The quest for Diet Coke

Coca Cola Light from Afghanistan

Let me preface this entry by saying that I am addicted to Diet Coke. A few years ago I weighed about 35 pounds more than I do now. Then, as now, I drank an amazing amount of cola on a daily basis. But one day I decided to switch to diet cola, and over the course of about three years I lost a lot of weight without changing much else about my diet. Today I am very near my high school weight. And out of the available diet colas, I eventually settled up on Diet Coke as my favorite.

A good friend of mine who works in the pharmaceutical industry, concerned about my huge intake of Diet Coke, mentioned that it has been found that aspartame crosses the blood-brain barrier, but that we do not know exactly what it does. “It makes you addicted to Diet Coke, is what it does,” I quipped.

Diet Coke (or Coca Cola Light, as it is known in this region) is not widely available in Tajikistan. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the vast majority of food products in this country are imported, and Coke is no different. There is no Coca Cola bottling plant in this country, so all of the Coca Cola here is imported from other countries, usually Kazakhstan or Afghanistan.

The people of Tajikistan seem to have a major sweet tooth, consuming tons of sugary hard candies and ice cream, and they have the tooth decay to prove it! As a result, very few people drink the “Light” variety of Coca Cola, and thus, very little Coca Cola Light is imported. RC Cola, on the other hand, does have a bottling plant in Tajikistan and is widely available, but I have yet to see any “diet” forms of RC Cola around, though the green apple flavor, which I have never seen in the U.S., is quite tasty!

If you go out to a restaurant, though they may use glasses with Coca Cola logos on them, or have pictures of Coke in the menu, more often than not, when you order a Coke, what you will actually receive is RC Cola. And so it has been a challenge to satisfy my cravings for Diet Coke.

Every time I go out, it is like I am looking for hidden treasure. I look in the various stores I pass by to see if maybe they have a handful of cans or bottles of Coca Cola Light hidden amongst the cases of regular Coca Cola, but the majority of the time I come up empty handed. But once in a while, if I am lucky, I can find four or five cans or bottles of Coca Cola Light in the mountains of regular Coke.

And even when you do find it, I have found that the flavor varies depending on the country of origin. I have found the Afghan Coca Cola Light to be slightly lighter-bodied and yet sweeter than its Kazakh cousin. I figure the formulas must be different as the nutritional information on the Coca Cola Light from Kazakhstan indicates 0.2 calories per 100mL, while the Afghan version claims 0.3 calories per 100mL. Who knew 0.1 calories could make such a difference… though I am inclined to believe that varying water sources are probably where the majority of the difference in flavor comes from.

Although I prefer the version from Afghanistan, I must say that neither version tastes exactly like the American version that I’ve come to know, love, and become dependent upon. I suppose the true testament to my addiction to Diet Coke is the simple fact that I have come this far to write this long of a blog entry about it!


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