Public health researchers found that daily soda consumption may be linked to an increased risk of developing cancer due to an artificial caramel coloring used in many soft drinks such as coke and other dark-colored sweetened beverages.
Researchers explained that the coloring contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a potentially carcinogenic byproduct that may boost the odds of developing cancer in people abusing dark colored soft drinks (colas included). Those people, researchers claim, get unnecessarily exposed to 4-MEI, although its concentration may vary within different brands of soda.
The study was published February 18 in the online journal PLOS ONE.
Scientists based their findings on a 2014 study related to 4-MEI concentrations in more than 10 different sodas. The last year’s study was conducted by a team of medical researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and published by the Consumer Reports.
The 2014 research assessed the cancer risk linked to caramel-colored soda consumption according to the current daily soft drink consumption levels in the U.S. Johns Hopkins researchers found that soda consumers were exposed to “an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk” because of the caramel coloring that has no other purpose than pleasing the eye of the buyer.
This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda,”
said Dr. Keeve Nachman, lead author of the 2014 study and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Nearly two years ago, Consumer Reports and CLF conducted an extended analysis of soda samples looking for 4-MEI concentrations and the potential cancer risk of more than 100 soft drink samples bought from the retailers in Calif. and NY metropolitan area. Scientists found back then that 4-MEI concentrations varied a lot even within the same category of soda.
For example, for diet colas, certain samples had higher or more variable levels of the compound, while other samples had very low concentrations,”
explained Tyler Smith a program officer with the CLF who was also involved in the study.
As a result, Consumer Reports urged FDA to issue federal limits on 4-MEI levels in food or beverages last year.
Scientists also warned people that by consuming such products they unnecessarily elevate their cancer risk later in life. They also urged beverage makers and the government to take steps toward protecting public health.
California is one of the few states that compels food and drink makers to label their products as being hazardous to health when they pass a certain 4-MEI daily exposure limit.
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