New Carcinogen Alert Provides Yet Another Reason to Ditch Soda
Surprise! Soda contains yet another chemical that could cause cancer.
The offender is 4-methylimidazole aka 4-Mel and it is what gives cola its brown, caramel color. Even though there are no federal limits for the amount of 4-Mel allowed in food and beverages, Consumer Reports decided to measure how much 4-Mel was in soft drinks in 2013. In that study they found that a 12-ounce bottle of soda could contain 3.4 to 352.5 micrograms of the stuff.
Recently, Consumer Reports followed up on that study by partnering with the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Researchers evaluated how much 4-Mel the average American consumes by analyzing seven years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. These estimated daily soda consumption numbers helped formulate the potential cancer risk based on how much soda someone drank.
So as a nation, how many sodas are we drinking per day? First of all, more than half of us between the ages of 6 to 64 drink the fizzy stuff on a typical day. And while you may hear about people who drink nothing but the stuff, the average amount lies somewhere in the one to 2.5 12-ounce cans range—with the highest amount consumed being three cans a day.
Reporting their findings in the journal PLOS One, researchers estimate that 4-Mel exposure alone could contribute to 76 to 5,000 new cases of cancer in the U.S. over the next 70 years. And while that doesn’t seem like a lot, consider that our exposure to 4-Mel doesn’t come from soda alone. Bread and other baked goods, dark sauces such as soy or barbecue, pancake syrup and soup may all contain the stuff, but most of our exposure—25 percent of it—can be contributed to soda.
While this might not be the straw that breaks your soda habit, consider that soda drinking has been linked to numerous health issues, including addiction, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, allergies and weight gain (those fizzy treats provide 7 percent of our total calorie intake and are a major source of added sugars).
Carey Rossi is a writer and editor with 10 years of experience covering all aspects of nutrition and fitness. She was the editor-in-chief of Better Nutrition, a shopping magazine for natural living, and the founding editor of Muscle & Fitness Hers. In addition, her work has appeared in Muscle & Fitness, Looking Good Now, Healthy Family, Vegetarian Times and Natural Health. She is the author of No More Diets Ever, Lose Weight the Natural Way.