I posted last week about a new study that shows a 60% increase in heart disease risk for people who drink a diet soda every day.
For people like me who aren’t crazy about the chemicals in diet soda, but love the taste, refreshment and absence of calories, this study isn’t enough to make me stop drinking the stuff. First, the study doesn’t seem to give a reason why diet soda could cause an increase in the risk of heart disease. Second, I don’t drink diet soda every day. And third, pretty much everyone who’s written about this study since its announcement expectsthere’s something else people who drink diet soda daily are doing, that gives them a higher risk of heart disease.
So it’s tough for me to swear off diet soda because of that study.
But this week brings a new study suggesting ill effects from drinking diet (and regular) soda. This time it’s cancer we’re worried about, and this time they give a reason: caramel coloring.
The caramel coloring used in diet and regular Coke and Pepsi is apparently made by reacting sugars with ammonia. Two byproducts of this reaction, 2-mehtylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, have been shown in government studies to increase the risk of cancer in lab rats. One has made California’s list of known carcinogens.
So it could be that each diet soda you drink minutely increases your chance of cancer.
But even this news will not stop me from drinking diet sodas now and then. The known carcinogens produced by making caramel coloring don’t appear to be powerful carcinogens. There was a time when saccharin had to bear a label stating that it had caused cancer in laboratory rats; but the amounts required to produce that cancer were found to be so great that the label is no longer required. We may see a similar story here.
Even if we do, I’m not crazy about ingesting chemicals of any type, let alone chemicals shown to cause cancer in rats. But it’s less of a concern to me than the sugars found in most sweet beverages; and unless you want to spend your entire life drinking nothing but water it’s hard to find flavored beverages with fewer known health risks than diet soda. The key may simply be moderation. (Don’t drink one every day.)
Does the new cancer study worry you?