Diet Coke was first introduced in the US in July 1982 and today it is the fourth most commonly consumed carbonated beverage in the world.

Apart from being the beverage of choice for sugar-phobic individuals the world over, Coca-Cola is one of the longest standing 'corporate partners' (since 1974) of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). In 1998 the company signed an unprecedented eight-year agreement to sponsor FIFA events - not just the prestigious World Cup, but also the Women's World Cup, the Confederation Cup, various youth championships and the upcoming World Cup Trophy Trip, a roadshow that will take the FIFA World Cup Trophy on tour to cities throughout the world.

Last year Coca-Cola extended its FIFA sponsorship commitment until 2022, a move that prompted the preposterous statement by company Chairman and CEO, E. Neville Isdell, that Coke's recommitment to the
world's most popular sport 'affords us a new opportunity to bring people closer together through football'.

It also helps them shift a lot of cans and bottles. A recent study by marketing information company ACNeilsen revealed that the Coca-Cola brand is the global leader among beverages, generating well over $15 billion in sales globally each year. Coke and Diet Coke each generate more than a billion dollars in sales yearly.

Five countries - the US, the UK, Germany, Canada and Brazil - guzzle more of this supposedly healthy, sugar-free alternative to regular Coke than anywhere else in the world.

Aggressive marketing like the FIFA sponsorship and clever jingles like 'Always Coca-Cola' keep Coke in our consciousness, but before you 'grab a Coke and a smile' at this year's main event, consider just what you are putting into your body. Although Diet Coke has a strong association with sport and health, it is actually a worrying mixture of neurotoxic and potentially carcinogenic high intensity sweeteners (aspartame and acesulfame K), tooth and bone destroying acids (phosphoric acid) and DNA damaging colourings (sulphite ammonia caramel), as well as psychoaddictive caffeine and other undisclosed 'fl avourings'.

It also contains sodium benzoate, which can be broken down into the listed carcinogen benzene in the presence of strong acids, such as the citric acid found in this product.

Soda manufacturers have been aware of this synergistic possibility since the 1990s, but without pressure from regulatory authorities to change their formula to prevent the formation of benzene, have continued to mix benzoates and acids.

Ironically, the high fructose syrups used in regular drinks seem to slow this reaction down, and the formation of benzene appears to be most problematic in diet drinks.