Japan's Coca-Cola Plus has an unexpected (and stimulating) ingredient

The latest Coke product to hit Japan contains fiber and might act as a laxative. But is it healthy?
by Aly Walansky / / Source: TODAY

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While we can always count on Japan to be ahead of the curve when it comes to fun and unique food and drink spins (e.g. Burger King's Black Burger), a new fortified version of sugar-free Coca-Cola being touted as a health drink has taken us by surprise.

Each bottle of the new product, Coca-Cola Plus, contains five grams of indigestible dextrin, a source of dietary fiber that is known to work as a laxative, The Wall Street Journal reports.

But that’s not all it can do: A press release from the brand issued last year, at the time the beverage was introduced, says, “Drinking one Coca-Cola Plus per day with food will help suppress fat absorption and help moderate the levels of triglycerides in the blood after eating.“ But, the packaging warns, don’t drink too much, because that can lead to "loose bowels,” WSJ reports. Great.

Due to its fiber content, the product qualifies to receive Japan's "Foods for Specified Health Uses" (FOSHU) label. Certified products "contain compounds the government deems to have a particular benefit, such as lowering cholesterol or preventing osteoporosis," explains The Wall Street Journal.

But is this beverage really qualified to be called a health drink? "We do know that certain fibers can play a role in gut health and can help your heart," Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table," told TODAY over email. "Too much fiber, on the other hand, leads to bloat and diarrhea on top of the bloat one might accumulate from the bubbles in soda — even without any fiber. But soda as a source of fiber and health benefits? I’d take a pass on this one." (And by the way, the weight loss that follows diarrhea is not the kind that will last, Taub-Dix says.)

If you’re looking to help your heart, do something good for your gut and keep extra pounds at bay, try eating more beans instead of drinking fortified soda. With beans, you'll get a high quality source of fiber, plus "a hefty dose of protein and an assortment of vitamins and minerals that soda could never provide," says Taub-Dix.

TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, agrees with Taub-Dix. "It seems a bit crazy to use diet soda as a way to boost digestive health," Bauer told TODAY over email. "Instead, you can easily add fiber — and a whole host of vitamins and antioxidants — to your diet by enjoying a cup of berries or a hearty bowl of warm lentil soup!"

Twitter does not know what to think about the drink:

As of now, we won't find the laxative-enriched Coke outside of Japan: USA Today reported last year that the Coca-Cola Company had no intention of bringing the drink to the United States. (A product with the same name but a different formula did briefly exist in this country about a decade ago.)

If you're still hankering for a twist on Diet Coke, there’s always Coca-Cola Plus Coffee (but you’ll have to go to Australia for it). Here in America, we have the re-imagined Coke Zero as Coke Zero Sugar. Coca-Cola also recently announced the upcoming launch of an expanded Diet Coke line in North America that will feature Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange and Twisted Mango varieties.

And if you're still looking for a way to get your fiber fix, we've got plenty of chili recipes...

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