Concerned about the health risk of soda?
Toxicological insight into the science behind a recent report highlighting levels of a potential carcinogen in carbonated beverages. Scientists analyzed the data to identify whether or not the carcinogen poses a health risk for humans.
Last week, Consumer Reports released a study on the levels of a caramel coloring agent known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in many popular, carbonated beverages. The report used phrases such as “health risk” and “potential carcinogen,” leaving many wondering whether their favorite sodas should be discarded because of a cancer risk. This is a question that toxicologists can help answer.”Our work as toxicologists is to help conduct and interpret the findings of a variety of studies that evaluate the potential hazard of natural products, environmental chemicals, and drugs to provide people with the information necessary to make informed, personal decisions,” says Lois D. Lehman-McKeeman, PhD, ATS, 2013-2014 President of the Society of Toxicology.There have been many toxicological studies of 4-MEI over the years, but focusing on the study conducted by the National Toxicology Program cited in the Consumer Reports article, there are some significant details of how the study was conducted that are important toxicologically and for understanding the results.4-MEI was administered to both mice and rats over their two-year lives through their food, so the exposure to the chemical was oral or the same as exposure would be in humans by drinking carbonated beverages. Different levels, or doses, of 4-MEI were tested. A basic tenant of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison. The level at which exposure occurs is crucial to understanding if a chemical poses a risk to health. Likewise, the greater the dose, the greater or more likely the adverse affect. The rats in the study exposed to only the highest doses of 4-MEI (not the minimal or moderate doses) experienced a higher incidence of leukemia than the control group. The mice, though, showed no such result. …
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