Research has found that 4-methylimidazole (4-Mel), the chemical that gives cola its appealing caramel colour is a potential carcinogen.
There aren’t any federal regulations that restrict use of 4-Mel, but according to the report, more than half of Americans between age 6 to 64 drink enough soda on a regular basis to elevate their cancer risk.
Researchers from the Consumer Reports and the Centre for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, tested 110 samples of cola and other soft drink beverages. All of the samples, except for the clear beverages, contained 3.4 to 352.5 micrograms of 4-Mel per 12-ounce bottle or can.
While there aren’t federal regulations on how much of the chemical manufacturers can put in beverages, California does require companies to include a cancer warning label if the drink contains more than 29 micrograms in a 12-ounce bottle or can.
The average person age six to 64 drank as much as two and a half cans of cola per day. Approximately one-third of children between ages three and five drank two-thirds of a can each day. People between age 16 and 44 were the most frequent cola drinkers, consuming as many as three cans per day.
Through this analysis, the researchers concluded that within the next 70 years, there could be at as many as 5,000 incidences of cancer directly related to cola consumption.
But cracking down on the soft drink industry won’t completely eliminate the chemical from the American diet. Unfortunately, dark-colored carbonated beverages are not the only source of 4-Mel. The chemical is also used in soy and barbecue sauce, pancake syrup and some soups.
The study is published in PLOS One.