According to a Swedish study from Lund University recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it takes a single daily can of soda to increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 40 percent, compared to a man who never touches the stuff.
So where is the public outcry warning Americans, who are always in search of newer and better drugs anyway, off these lucrative yet carcinogenic vehicles for addictive substances like caffeine, sugar and perhaps worse? They are likely hiding, at least for now, from an industry loathe to let cold-hearted science and much-needed reason lead the way.
“When it comes to studies of soda consumption and chronic disease risk, the only superior alternative to a prospective cohort study would be to conduct a randomized, controlled trial, where you assign one group to drink high amounts soda over 20 years, and the other group to not consume soda,” senior researcher Isabel Drake, who led Lund University’s soda cancer study, told AlterNet. “This, of course, is unethical and never going to be feasible. There are situations like this one, to assess for causal associations between soda consumption and cancer or other chronic diseases, where observational studies are realistically the best study design to address causal associations.”
Causality is the central question when it comes to sodas, whose lineage leads to 18th and 19th century druggists, scientists and other whitecoats. Since then, sodas have metamorphosed from chemical experiments into ubiquitous commodities pounded out by powerhouse multinationals like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, who together lord over about 90 percent of the market. Clocking around $60 billion a year, soda competes for drug market share with cannabis and its godfather, cocaine.
You’ll notice that nowhere in that short history lesson did you hear anything about health and wellness. That’s because sodas have zero redeeming nutritional value.
But they have had lethal additives like 4-methylimidazole, the ammonia-sulfite caramel coloring that is also a known animal carcinogen. The flavorless die brought nothing to products like Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and more that carried it, and was toxic enough to activate a new California law requiring disclosure of cancer risk — which, in turn, was enough to motivate Coke and Pepsi to quickly discard it while protesting the controversy as “scientifically unfounded.” An appeal to the FDA for ban from the Center for Science in the Public Interest likely helped. But 4-methylimidazole is just one soda headache among many.
“Caramel is one concern that the industry is in the process of largely solving,” CSPI co-founder and executive director Michael F. Jacobson told AlterNet. “Also, we have concerns about aspartame, acesulfame-potassium and saccharin, which is rarely used in drinks.”
Lund’s study is the latest in a roll-call of soda cancer flags. Drake and colleagues followed 8,000 men aged 45-73 for an average of 15 years, and found that 40 percent of those who downed barely 12 ounces of soda a day were likely to contract a disease that kills a million of them a year. Previous research has warned of increased risk of esophageal cancer. University of Minnesota School of Public Health professor of epidemiology Mark Pereira recently led a study finding that 87 percent of his over 60,000 test subjects were likely to develop pancreatic cancer, whose median survival for 80 percent of afflicted individuals hovers between six to 10 months. The soda cancer warning signs continue to siren.
“The important take away from our study is that habitual consumption of soft drinks may be linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer,” Noel Mueller, University of Minnesota School of Public Health Ph.D. student and first author on Pereira’s study, told AlterNet. “In response to any criticisms, I’d like to point out that our results align with a recent Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health meta-analysis of studies on this topic, including ours, which found that soft drink consumption was indeed positively associated with pancreatic cancer risk.”