free drinks advertised as having 0 calories. The unique flavour and sweet taste are achieved with artificial sweeteners with Aspartame being the dominant one.
How much sugar is in Dr Pepper?
What gives sweetness to classic Dr Pepper soft drinks is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), basically artificial sugar derived from corn syrup.
One 12 fl oz can of this drink contains 40 g of sugar while a bottle (20 fl oz) 64 g.
Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for daily sugar intake recommendations, 5 to 10 teaspoons of refined sugar should be the daily maximum for maintaining a healthy diet. Given that a normal teaspoon can hold around 4g of sugar, a single can of Dr Pepper seems right on the verge of enough to fulfil your sugar needs for the entire day.
While it has become one of the main sweetening options for beverages and other goods because of its stronger sweetness, HFCS is linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases much more often than sucrose.
At some point the brand has released an alternative, Dr Pepper ‘made with real sugar’, arguably as a response to a myriad of emerging concerns related to HFCS consumption.
Calorie count in Dr Pepper
Excluding the ‘Diet’ and ‘Zero Sugar’ formulas, a 12 oz can of Dr Pepper will give you a 150 kcal boost, again not that different compared to similar carbonated beverages. (e.g. Mountain Dew – 170 kcal per 12 fl oz, Fanta Orange – 160 kcal per can of 12 fl oz).
Flavoured options like Dr Pepper & Cream Soda, Dr Pepper Cherry, Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla remain in the calorie span of 150 – 170 kcal per 12 fl oz can.
However, low-calorie does not necessarily mean healthy. The quality and nature of ingredients is what counts when it comes to keeping a healthy diet in check.
How much caffeine is in Dr Pepper?
The official Dr Pepper website claims that an 8 fl oz can of classic Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper contain 28 mg of caffeine, while other flavours contain 26 mg.
Given that the caffeine content of a normal cup of coffee is around 100-140 mg, a small can of Dr Pepper is not really alarming, especially for avid coffee drinkers.
That said, caffeine overdose is a real hazard, especially for those who combine various caffeinated beverages and products per day. Furthermore, caffeine intake should be carefully monitored during pregnancy.
Side effects of drinking too much Dr Pepper
Heavy consumption of sodas, including Dr Pepper, has been notoriously related to various short and long-term health issues, mainly because of the high concentration of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine, combined with the unfortunate massive popularity among adolescents and children.
In fact, studies have shown that sugary soft drinks like Dr Pepper contribute to fast tooth decay in children and adolescents, due to the higher contents of sugary components (HFCS) and caffeine.
Another concern with high-fructose corn syrup overuse is potential obesity problems and its links to rapid weight gain in children, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
The trouble doesn’t stop here as even the sugar-free options are a devil in disguise. The main artificial sweetener in Diet and Zero Sugar Dr Pepper, aspartame, is also linked to an array of concerning long-term health issues like liver and kidney problems, oxidative stress in blood cells, slowing down the immune system, and even having cancerogenic properties.
Another dubious ingredient in Dr Pepper, phosphoric acid, has in recent studies been proved as a potential culprit for changes in urinary acidity, which can lead to kidney stone forming and thus chronic kidney disease.
Finally, when consumed in large amounts, carbonated sugary drinks are often linked to caffeine-induced short-term issues and discomforts, such as upset stomach, diarrhoea, increased blood sugar, nausea, hyperactivity (mostly in children), higher pulse rate, interrupted healthy sleep patterns, etc.
Does diet Dr Pepper make you gain weight?
Not necessarily. Given that a large can (12 fl oz) of Dr Pepper contains 150 kcal, normal consumption should not significantly influence weight gain. However, if you drink large amounts of Dr Pepper every day, this can definitely contribute towards weight gain.
Can you drink Dr Pepper while pregnant?
The potentially concerning ingredient for future mothers in Dr Pepper is caffeine whose extreme consumption (more than 200 mg per day) in pregnancy may cause potential embryo development issues and even miscarriage.
All in all, safe and controlled dosage of Dr Pepper drinks should not lead to any potential caffeine-related concerns during pregnancy. To be on the safe side, consulting with a professional is highly recommended before self-dosage and use.
Is Dr Pepper bad for your kidneys?
In exaggerated amounts, yes. Health concerns associated when drinking Dr Pepper in excess such as diabetes, hypertension, and kidney stones are all risk factors for potential chronic kidney disease. Too much Dr Pepper, like most other soft drinks, may eventually contribute to these long-term issues.
CONCLUSION – Is Dr Pepper good or bad for you?
With more research and health reports coming in on soft drinks, it seems that the only gain we really have from them are the quick (and short-lasting) pick-me-ups and the flavour/sugar self-indulgence boosts.
Dr Pepper is no different, as its main ingredients (HFCS, caffeine, aspartame, phosphoric acid) do more harm than good, as far as both short and long-term health problems are concerned.
To be fair, an occasional treat with a ‘23 flavours’ blend is not a death sentence. However, it should remain just that – a scarce, occasional treat.