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Soda is bad for your health. But it may be even worse than you'd thought. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the "caramel coloring" used in Coke, Pepsi and other sodas is carcinogenic.

The artificial brown coloring is made by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressures and at high temperatures. This produces the chemicals 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, which have been found to cause lung, liver and thyroid cancer in lab rats and mice.

Time Magazine reports:
"According to California's regulators, a level of more than 16 micrograms per day would pose a significant risk - meaning it could result in at least one excess case of cancer per 100,000 exposed people.

Given that there are roughly 130 micrograms of 4-MI per 12-ounce can of soda - and given that the average American drinks 14 ounces of soda a day, with young men drinking far more - that would mean that most of us would be at some risk."
The FDA responded to the charge by saying:
"4-MI is not a threat to human health. There is no evidence that 4-MI causes cancer in humans. No health regulatory agency around the globe, including the Food and Drug Administration, has said that 4-MI is a human carcinogen. This petition is nothing more than another attempt to scare consumers by an advocacy group long-dedicated to attacking the food and beverage industry."

Time Magazine February 17, 2011

NIH Study January 2007

CSPI Petition to FDA February 16, 2011

Dr. Mercola's Comments

As CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson puts it, soda is a "nutritionally worthless beverage that provides nothing of benefit to the diet, but whose sugars promote weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and other health problems."

If you needed one more reason to give up soft drinks, here you have it.

"Caramel coloring" certainly SOUNDS benign enough - no one would ever suspect it would be among the most dangerous ingredients on your Pepsi label.

But just as MSG hides behind the names "gelatin" and "yeast extract" and "brown rice syrup," these dangerous byproducts are silently concealed beneath the name "caramel coloring," which most likely conjures up fond memories of delectable caramel apple treats at Halloween, rather than cancer-causing chemicals.

And this is exactly the image the industry wants you to have, and why they put "caramel" in the name. But false claims have a way of surfacing (eventually), and this brilliant deception by the food and beverage industry appears to be the latest truth unearthed.

Even the "natural" foods industry is guilty of trying to pass off caramel coloring as "natural."

One prime example...

Whole Foods Markets sells 365 brand "all natural soda" containing caramel coloring.

Considering that ALL caramel colorings are highly heat-processed, sometimes pressure treated, and often reacted with strong acids, bases, ammonia, and/or sulfites, it is unbelievable the FDA still allows manufacturers and retailers to market this kind of product as "all natural."

How Caramel Coloring is Concocted

Soda isn't the only food containing caramel coloring - have you ever read the ingredient list on your bottle of beer? Caramel coloring can be found in a wide variety of other common products, including:
  • Taco Bell's "beef"
  • Cat food and dog food
  • Beer
  • Chocolate
  • Potato chips
  • Soy sauce
  • Sauce mixes, gravies and batters
  • Dark breads
And if you really spent some time reading processed food labels in a grocery store, I'm sure you'd find many more examples, as it's a very commonly used ingredient for giving foods and beverages that toasty brown color.

There are actually four kinds of caramel coloring used in the food industry, and all four start out with some form of sugar:
  1. Plain caramel (caramel I)
  2. A reaction between sugar and sulfites (caramel II)
  3. A reaction between sugar and ammonium compounds (caramel III)
  4. A reaction between sugar and both sulfites and ammonium compounds (caramel IV)
The fourth kind, sometimes known as "ammonia-sulfite process caramel," is the kind found in Coke and Pepsi, but of course, it would be bad for business to call it THAT!

Reacting sugar with ammonium compounds is what results in the formation of several chemical byproducts - two of which are 2-methylimidazole (2-MI) and 4-methylimidazole (4-MI). Both of these have been found to promote lung, liver, and thyroid tumors in laboratory rats and mice.

It is interesting to note that 4-MI is actually heavily USED in the manufacturing of the stomach drug cimetidine - and even considered "in short supply" by Big Pharma.

What Laboratory Rats Will Tell You

The FDA does not currently limit the amount of 2-MI or 4-MI in foods.

On February 16, 2011, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) submitted a petition to the FDA asking them to ban the use of caramel colorings (produced with ammonia) from all food products.

In their petition, CSPI cited a number of scientific studies showing these additives cause a variety of cancerous tumors - and other seriously damaging effects - in rats and mice. Specifically, they report the following physiological phenomena:
  • Alveolar/bronchiolar adenoma and carcinoma
  • Mononuclear cell leukemia
  • Mineralization of the thyroid gland, and thyroid cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Chronic focal inflammation of the lung
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Pancreatic atrophy
  • Inflammation of the prostate gland
  • Hypertrophy of the pituitary gland
  • Abnormal behaviors, including hyperactivity and impaired gait, indicating neurotoxicity
All of THAT from caramel coloring! They'll have to make soda cans bigger to fit all those warnings on the label.

If the Caramel Coloring in Soda Doesn't Make You Sick, the Sugar Will

The amount of sugar consumed by Americans each year in the form of soda pop is staggering. Americans consume close to 50 billion liters of soda per year, which equates to about 216 liters, or about 57 gallons per person.

And not just any sugar, but some of the worst we know of - in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Within 20 minutes of drinking a soda, your blood sugar spikes, and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat. Not only that, studies have linked sugar intake with a number of serious health problems, including:
  • Breast, throat and colon cancer
  • Gout
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity and insulin resistance
  • Premature aging
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Soda contains the preservative sodium benzoate, which can combine with vitamin C to form benzene, another carcinogenic chemical. In one study, at least five brands of soft drinks were found to contain excessive benzene levels. Sodium benzoate has been found to shut off vital parts of your DNA, which can lead to diseases like cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson's disease.

Even worse are so-called "diet" sodas, which contain dangerous artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, chemicals that don't do anything to help America's expanding waistline but actually ADD to the obesity problem.
Aspartame is a terrible excitotoxin that can result in seizures, depression, fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, premature birth and birth defects, and cancer.

Sucralose, more commonly known as Splenda, is problematic as well, sparking frequent reports of migraines, seizures, gastrointestinal problems, dizziness and blurred vision, among other things.
And now we have caramel coloring to add to the toxic profile. The research is very clear - if you are drinking soda of any kind, be it regular or diet, you are sabotaging your health and cutting years off your lifespan.

A Few Tips and Tricks to Lick the Soda Pop Habit

To their credit, California public health officials recently placed 4-MI on the state's list of known carcinogens after a study at the University of California at Davis found levels of 4-MI in colas far exceeded safety levels.

But it appears our federal government will not be as reasonable as the state of California, as you can see by the response of FDA spokesman Douglas Karas, whose defensive reaction was quoted in the Time Magazine article.

Until our government puts your health before industry profits, the only person that can protect you is YOU. Here are a few suggestions to help you along this path:
  • Steer clear of ANY soda pop and processed food aisles. Shop around the periphery of the store.
  • Refrain from giving soft drinks to your children, since children and pregnant women are even MORE vulnerable to the damaging effects of these products.
  • Become a label reader. Look past splashy packaging that lures you into a false sense of security - if it contains caramel coloring, put it back on the shelf and don't waste your money.
  • Make it a new habit, if you aren't doing it already, of making water your beverage of choice.
  • If you "crave the fizz," try sparkling mineral water with a squirt of lemon or lime.
  • Sugar is even more addictive than cocaine - so consider trying out turbo tapping if you struggle with intense sugar cravings.