By Dr. Mercola
In 1986, California passed a ballot initiative called Proposition 65, which required consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels.
Rather than label their products sold in California as likely carcinogenic, most companies reformulated their product ingredients so as to avoid warning labels altogether, and most did this on a national scale, not just in California, to avoid carrying a separate inventory of products.
After it was revealed that a common additive known as "caramel coloring" on labels, or 4-methylimidazole (4-MI) scientifically, used in many sodas may cause cancer, soda bigwigs Coke and Pepsi announced that they would reformulate their caramel coloring in order to avoid adding a cancer warning label to their products in California.
But did they really?
Pepsi Products Outside of California Still Contain Carcinogenic Caramel Coloring
It's been more than a year since Coke and Pepsi declared they would be reformulating their products to remove 4-MI in their caramel coloring.
This artificial brown color 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.
However, when the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) tested samples of Coke and Pepsi products from California and other states for 4-MI, they found marked discrepancies in the Pepsi products:
"If you live in California, Coke and Pepsi products are made without 4-MI, a chemical known to cause cancer. But in testing of cola products from ten states, CEH found high levels of 4-MI in ALL Pepsi cola products, while 9 out of ten Coke products were found without 4-MI problems."1
Pepsi responded to CEH's findings by stating they plan to remove the chemical for the rest of the US by February 2014 and are also planning to remove the chemical globally. Still, CEH's executive director called Pepsi's delay "inexplicable" and urged the company to "take swift action" to provide the same safer product that's being sold in California to all Americans.2
It's Not Unusual for Food Manufacturers to Use Toxic Chemicals in Markets Where They Can Get Away with It…
This is but one example of a product being forced to clean up its act in one region, but allowed to continue being sold with known toxic ingredients in less-strict regions. The product manufacturers rarely make moves to improve product safety on their own, doing so only when bad press or the threat of a cancer warning forces their hand.
Case in point, a list of ingredients that are banned across the globe but still allowed for US foods recently made the news and included various food dyes, the fat substitute Olestra, brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate (aka brominated flour), Azodicarbonamide, BHA, BHT, rBGH, rBST, and arsenic.
For clear examples, take a look at a recent article on 100DaysOfRealFood.com.3 In it, author Vani Hari shows the ingredient labels of several common foods sold in the US and the UK, such as Betty Crocker's Red Velvet cake mix, McDonald's French fries, and Pizza Hut's garlic cheese bread.
Amazingly, while these foods can be created using a bare minimum of additives in the UK (and sometimes none), in the US they're absolutely LOADED with chemicals.
The same premise goes for the Pepsi being sold in California, which right now contains fewer toxic chemicals than Pepsi being sold in other parts of the US. The difference in this case, however, is that it's likely only a matter of time before the rest of Pepsi's products catch up to the California standard, as even though Prop 65 only applies to one state, it typically has a national impact.
Soda Is Still Toxic Even If 4-MI Is Removed…
The more unhealthful chemicals removed from the market, the better, of course. But please don't take the removal of 4-MI from Coke and Pepsi to mean that it is somehow a safe or healthy beverage.
There's nothing healthy or natural about soda, even if it one day contains a 'safe' form of caramel coloring. Drinking soda is in many ways worse for you than smoking, and it is only because of massive marketing campaigns from the industry that these sugary beverages are deemed so acceptable. The primary reason why soda is so dangerous to your health?
The fructose content of the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used in many popular soda brands has been grossly underestimated. Around 100 years ago the average American consumed a mere 15 grams of fructose a day, primarily in the form of fruit, not industrially produced isolate, which is infinitely different on a physiological level. One hundred years later, one-fourth of Americans are consuming more than 135 grams per day, largely in the form of soda.
Fructose at 15 grams a day or less is generally harmless (unless you suffer from high uric acid levels). However, at nearly 10 times that amount it becomes a major contributor to obesity and nearly all chronic degenerative diseases. Instead of consisting of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, many soda brands, including Coke, Pepsi and Sprite, contain as much as 65 percent fructose, nearly 20 percent higher than originally believed.4 Thanks to the excellent work of researchers like Dr. Robert Lustig, and Dr. Richard Johnson, we now know that fructose:
- Is metabolized differently from glucose, with the majority being turned directly into fat
- Tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, as it turns off your body's appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the "hunger hormone"), doesn't drive glucose into the cell to create satiety, and doesn't stimulate leptin (the "satiety hormone"), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance.
- Rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity ("beer belly"), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure — i.e., classic metabolic syndrome.
- Over time leads to insulin resistance, which is not only an underlying factor of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but also many cancers.
- Leads to a dopamine- and opioid-mediated hedonistic syndrome, which causes an insatiable desire to consume more of the same, despite the broad range of adverse, even life-threatening, health effects caused by excessive fructose consumption.
Diet Sodas Are EVEN Worse!
You may be thinking you can avoid many of the pitfalls of soda by switching to diet varieties, but the artificial sweeteners they contain are in many ways worse than fructose.
People who drink diet soft drinks daily may be 43 percent more likely to suffer from a vascular event, including a stroke or heart attack, for instance.5 Diet soda has also been linked to weight gain. In one study, diet-soda drinkers' waists grew 70 percent larger than the waists of non-diet soda drinkers. Furthermore, those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a 500 percent greater increase in waist size!6
Still other research revealed that mice eating food laced with the artificial sweetener aspartame (commonly used to sweeten diet soda) had higher blood sugar levels than mice eating food without it, which suggests it may increase your risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.7 Plus, whether diet or regular, most soda contains many of the following toxic elements:
High fructose corn syrup: Consuming fructose is essentially consuming fat!
The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.
Fructose also interferes with your brain's communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.
Benzene. While the federal limit for benzene in drinking water is 5 parts per billion (ppb), researchers have found benzene levels as high as 79 ppb in some soft drinks, and of 100 brands tested, most had at least some detectable level of benzene present. About 150 empty calories, most of which will turn into fat. Phosphoric acid, which can interfere with your body's ability to use calcium, leading to osteoporosis or softening of your teeth and bones. Between 30 to 55 mg of caffeine, which can cause jitters, insomnia, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, elevated blood cholesterol levels, vitamin and mineral depletion, breast lumps, birth defects, and perhaps some forms of cancer. Aspartame: This chemical is used as a sugar substitute in diet soda. There are over 92 different health side effects associated with aspartame consumption including brain tumors, birth defects, diabetes, emotional disorders and epilepsy/seizures. Artificial food colors, including the caramel coloring discussed above, which has been found to cause lung, liver and thyroid cancer in lab rats and mice. Tap water: I recommend that everyone avoid drinking unfiltered tap water because it can carry any number of chemicals including chlorine, trihalomethanes, lead, cadmium, and various organic pollutants. Tap water is the main ingredient in bottled soft drinks. Sulfites. People who are sulfite sensitive can experience headaches, breathing problems, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can actually cause death. Sodium benzoate, a common preservative found in many soft drinks, which can cause DNA damage. This could eventually lead to diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson's.
Do You Want to Kick Your Soda Habit?
Sparkling mineral water spruced up with fresh lemon or lime juice, a drop or two of natural peppermint extract, liquid stevia, cucumber slices or a few crushed mint leaves is a refreshing, healthy alternative to soda. There is also the traditional cultured beverage Kombucha, which offers a refreshing, fizzling soda alternative while also packing a health-promoting probiotic punch. If you need help beating your soda cravings, try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and particularly Turbo Tapping, for an effective solution. If it's the energy boost from caffeine- and sugar-laden soda that you're after, there are a number of ways to give your body lasting energy that don't involve consuming ingredients that may harm your health. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet with limited sugar, fructose and processed foods, and increasing your intake of animal-sourced omega-3 fatty acids, e.g. krill, wild salmon, free-range eggs, to support your energy levels. See my nutrition plan for a naturally energy-enhancing diet.
- Releasing draining emotional stress and negativity with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
- Sleeping when you're tired, and make sure you're getting high-quality sleep while you're at it
- Exercising, and be sure to include high-intensity interval exercises like Peak Fitness for near endless energy
- If you need a supplement, do the above steps first and then try options that are designed to increase your level of foundational energy at the mitochondrial level, such as vitamin B12, ubiquinol and magnesium