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    The Sweetness Of The Pepsi Throwback Challenge
    By Alex "Sandy" Antunes | March 26th 2010 12:20 PM | 9 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Princeton researchers found that high-fructose corn syrup-- the basic sweetener is sodas and just about everything-- causes more weight gain that sugar.  Calorie for calorie, rats got fatter on the corn syrup than on sugar.

    And at the same time, PepsiCo has released 'Throwback' products-- Pepsi sodas made with sugar instead of corn syrup.  So if researchers are saying sugar is better for you, we need to check which tastes better-- corn syrup or sugar?

    But first, back to the Princeton tests. "The concentration of sugar in the sucrose solution was the same as is found in some commercial soft drinks, while the high-fructose corn syrup solution was half as concentrated as most sodas."
    In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.
    We here at ScientificBlogging.com are willing to risk our own bodies in the pursuit of science.  So, using a sample size of 2, we injested the dangerous, obesity-causing corn-syrup flavored modern soda against the old-school sugar flavored 'Throwback' editions.

    Our sodas were (including sweetners): Pepsi (corn syrup with trace sugar), Diet Pepsi (aspartame), Pepsi Throwback (sugar), RC Cola (corn syrup), and Dr. Pepper-- a non-cola.  We included Dr. Pepper as a 'control'; it has a distinct enough flavor that confusing it for one of the colas would indicate the drinker has no sense of taste distinction.

    We did two experiments.  For the first, we simply had the subjects place them as "Like", or "Didn't Like", a simple taste measurement.  One subject also added a 'Sorta Like' middle category.

    Then for the second run, we had the experimenters try to figure out which brand was what (essentially, a psychology test on brand opinions).  We neglect the 2nd test in this writeup because we want to focus on the physiology-- which tastes better, regardless of expectations?

    For each test, we had 2 cups of each cola, plus a 3rd cup of one randomly chosen cola so that the subjects could not be sure how many samples of each existed (after the experiment, we found the extra cup was Throwback, yielding 3 Throwbacks to 2 of each other).  Cups were identical dixie cups, numbered by a non-participant so no prior information was known.  Both participants were able to identify Dr. Pepper as distinct from the others.

    Data for subject 1:
    • Like = Pepsi (2)
    • Sorta Like = Throwback (3), Diet (1)
    • Didn't Like = RC (2), Diet (1)
    Data for subject 2:
    • Like = Throwback (2), Diet (1), Pepsi (1), RC (1)
    • Didn't Like = Throwback (1), Diet (1), Pepsi (1), RC (1)
    Results? Subject 2's choices were self-inconsistent, while Subject 1 showed clear preferences. RC (all corn syrup) did poorly.  Diet pepsi (corn syrup + sugar) did almost as poorly, not getting a universal 'like' by any means.  Throwback (sugar) did very middling, scoring better with Subject 2 but not beating the performance of ordinary Pepsi.

    So it seems that corn syrup is, alas, as tasty as it is deadly.  But is this an accurate measure of appeal?  Malcolm Gladwell's recent book Blink argues that sip tests measure sweetness but not satisfaction, a distinction that basically boils down to the difference between nibbling a chocolate bunny and eating 10 pounds of it in one sitting.  You may like the first taste of a sweet soda, but after a 16 ounce can, you may have wanted something less excessive.

    Our ultimate conclusion is this.  the taste difference between corn syrup and sugar are insignificant compared with the fact that drinking carbonated caffeinated sugar water is bad for you overall.  I mean, really, this test is like comparing whether you should be shot with a 38cal or a 9mm.  We recommend you treat soda like alcohol-- fine as a treat, in moderation, but deadly if it's a daily six-pack habit. Just drink water.  It's cheap, it's healthier, and it's truly the taste for a new generation-- that doesn't want to die, like rats, of obesity.

    Alex
    Astronomy and Science every Fridays, The Satellite Diaries every Tuesday, and twitter @skyday

    Comments

    adaptivecomplexity
    No way - Pepsi throwback tastes much better than regular Pepsi, and Diet Pepsi just flat-out sucks. It doesn't have that tangy aftertaste present in anything with corn syrup (cola and Hershey's chocolate). 
    But RC beats them all, corn syrup or no. They've got some other secret good stuff in there.
    Mike
    rholley
    Our group had a visitor from Rhode Island who brought us some Hershey's chocolate.  Our resident chocaholic* didn't take to it, although as a group we made our way through it.  But it simply is not like our Cadbury's (cue Alistair Cookie and Monsterpiece Theatre.)

    And how Kraft have taken over Cadbury's, will our own brand similarly go downhill?

    (* not to be confused with the Aztec emperor Chocaholic, who drank 50 cups of chocolate a day.)
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    adaptivecomplexity
    It is sad that Cadbury's has gone over to the dark side. At least I hope they don't change their Creme Eggs.
    I find just about any chocolate better than Hershey's/Mars/Reeses - both because of the corn syrup taste and the fact that they never make chocolate dark enough.
    Mike
    Hank
    I am a Coke man from way back.  I have had them from all over the world and they all taste different, but in differently awesome ways.

    I wish there was a throwback brand for things like Fritos.    They taste like rubbish since they eliminated all the good stuff to supposedly be 'healthier' - as if eating a whole bag of any snack is going to be good for you, and I am biologically predisposed to to doing just that, or at least I am hoping Nature will claim my epigenetic information says so.   I'd love to be able to eat a whole bag of chips and say my DNA sequence made me do it.
    adaptivecomplexity
    I'm with you on the Coke and the Fritos. If I had to choose among Pepsi varieties I'd choose Throwback, but regular Coke beats Throwback Pepsi, even with the HFCS.
    A bag of Fritos that could create heritable epigenetic modifications in your DNA, so that your kids would be addicted to Fritos too, would be awesome.... if you're the CEO of Frito-Lay.
    Mike
    antunes
    You know, I thought Throwback would win, because I like it better.  But the blind taste test surprised me.  In the 2nd test (matching brands), not surprisingly, I thought regular Pepsi was Throwback because I liked it better.  But the taste buds don't lie (even though Throwback is moderately healthier).  So try the blind taste test it yourself, and you may be surprised.

    Alex
    Stellare
    I'm a dietcocaholic. I can't relate to all this Pepsi talk. :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    logicman
    In an email survey of 315 homeopaths,  315 replies queried the scientific validity of the methodology described in this article and 2075 other responders wanted to sell me viagra.
    For dietary reasons, I gave up pepsi (all non-diet soda) years ago. When they decided to release a sugar based version again, I gave it a shot. It tastes like it did back when (as a kid) I used to drain the local hardware store's fountain dispenser during their annual outdoor appliance tent sale.

    In 85 I went in the Army. The next year while I was in Germany I started to notice pepsi was not that good, it didn't taste right, so I switched to Coke.(and yes it was American made, sold at the PX). The German Pepsi and Coke both had a heavy lemon/citrus overtone.

    Throwback is better in taste and texture. As a control I tried regular pepsi too. The regular was heavier and had a flat taste to it ( compared to sugar).