Soft Drink to Hard Candy: Watch a Soda Turn Into a Lollipop

It might be hard to imagine what the amount of sugar in a can of Coke looks like until you see it morph into a kid-friendly treat.
Aug 19, 2015·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Back in 1990, LL Cool J rapped a now-legendary line about an “around the way girl” who was “standing on the bus stop sucking on a lollipop.” Nowadays, if that girl were hanging out with Brooklyn, New York–based artist and photographer Henry Hargreaves, her piece of hard candy might be coming from someplace other than the corner store.

That’s because Hargreaves’ latest project is (de)hydrate, an effort that transforms sweetened beverages such as soda or sports drinks into lollipops.

“After recently hearing a health professional refer to soda as ‘the cigarettes of our generation,’ I decided to do an experiment to show what’s in soft drinks after the water is boiled away—in other words, dehydrating the hydrator,” wrote Hargreaves in an email. “Once boiled, I took each remaining substance and poured it into a lollipop mold. After all, I figure that’s what you’re essentially getting: candy in costume as a soft drink.”

Hargreaves documented the process in the video above, and the results are eye-opening. Yes, that sticky, weird-colored sludge left behind in his skillets is what youre drinking if you down a can of Coca-Cola that contains 39 grams of sugar—or a bottle of seemingly healthier Snapple that has 46 grams of the sweet stuff.

RELATED: Kids’ ‘Fruit’ Drinks May Have More Sugar Than Soda—and Parents Don’t Realize It

Hargreaves wrote that his goal isn’t to get people to stop drinking soda or the other beverages he made lollipops out of. Instead, his hope is that people begin to think about what they’re putting in their bodies.

According to the results of a recent Gallup poll, that may already be happening. Soda is the No. 1 food item that Americans are trying to avoid—61 percent of U.S. residents are axing regular soda from their diet, and 62 percent are steering clear of diet drinks. The drinks can lead to tooth decay that rivals meth mouth; some of them contain coloring agents that are suspected to cause cancer, and they can put consumers on the path to obesity and a slew of other health-related problems, such as diabetes. Not worried yet? One 22-year study led by the Harvard School of Public Health found that downing one 12-ounce can of soda every day boosted a person’s chance of a heart attack by 20 percent.

As a result, some places, such as San Francisco, are considering adding health warnings to soft drink advertisements similar to those found on a pack of cigarettes. Even with those labels, however, it might be tough for the average person to conceptualize how much sugar is being consumed, which is why projects such as Hargreaves’ may be helpful.

“I guess we all knew there was sugar, but not this much, as it’s never shown literally,” he wrote.