You already know that you shouldn’t glug soda by the gallons. But here’s a new concern you probably didn’t think of: the caramel coloring they’re made with—the stuff that turns regular and diet sodas that characteristic shade of brown—contains potential cancer-causing compounds, according to new research by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
The chemicals in question are potentially carcinogenic compounds called 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) and 2-methylimidazole (2-MEI). The CSPI tested Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper products for 4-MEI and found that Coke and Pepsi contained up to 5 times the amount of the chemical deemed safe by the California government. (The FDA does not currently list 4-MEI or 2-MEI as known human carcinogens.) (Speaking of cancer—is it in your future? Test your risk here.)
So does caramel coloring cause cancer? The science isn’t conclusive.
In research published in 2007, the National Toxicity Program exposed rats and mice to—and this is key—high doses of 4-MEI and 2-MEI. They found that exposure to 4-MEI was linked to lung tumors in mice; 2-MEI was linked to developing thyroid gland and liver tumors. (Click here to learn how to cancer-proof your body.)
“Some of these associations were considered ‘clear evidence,’ which means that these chemicals are strongly related to these types of cancers,” says John Bucher, Ph.D., associate director of the NTP and one of the researchers on the study. (Clear evidence is actually a technical term here, the highest level of association the NTP uses.)
These studies are hard to replicate in humans. After all, scientists can’t exactly feed people high doses and see who develops cancer. But according to Bucher, we can assume that chemicals carcinogenic to rodents will cause cancer in us, too. (Here’s how strong muscles may protect you against the big C.)
But that doesn’t mean you need to treat that can of cola like hazardous waste. Because the amount present in sodas via caramel coloring is far less than what was fed to rodents in the studies, your risk is significantly smaller. Coke and Pepsi also just modified their caramel color recipes to include less 4-MEI than the samples tested by the CSPI.
We hope soda—regular or diet—isn’t a staple in your diet anyway. The CSPI notes that a bigger concern with soda is the “10 teaspoons of sugar in every can.” For that reason alone, it’s smart to cut back and hydrate with plain H20. Our favorite way to swig: The insulated, stainless steel S’well bottle keeps cold water chilled for 24 hours. ($35; swellbottle.com.)
Reference : Men’s Health
More to read:
- The Truth about Diet Soda
- The Diet That Fights Prostate Cancer
- Another Strike Against Diet Soda
- Coke, Pepsi Make Changes to Avoid Cancer Warning
- A Soft Drink Generation Poisoned with Pesticides
- Soylent Pepsi is People
- Obama agency rules Pepsi’s use of aborted fetal cells in soft drinks constitutes ‘ordinary business operations’