Another deadly ingredient lurking inside that soda can

As you’re well aware by now, soda as one of the most insidious sources of sugar. And as you also know, sugar increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke—the list goes on. But sugar isn’t the only deadly ingredient lurking in those cans of Coke and Pepsi…

According to a new study, caramel color—a common ingredient in many sodas—can cause cancer.

Researchers analyzed samples of 110 different sodas and found the majority of them contained a carcinogen called 4-MEI. This chemical is formed during the manufacturing process of the caramel color used to give many colas and dark-colored soft drinks their characteristic hue.

The levels of 4-MEI in the samples varied widely, making it tough to draw conclusions about specific brands. But the fact that there was any of it at all should be the beginning and end of the conversation here. Especially given how much soda Americans drink. This study found between 44 and 58 percent of people over the age of 6—yes, six—have at least a can a day.

This news is especially important for anyone who’s still drinking diet soda, thinking they’re sidestepping the sugar problem. They may be avoiding sugar, but they’re still getting plenty of other harmful chemicals—not the least of which is caramel color.

So once again, if you haven’t already, please put down that soda can. If you crave fizzy drinks, try sparkling seltzer water with a squeeze of lemon or lime. It’s more thirst-quenching than cola anyway. And, more importantly, it won’t increase your risk of potentially deadly diseases.

I’ll drink to that.