PureInsight | June 3, 2007
Research from Sheffield University, U.K., into a common food and drink
preservative suggests that it can damage DNA. Sodium benzoate, a mold
inhibiter commonly found in Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, other soft drinks,
pickles, and sauces, is the culprit.
Peter Piper, professor of molecular biology and biotechnology, who has
been working on sodium benzoate since 1999, tested sodium benzoate on
living yeast cells. He was alarmed to find that it damaged their
Concerned, Piper made his research public, telling British newspaper,
The Independent, on Sunday, May 27: "These chemicals have the ability
to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that
they totally inactivate it - they knock it out altogether."
"The mitochondria consume the oxygen to give you energy, and if you
damage it - as happens in a number of diseased states - then the cell
starts to malfunction very seriously. And there is a whole array of
diseases that are now being tied to damage to this DNA - Parkinson's
and quite a lot of neurodegenerative diseases, but above all, the whole
process of aging."
Sodium benzoate occurs naturally in cranberries, apples, milk products,
cinnamon, and cloves. According to http://inchem.org, sodium benzoate
occurring naturally in foods is about 40 mg/kg. Used as a preservative,
it is about 2,000 mg/kg. Historically, benzoic acid came from a dry
distillation of gum benzoin. Industrial preparation is now cheaply made
from toluene. Sodium benzoate is made from benzoic acid.
The studies the FDA lists are mainly rat and mice studies, which don't
appear to show toxicity. Tests made on limited numbers of individuals
showed no adverse effects from the 1960s to the 1980s, therefore sodium
benzoate and benzoic acid are considered safe by the FDA.
The Hyperactive Children's Support Group of Great Britain takes
exception to that and recommends the avoidance of both sodium benzoate
and benzoic acid. Piper considers tests done by the FDA "out of date."
A short-term study on rats - feeding them 1,800 mg/kg of sodium
benzoate/benzoic acid - produced central nervous system damage. Benzoic
acid caused liver pathology and reduced weight. However, these studies
are deemed inadequate to determine safety.
The vitamin C (ascorbic acid) added to soft drinks reacts with sodium
benzoate to make benzene, a known carcinogen and air pollutant.