The caramel color of cola drinks does not come from burnt sugar as you would expect. It is actually made by reacting sugar with ammonia and sulfites at high temperatures, because creating something that looks like burnt sugar is cheaper than using the real thing. As we reported last June, the fake burnt sugar has turned out to be a powerful carcinogen in mammals. Since then the FDA has refused to ban the substance from use, and companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi are making minimal change to their products so they don’t have to carry cancer warning labels. In the meantime, millions of cola drinks laced with the carcinogen are being consumed by an unsuspecting public.
As far back as 2008, the Toxicology Operation Branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences documented the carcinogenic effects of this toxic brew, known 4-methylimidazole or 4MI , in animal studies. They concluded that 4MI is carcinogenic, inducing alveolar/bronchiolar adenoma and carcinoma in male and female mice. 4MI may also induce mononuclear cell leukemia in female rats. They further observed that 4MI was associated with clonic seizures, excitability, hyperactivity, and impaired gait.
Over one year ago, the consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a regulatory petition with the FDA to have 4MI banned from use in food, citing the fact that it serves no nutritive purpose and is there purely as a cosmetic.
The initial response from the Coca-Cola company was to deny the cancer link and state that the research findings were simply untrue and “scientifically unfounded”. The company claimed there was no public health risk that would justify any change to their products.
But when faced with the need to carry a cancer warning label in the state of California to comply with Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Coca-Cola representative Diana Garza-Ciarlante told the Associated Press: “While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning.”
However an LA Weekly story has reported these planned modifications to Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other cola products will reduce the amount of 4MI only slightly (likely only enough to put them out of the range requiring a cancer warning label). There are no plans to restore the real thing, burnt sugar. Thus the cola-drinking public will remain at risk.
CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson noted that “Coke and Pepsi, with the acquiescence of the FDA are needlessly exposing millions of Americans to a chemical that causes cancer.”
4MI is used in the manufacture of photographic chemicals, dyes and pigments, cleaning and agricultural chemicals, and rubber. It is present in mainstream and side stream tobacco smoke.
Carcinogenic coloring compound is not the only danger of cola drinks
. They are made with such whopping amounts of high fructose corn syrup and sugar that drinking a cola can raise the acidity of the body to a level where calcium must be withdrawn from bone
to keep the critical blood acidity level within an acceptable limit. After years of drinking colas, loss of bone mineralization can lead to osteoporosis. A university study has found that drinking colas was associated with lower bone mineral density at all three hip measurement sites.
To make matters worse, colas get their tangy taste from phosphoric acid, a substance that is extremely corrosive. Regular cola drinkers can find that phosphoric acid is dissolving away their skeleton
, beginning with the jawbone, pelvis and femur. Phosphoric acid ruins the enamel on teeth too.
And these high levels of phosphoric acid have the same effects on children at a time when their bodies are growing and developing. A study of 57 children with low blood calcium levels found that the majority of them drank more than four sodas a week. High blood levels mean calcium is being leached from bones
rather than being used to build strong bones.
Drinking diet cola is not the answer. Diet soda contains as much phosphoric acid as regular cola. And diet cola contains aspartame,
the artificial sweetener linked to tumors in rats, along with headaches, dizziness, memory loss, attention problems and more.
Buying Dr. Pepper or a store brand of cola is not the answer either. These are also colored with 4MI, sweetened with high fructose corn syrup
and contain extreme levels of phosphoric acid. Even some colas sold at health oriented food stores like Whole Foods Markets fit this bill.
Look to replace colas and other sodas with some of the many and varied bottled teas now on the market. Drinking tea has been shown to be as healthy as drinking water
, and tea contains a variety of polyphenols, a group of natural chemicals that provide many health benefits and anti-aging properties.
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About The Author:
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using “alternative” treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.