Legendary TV chef Julia Child, who passed away this month, warned us that “when you’re afraid of your food, you don’t digest it well.” Unfortunately, American consumers have been scared silly about nearly every item on the menu, from beef and chicken to salmon and veggies. The latest phony food scare centers on soft drinks and their alleged link to type 2 diabetes.

While the authors of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association are spinning like tops to pump up new fears, they have ignored one of their own key findings.

Their data show that soda consumption has nothing to do with diabetes in women who are not obese. And even in obese women, the authors concede that diabetes may be linked to “dietary and lifestyle changes,” rather than soft drink consumption itself. Bottom line: Their sweeping anti-soda conclusions are simply not justified.

Frankly, the contortions that the authors went through to demonize soda would make our own gold medal gymnasts proud. One nutrition expert at Michigan State University called their work “statistical hocus pocus.”

It’s no surprise that these researchers are pushing frenzy over facts. Many of the study’s authors boast an extensive history of anti-soda activism. Several have close ties to the self-described “food police” at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which says it’s “proud about finding something wrong with practically everything.”

One of the authors sits on CSPI’s scientific advisory board. Another signed a CSPI letter condemning sugar consumption — six years ago. This week he made the outlandish assertion that you should never drink any soda.

Back in 1994, Child warned that CSPI sounded “the death knell of gastronomy” and was “poisoning people’s pleasure.” That’s the real result of these misleading and overhyped food scare studies. And this anti-soda report is just the latest example of a small band of dietary Puritans in lab coats trying to impose their diets on the rest of us.

While taking biased research with an enormous grain of salt, Child counseled that “People need to take an adult point of view. We know what we need to do: eat in moderation, small helpings, a great variety, weight-watching, moderate exercise and have fun.” Now there’s some health advice worth its salt, from a woman who lived 91 delicious years.