What Chemicals Make Soda So Unhealthy?

Some call it soda, others call it pop. Regardless, it's terrible for you, but we never knew just how bad it is until now.

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There's a growing body of research that says drinking large amounts of soda is not good for you. But what exactly is it about soda that makes it so damaging to your health? Here are three ingredients that seem to be connected to nasty health effects.

4-methylimidazole - Abbreviated as 4-MEI, this is a common ingredient in popular sodas that could be harmful. It forms during the production of the caramel color and a 2007 study pointed to evidence of tumors in mice who consumed 4-MEI in high doses. In 2011, the State of California declared 4-MEI as a possible carcinogen, prompting manufacturers to lower the amount found in products, but only in that state. It's worth noting that 4-MEI is found in other things we eat, including roasted coffee beans and cooked meat. However, the level of 4-MEI is typically much lower in these foods, compared to the amount in sodas.

Phosphoric acid - A study from Tufts University found a possible link between sodas that contain caffeine and phosphoric acid (H3Po4) and lower bone density. Another study specifically focused on women who drink soda, and found soda is associated with a higher risk of weak bones and hip fractures.

Sugar - This is the big one. Drinking lots of soda throughout your day drastically increases your sugar intake and that's associated with all kinds of health problems. For one, research published in Diabetes Care shows that if you drink more than 1 can a day, you are 26% more likely to develop Type II diabetes. Sodas rich in sugar also contain high levels of calories, which appear to correlate with other health problems, especially high rates of obesity. One study published in the journal Lancet found that for each additional 12-ounce soda a child drinks, the odds of becoming obese increase by 60%.

This isn't to say you should quit cold turkey right away. Sure, lowering your intake of soda will be better for your health in the long run, but if you drink it in moderation, you don't have much to worry about. These studies have found correlative relationships between soda and health problems-an important distinction from causal relationships.

How much soda do you drink day to day? Let us know in the comments below.

Read More:
Popular soda ingredient, caramel color, poses cancer risk to consumers (Science Daily) "Public health researchers have analyzed soda consumption data in order to characterize people's exposure to a potentially carcinogenic byproduct of some types of caramel color."

Sugary drinks weigh heavily on teenage obesity (Science Daily)
"New research shows sugary drinks are the worst offenders in the fight against youth obesity, and recommends that B.C. schools fully implement healthy eating guidelines to reduce their consumption."

Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study. (PubMed)
"Soft drink consumption may have adverse effects on bone mineral density (BMD), but studies have shown mixed results. In addition to displacing healthier beverages, colas contain caffeine and phosphoric acid (H3PO4), which may adversely affect bone."