A new study has found that drinking at least one can of soda per day may significantly increase the risk of cancer. Research conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that some caramel colorings in soda can produce 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a potential carcinogen.
The study, published online in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS One, noted that 44-58 percent of American adults typically consume at least one can of soda daily; these individuals have a higher risk of 4-MEI from soft drinks. In 2014, Consumers Reports published an analysis of 4-MEI concentrations among 110 different soft drinks. This study builds on that analysis, and researchers say that the risk of cancer may increase greatly with lifetime exposure to the substance.
“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,” said Keeve Nachman, senior author of the study and director of the Food Production and Public Health Program at the CLF, according to Newsmax Health. “This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda.
Johns Hopkins researchers estimated population risks and cancer burden associated with 4-MEI exposure through soda using data population beverage consumption data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Findings showed that 4-MEI levels can vary significantly across samples. This holds true even for the same type of beverage, said Tyler Smith, a program officer with the CLF. “For example, for diet colas, certain samples had higher or more variable levels of the compound, while other samples had very low concentrations,” Smith said, according to Newsmax Health. The study was not large enough make conclusions about brands, or recommend one over the other.
Last year, Consumer Reports petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set limits of 4-MEI levels in food or beverages. Currently, the federal government does not impose any on the potential carcinogen.
Urvashi Rangan, executive director for Consumer Reports’ Food and Safety Sustainability Center, said “This new analysis underscores our belief that people consume significant amounts of soda that unnecessarily elevate their risk of cancer over the course of a lifetime,” according to Newsmax Health. “We believe beverage makers and the government should take the steps needed to protect public health.”