The Undisputable Connection Between Cancer And Sodas

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You have probably been hearing since you were a child that sodas are not good for you, and that sodas lead to weight gain, tooth decay, diabetes, and much, much more. Recently, however, studies have shown a new connection between cancer and soda. This newly found link lies not in the sugar or the aspartame, but in the substance that gives soda its color.

A coloring agent that is present in many sodas called 4-Mel has been found to cause cancer when consumed in higher amounts. Colas (and all sodas) should contain less than 29 micrograms of 4-Mel. However, recent tests performed in sodas on both the West and East coasts and published in Consumer Reports found the following:

  • A&W Root Beer: 24.2 micrograms
  • Coca-Cola ( all types): fewer than 4 micrograms
  • Malta Goya: 352.5 micrograms
  • Pepsi One: 195.3 micrograms
  • Pepsi and Diet Pepsi: 174.4 micrograms
  • Whole Foods’ Dr. Snap: 55.9


SEE ALSO: Which is the Most Deadly: GMOs, Cigarettes, or Diet Soda?


Wow. These are some pretty shocking numbers. All brands tested except for Coca Cola brands were way over the acceptable limit. It is also sad to note that the “healthy” Whole Foods brand had double the amount of this cancer-causing agent than Coca Cola did. This makes most sodas nothing more than cancer in a can, right?

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Interestingly enough, just before these tests results were published, Nestle announced that they were refusing the usage of artificial flavors and colors in their products. That is certainly a step in the right direction.

A law recently passed in California says that labels must clearly inform their customers of carcinogenic compounds in their sodas. Isn’t it funny how once this law was passed, all brands of soda reduced the amount of 4-Mel in their sodas to avoid this label? The 29 microgram limit has been established, but why put any 4-Methylimidazole in a soda at all? Is there any good reason why consumers should be exposed to a cancer-causing agent simply to color something brown?

It’s also interesting to note that if a cola in California has more than the 29 micrograms of 4-Mel, it must be labeled. The law says it must say something along the lines of “contains cancer-causing compounds.”  If you live in California, check out some of those labels. Several brands were found to simply say “May contain caramel coloring.” That doesn’t sound scary enough to keep anyone, let alone teenagers, away from these chemicals.

It’s not just 4-Mel that causes cancer, and it isn’t just this one study linking sodas to cancer. Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C, published a study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research) in 2010 which showed that those who drank two or more sodas each week had an 87 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer when compared to those who did not drink sodas.

Of course, the beverage industry objected to this study, insisting that it was flawed — but that is to be expected.

Pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in 42,000 American in 2009 with more than 35,000 deaths occurring among that group.

This study involved more than 60,000 women and men who attended the Singapore Chinese Health Study in 1993. This study continued for more than 14 years, looking at diets and who was diagnosed with what type of cancer.

All subjects were quizzed about their food intake, including water, fruit juices, and sodas. Although no one asked specifically about whether or not subjects were drinking diet sodas, no one mentioned that they were drinking diet sodas. At that time, diet sodas in Singapore were very uncommon, so it is fairly safe to assume that the sodas people were saying that they drinking were regular, sugary colas.

Out of these 60,000 subjects, there were 140 cases of pancreatic cancer. Researchers divided these subjects into three groups: Those who drank two or more sodas each week, less than two sodas each week, and no soda consumption at all.

Those who consumed more than two sodas each week (the average soda consumption was actually five  per week) had an 87 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

There was no link found when they divided these subjects by their juice consumption.

This study also adjusted for other risk factors, including smoking, diabetes, weight, and age. The risk for this type of cancer did increase with age, but that was the only change noted.

Scientists believe that it is the high level of sugar in soft drinks that causes cancer. Sugar increases the insulin level in the body, which is believed to contribute to the growth of pancreatic cancer cells. Researchers believe that this increase in insulin production is what might be the leading factor in the development of pancreatic cancer.

As expected, the American Beverage Association filed a statement saying that you can be a healthy person and still enjoy soft drinks.

These are not, by any means, the only studies that show a link between cancer and sodas.

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A study by Lund University in Sweden published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that it took only one can of soda each day to increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer by 40 percent.

This study looked at 8,000 men between the ages of 45 and 73 for about 15 years, on average. Researchers found that those who drank a mere 12 ounces, one typical can of soda, each day, were 40 percent more likely to develop cancer of the prostate.

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health also conducted a study which had more than 60,000 participants. They were also found to have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, and previous studies had shown that sodas were linked to an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Also, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health did a meta-analysis of studies done on the link between sodas and cancer. They, too, found that the consumption of sodas was positively affected with an increased risk of several types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.

Then there is always the obvious argument that the sugar in sodas causes weight gain and obesity. Obesity has its own health risks, including a higher risk of cancer and other diseases.

Cancer is affected by many other environmental factors, and even some genetic factors, so even if you are not willing to say that there is enough evidence to link sodas and cancer, you absolutely can say that a poor diet, which would definitely include sodas, leads to an increased risk of numerous diseases, including cancer.

So if you are still drinking sodas — even the occasional soda — how much more evidence do you need to break the habit? There are numerous healthy drinks on the market including tea, herbal teas, green tea, fruit-infused water, plain old water, seltzer water with fruit juice, vegetable juice, tomato juice, fruit juice, and simple water with a squeeze of lemon. One of these choices is sure to appeal to your taste buds. Try it. Today.