18 February 2019
A common soda ingredient exposes regular drinkers to "avoidable and unnecessary" cancer risk, a new study warns.
A common soda ingredient exposes regular drinkers to "avoidable and unnecessary" cancer risk, a new study warns.

Soda drinkers exposed to unnecessary cancer risk: study

We all know that drinking too much soda can lead to obesity and related problems, but a new study warns of far bigger risks posed by the sugary drinks. 

According to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), between 44 percent and 58 percent of people over the age of 6 could be unnecessarily increasing their cancer risk by drinking at least one can of soda a day.

The danger arises as soda makers often add caramel coloring to their products, which can potentially produce a carcinogen called 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), the researchers say.

“Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes,” New York Daily News quoted Dr. Keeve Nachman, who co-authored the study, as saying.

In 2013 and early 2014, Consumer Reports magazine partnered with the CLF to analyze 4-MEI concentrations of 110 soft drink samples purchased from retail stores in California and the New York metropolitan area.

The study paired those results with population beverage consumption data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in order to estimate the population risks and cancer burden associated with 4-MEI exposures through soda.

Most sodas contain 3.4 micrograms to 352.5 micrograms of 4-MEI per 12 ounce serving, but the 4-MEI levels varied in samples of the same type of soda, the report said.

For example, in diet colas, certain samples had higher or more variable levels of the carcinogenic compound, while other samples were found to have very low concentrations.

Following the study, the researchers have urged the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to impose limits on the 4-MEI levels in beverages.

“An FDA intervention, such as determining maximum levels for 4-MEI in beverages, could be a valuable approach to reducing excess cancer risk attributable to 4-MEI exposure,” they said.

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