Coca-Cola is scheduled to release Diet Coke Plus in 2007, the first nutrient-enhanced carbonated soda fortified with vitamins and minerals (niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium and zinc) , meaning that people will have even more of a reason to opt for diet…

than just wanting to cut down on calories: they can do it for their health.

It will be promoted as “sparkling beverages.” The companies are not calling them soft drinks because people are turning away from traditional soda, which has been hurt in part by publicity about its link to obesity.

The new fortified soft drinks earned grudging approval from Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group and frequent critic of regular soft drinks, which it has labeled “liquid candy.”

“These beverages are certainly a lot better than a regular soft drink,” he said. But he was quick to add that consumers were better off getting their nutrients from natural foods, rather than fortified soft drinks.

While it is too soon to know whether consumers will buy the idea of a vitamin-fortified diet soda, soft drink companies are trying to find other ways to reposition their products as healthy. For instance, all of the major soft drink companies are furiously trying to develop a no-calorie natural sweetener to allay concerns about artificial sweeteners.

A sugar-free, but nutrient-filled, drink will certainly have a lot of appeal in an increasingly health-conscious society, but is it enough to convert people to diet Coke from other sources of vitamins? Assuming that it ends up tasting like the standard diet Coke, would you give it a try?