On Food Additives and Cancer

Do you enjoy soft drinks? Do you drink the diet version for less sugar? Many of these drinks contain cancerogenic additives, especially the sugar-free versions. Read until the end for a not-so-drastic solution.

The numbers

The explanation

Coke contains caramel coloring. That subtance contains compounds proven to cause cancer in mammals1.

Turn to Diet Coke to save a few calories, and it gets scarier: three ingredients cause cancer. Aspartame causes cancer over a long-term consumption and is especially dangerous for children2. Potassium benzoate, much like sodium benzoate, reacts with vitamin C to create small amounts of benzene: a chemical that causes leukemia and other cancers3.

Guru, on the other hand, contains less sugar, even for a higher volume. Sugar comes from sugarcane which is more expensive to produce. It contains guarana, a common ingredient in soft drinks in South America. It’s high in caffeine but is not dangerous when consumed moderately.

Nobody lives forever, say you?

Even infants have been diagnosed with cancer and one may suffer all his life instead of dying. I had a friend in his early thirties who had colorectal cancer. This means that he had to wear adult diapers so we wouldn’t defecate in his underwear. It was painful and embarrassing for him. He did not catch it early, so he will bear it all his life.

The lesson

Our bodies are so complex and different that there are no absolutely safe substances out there. Even water can be fatal if consumed abusively4. Consuming generally safe products in moderation is a good bet.

Many companies, striving to make increasingly cheaper and appealing products, often use cheap artificial alternatives to common ingredients. It’s mostly the consumer’s fault. We ask for cheap products, good food texture, long conservation, availability all year round and other follies. There is no point in blaming companies for satisfying our impractical requests.

I am ready to pay double or even triple for my grocery if that means living cancer-free until the ripe age of 120. Are you ready to sacrifice some extravagant requests to live healthier? Will you demand a more expensive but safer product variations from your favorite companies?


1. The “caramel coloring” used to color all the top cola brands isn’t natural caramel coloring at all. Instead, it’s made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites at high temperatures. This reaction results in the formation of 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, both of which are chemicals documented by the U.S. government to cause cancer in mammals.


2. [The study] indicated that rats first exposed to aspartame at eight weeks of age caused lymphomas and leukemias in females.


3. Another problem occurs when sodium benzoate is used in beverages that also contain ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The two substances, in an acidic solution, can react together to form small amounts of benzene, a chemical that causes leukemia and other cancers.


4. Water can be considered a poison when over-consumed just like any other substance.


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