Caffeine, Coffee, and Coca-Cola

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this 1957 article form Herald of Health magazine, Dr. Royal Lee discusses the addictive qualities of caffeine as well as the health-busting practice of the originators of Coca-Cola to add extra, isolated caffeine to its popular soft drink. “The effects of drinking caffeine on an empty stomach and in a free state are far more dangerous than drinking an equal quantity of caffeine wrapped up with tannic acid in tea and coffee,” Dr. Lee writes, quoting the first head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Harvey Wiley. As Drs. Lee and Wiley also point out, the practices of Coca-Cola and many other of the country’s food processors were ruled illegal by the Supreme Court early in the twentieth century, but penalties against the companies have never been enforced because of the food manufacturers’ influence within the federal government. From Herald of Health magazine, 1957.

The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.

Caffeine, Coffee, and Coca-Cola[spacer height=”20px”]

The most careful scientific tests show that any benefits caffeine gives us in more vigor now are paid for by less stamina later. It is just like borrowing against your paycheck. But being habit forming—as all borrowing tends to be (we all find it hard to discipline ourselves against easy borrowing)—it should be known as vice, not masquerade as a “friend of man.”

It may be said that the adult should have the right to exercise his vices, whether it is the use of coffee, Coca-Cola, tobacco, or whiskey. But no doubt we all agree that the child should be protected from such influences until he has the privilege of making up his own mind. (Of course, we must not interfere with the picture propaganda, so well developed by the advertising fraternity, that shows young people in all their activities with cigarettes as an indispensable adjunct.) That involves the elimination of black coffee as a baby food or the feeding of Coca-Cola instead of milk in our schools (although in Georgia that is the custom—milk appropriations for schools can be spent on Coca-Cola, I am told).

Before the advent of the 1906 Pure Food [and Drug] Law, coca-leaf extract was a common ingredient of soft drinks. Coca extract contains cocaine and, in fact, is its only natural source. So cocaine was promptly eliminated as a component of soft drinks by Dr. Harvey W. Wiley. But after the extract is de-cocained (cocaine sold [now] under federal control as a narcotic), the coca extract is still used as a base for a soft drink.

Why? Simply because it still contains half its original alkaloids after the cocaine removal—plants always having a “complex” of active principles.

Cola nuts contain about twice (and up to three times) as much caffeine as coffee, so the cola extract is a very fine addition for a soft drink designed to be habit forming. To clinch the matter, however, still more caffeine is put in, in crystal form. It’s like spiking coffee with added caffeine or beer with added alcohol, to ensure that no victim would escape the habit-forming effect if he once got on the merry-go-round of borrowed vitality—just like the operations of any loan shark who gets his victims deeper and deeper in his debt.

Since some families spend as much for coffee as they do for bread, the economic waste created by this vice of borrowing health is as bad as that incurred through the borrowing against the paycheck from a loan shark charging 10 percent a month.

Even the naturally occurring caffeine in coffee is too much if it “augments ulcer tendency and causes ulcers in test animals,” as quoted in the Annual Review of Physiology, 1946, page 153.

Dr. Wiley of course did not take kindly to this scheme, and he brought action against the Coca-Cola Company. The United States Supreme Court, like Dr. Wiley, thought that [Coca-Cola’s actions were] a little beyond the realms of propriety and declared so in 1917, as Dr. Wiley relates in his book The History of a Crime Against the Food Law. But Dr. Wiley was retired by political pressure in 1912, so here is Wiley’s statement from his book published in 1930:

“No attempt was made by the executors of the Food Law to enforce the decree of the courts by beginning action against Coca-Cola each time they crossed a state line. Under the opinions of the Supreme Court, such proceedings would have been uniformly successful. Owing to a lack of these proceedings, the Coca-Cola Company has its stock now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Its sales have been enormously increased, invading the North as they previously invaded the South. The effects of drinking caffeine on an empty stomach and in a free state are far more dangerous than drinking an equal quantity of caffeine wrapped up with tannic acid in tea and coffee. The threat to health and happiness of our people is reaching far greater proportions due to thus expansion of trade. The governors of the New York Exchange have admitted the stock of the Coca-Cola Company, the products of which have been condemned by a United States court as both adulterated and misbranded. This baleful condition could have been easily avoided if the enforcing officers had raised their hands in protest against the further development of this business by seizing its products and bringing criminal action against its manufacturers.”

