ammonia

  1. The true risks of soda

    Sugar is probably the most dangerous ingredient in most sodas -- but I have to say "probably" here, because it's got some pretty tough competition.

    Most sodas aren't drinks so much as water mixed with a collection of ingredients that seem like they belong in chemistry kits instead of food and beverages.

    And that includes the so-called caramel color.

    As I told you last year, caramel color isn't a simple food dye, and it's nothing like caramel candy like it's name implies. It's actually the byproduct of a pressurized treatment that combines sugar with ammonia. (Yes, ammonia!)

    One of the "extra" ingredients created by this process is 4-methylimidazole, a chemical with such strong links to cancer that California law requires a warning label on anything that contains certain amounts of it.

    And many sodas contain way more than those amounts -- up to eight times what the state considers to be the safe upper limit.

    Now, soda companies trying to avoid the warning label are starting to use a new version of the color that has less 4-methylimidazole.

    But is that really worth celebrating? Soda now has less of a cancer-causing chemical?

    And let's face it, even if they managed to completely do away with caramel color -- or at least the 4-methylimidazole -- soda would still be bubbling over with cancer risk, thanks to all the sugar.

    Diets high in sugar have been linked to any number of cancers -- and if you're unlucky enough to get the disease, sugar will actually help it to grow and spread. It's like food for tumors.

    Believe it or not, the risks don't stop there.

    Sodas often contain phosphates, which can pull calcium from your bones and leave you battling osteoporosis. They can also cause kidney stones and -- along with that sugar -- rot your teeth right out of your head.

    Some sodas even contain sodium benzoate, a preservative that can cause the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer, cirrhosis, and Parkinson's disease -- just to name a few.

    And the fake sugars used in diet sodas come with plenty of risks of their own -- they've been linked to everything from cancer to migraines.

    So don't waste any time looking at the ingredients labels, trying to figure out which soda might be better than the other. Just skip them all.

  2. Cola color in cancer link

    The risks of soda don't end with the sweeteners.

    In fact, sugar and aspartame are only the beginning – because ounce for ounce, soda is just about the most destructive blend of chemicals being sold for consumption today.

    Now, a leading consumer group is pushing for a ban on one ingredient that may not even sound all that bad: caramel color.

    But this is no creamy candy – it's the byproduct of a pressurized treatment that combines sugar with ammonia, and leaves behind two compounds in particular that you definitely don't want to drink: 2-methylimidazole and 4- methylimidazole.

    California has already added 4-methylimidazole to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer, and set a safe upper limit of 16 micrograms a day.

    But the Center for Science in the Public Interest says a single can of soda contains more than eight times that amount – 130 micrograms.

    The CSPI recently filed a petition asking the FDA to ban this poison. The FDA, naturally, says it will "consider" it.

    In other words: Don't hold your breath.

    But while the feds drag their feet, science marches on – and new research finds that cancer isn't the only risk that can come from caramel color.

    One new study on rats finds it can even reduce white blood cell counts, leading to immune-system damage.

    So we got sugar… aspartame… caramel color… and we're not done yet. Here are some other common soda ingredients to watch out for:

    Phosphates: Too much phosphoric acid can suck the calcium right out of your bones like, well, like soda through a straw. And that means soda drinkers face a higher risk of osteoporosis in their later years. Phosphates can also rot teeth, increase the risk of kidney stones and even remove paint and rust from metal.

    Sodium benzoate: Added to soda and other soft drinks (even bottled teas) as a preservative, this stuff has been shown to cause cell damage – and that could speed the aging process. It's also been linked to conditions such as cancer, cirrhosis and Parkinson's disease.

    BPA: Just about every cola can sold in the country contains this hormone-like chemical, which has been linked to sexual problems, diabetes, heart disease and more.

    Put it all together, and you have a perfect blend of risk: Diet and regular soda alike have been linked to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, rotten teeth and overall poor health.

    The best way to avoid it all is to switch to freshly brewed coffee or tea. Hot or iced, you can't beat the taste – and they come loaded with real health benefits instead of deadly risks.

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