In his book Beverages and Their Adulteration (1919), Dr. Wiley says, “The chief soft drink that contains caffeine is Coca-Cola. In addition to its content of caffeine, Coca-Cola also contains an extract of coca leaves from which cocaine has been previously obtained. In addition to this, a very small quantity of cola nut is employed, together with sugar, caramel and acid, and aromatic substances.”

Dr. Wiley also observes, “A sweetened water has very little, if any, value as a remedy for thirst. In fact, one of the best ways to induce thirst is to eat large quantities of sugar or drink large quantities of sweetened water.”

As to the effects of caffeine, Dr. Wiley quotes two former presidents of the American Medical Association. One, Dr. John Witherspoon, said, “I regard Coca-Cola as habit forming. One glass creates a demand for another because it stimulates the user and makes him feel better. Then, when the effect wears off, the feeling is one of depression, and he gets very nervous and seemingly cannot do without it very well.” He told of a number of patients who had to give up the habit to recover their health.

Dr. Victor Vaughn, the other noted toxicologist, said, “I should say that caffeine should not be given to children under seven years of age…I would prohibit caffeine altogether to children under seven…and even above that age there may be some, and no doubt there are many, to whom it should not be given.”

Dr. Wiley comments further in Beverages and Their Adulteration: “The use of the coca leaf, by reason of the fact that it introduces cocaine into the drinks, has been now generally discounted. In the case of Coca-Cola, the de-cocainized leaf—the refuse product discarded in the manufacture of cocaine—is employed” (page 111).

He tells how the success of the Coca-Cola Company had so stimulated the organization of imitating cola-drink companies that “five new cola drinks have started with the first month of 1916.” He lists the names of forty-seven concerns that were already in business. He specifically says that when Coca-Cola was first made, it contained the complete extract of the coca leaf with its cocaine (page 108).

I think I would agree with Dr. Wiley’s comment “It is of importance that the people of this country should understand the nature of a beverage of this kind in order that they may intelligently assume a proper position in respect to its use.”

That position no doubt is to swear off their use and keep them out of the schools. Why be so gullible as to be taken by racketeers who are big enough to control the law enforcement agencies? Here in Wisconsin, soft drinks are required to state their ingredients on the label. Coca-Cola fails to obey this law. Letters to the proper authorities asking why this discrepancy are not answered. [Yet] the same authority threatened us with prosecution for quoting the Texas state chemist on the superior nutritional value of Deaf Smith County wheat.

A man in Pennsylvania is in federal prison because he made false claims as to the ability of a drug to prevent disease. What was this drug? Believe it or not, it was fresh whole wheat bread. (Particulars in August 31 Washington News Letter of Morris Beale.)

Today a “drug” is anything that is “intended to prevent disease.” The only foods that do not come in this category are synthetic and refined stuff that have no nutritional value. For if it has nutritional value, [then] it has the ability to correct the deficiency state that results from its absence. So anyone who tells the truth about a natural food can be jailed.

For the truth is no defense today. The U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that the consensus of expert opinion takes precedence over any facts that the defendant may establish in a federal court. And of course the consensus of medical opinion is that of the experts in the Food and Drug [Administration] itself. Such “experts” have testified that no vitamin or mineral concentrate has the ability to relieve or cure any disease whatsoever. That malnutrition cannot cause disease. That constipation is a fallacy, that one bowel movement in months is compatible with perfect health.

Another man got a sentence of a year (now being served) and a $3,000 fine because he claimed that people in this country were in danger of having their health undermined by the use of refined foods and foods grown on worn-out soils.

These incredible twists of justice are the result of gradual infiltration into the law of carefully devised tricks, such as defining a drug as anything “intended to prevent disease.”

Another federal law—calling for a $5,000 fine for impairing the nutritional value of any food in processing—is certainly never advertised. All white flour, all refined oils as well as hydrogenated fats, and all processed cereal products violate that one.

Copies of this federal law and citations that prove any of the above statements are available upon request.

By Royal Lee, DDS. Herald of Health, November 1957.


Patrick Earvolino, CN

Patrick Earvolino is a Certified Nutritionist and Special Projects Editor for Selene River Press, Inc.

Products by Patrick Earvolino

Leave a Reply