Sodium Benzoate and Vitamin C in Soft Drinks Damage Mitochondrial DNA

Sodium Benzoate and Vitamin C in Soft Drinks Damage Mitochondrial DNA

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 28, 2007 in DNA and Disease, DNA in General

coke bookCoke is my favorite remedy for a lousy day. It’s also my favorite reward post-vacuuming. (Don’t scoff. I live in a four-level house with three staircases.) But if I know what’s good for my DNA, I may need to break my Coke habit.

Sodium benzoate aka E211, a preservative used in carbonated drinks, can form carcinogen benzene when mixed with vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Four brands have already been removed from the market in 2006. Professor Peter Piper has found that sodium benzoate can damage mitochondrial DNA.

The mitochondria consumes the oxygen to give you energy and if you damage it – as happens in a number if 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 neuro-degenerative diseases, but above all the whole process of ageing.

Two of the drinks that were pulled last year were Fanta Pineapple and Vault Zero. Coca-Cola voluntarily reformulated the products and agreed to settle with four plaintiffs who claimed that the two drinks were a breach of warranty and represented unfair and deceptive trade practices.

For some reason, I thought an urban legend about Coke and cancer had circulated some time before but there’s no listing at It’s certainly one of those stories that surfaces again and again. In 2006, the BBC reported on benzene in British soft drinks at eight times the level permitted in drinking water. My own consumption of soft drinks is at around one bottle a week so I’m not too concerned. I hope nobody’s drinking more soft drinks than water although I’m sure plenty do.

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Comment by Sara

I was wondering about this news. I remember some sort of “urban legend” circulating a while ago too. For some reason I think it was that Mercola dude (you have to take some of his stuff with a grain…or bucket…of salt). I’m curious if there are other heavily processed foods that will end up messing with our DNA (like GMO soy milk!). Hmm…

Comment by Hsien

lol I totally know what you mean about Mercola but he’s a power blogger and self-promotion artist. As for stuff that messes with our DNA, just being alive does the trick. :D

Comment by Clif Subscribed to comments via email

What a very informative artical. I wonder about Goji Juice, they claim all natural yet the product contains sodium benzoate and loaded with vitamin C. Their storage of the product does not help this matter as well as they store it in warehouses for no telling how long. The product even has been researched to already change chromosomes in lab animals according to the NHI on research of lycium barbarum

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Comment by Hsien

Not a clue about Goji juice but I see lots of ads for it and may incredible health claims. A bit skeptical….

Comment by Longevity Science

Thank you for your interesting story!
I thought perhaps you may also find this related post interesting to you:
Longevity Science: Soft Drinks Linked to Aging ?

Comment by Hsien
Comment by Sara

He always pushes products with just about every article. But he has a HUGE following.


[...] at Let X = X expands on the latest news about DNA damage and soft drinks. (I call soft drinks “soda,” what do you call [...]

Comment by KeaponLaffin Subscribed to comments via email

The urban legend yer proly thinking of is the one about some artificial sweetener in soda turning into dangerous amounts of formaldehyde..That is on Snopes, somewhere
Good story tho..But we already knew sody-pop is bad for ya ;)
Seriously though, is anyone researching if this damage would be expressed in haploid cells? Cause that would be..very bad.

Comment by Hsien

KeaponLaffin, I’m sorry I missed your comment! Mutations in haploid cells could be a very bad thing…but not always. :)

Comment by MAllen

You talk about Coke. Coke does not contain sodium (or potassium) benzoate. Yes, it contains a lot of other junk, but not stuff that’s forming benzene.

Comment by Hsien

You’re right! I just went to check the can I have in the fridge and it doesn’t have sodium benzoate listed. Other Coke products apparently did, however, but I think they’ve reformulated them.

Comment by Clif Subscribed to comments via email

They still use the sodium benzoate and asorbic acid in sprite products

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Comment by Hsien

I haven’t had Sprite in a while, but I do think it tastes better than 7-Up. :P

Comment by Louis

It might be just the diet products? Were you looking at diet Coke?

Comment by NA Subscribed to comments via email

This type of research always is interesting to see and laugh at. One day we can’t eat this and the next day we can. So the following week we learn that this butter is worse for you then this butter and then a month later we learn that the previous butter is still better for you. Then we learn that all bottle water has some form of bacteria in it and some types of bottle water are nothing but tap water. So then we learn about all of the salt in the foods we eat when we go out and eat. So we stop eating out. Then we order a salad at McDonald’s and find out that the dressing has more calories then a 6 piece chicken nugget meal does. Then we learn that the chicken nugget has no health value. Then we learn that eating noodles every day makes you fat. Then we learn that sugar turns into fat. Then we learn that aspartame can increase your risk to breast cancer and other forms of cancer. So then we stop eating meat since it raises our risk of cancer as well. Then we stop eating fish since some contain mercury. Then we become vegetarians and then we find out we lack certain vitamins in our diet. So then we start taking vitamin pills and then learn that they don’t absorb well at all in our digestive system.

So just eat what you want and live life and try to be happy. If you live life by reading every dang label on every food you are about to consume you will increase your anxiety level and increase your stress level and put your self at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer, lol. So today I had honey nut cheerios with whole milk for breakfast. So I could go on about how bad of a meal that is and how good of a meal that is. In the morning I had a Mountain Dew and a chocolate muffin. For lunch I had a tuna sandwich with water. In the afternoon I had a chocolate shake. For supper I had lemonade and a mountain dew with rice, eggs, pork, green peppers, onions, and white bread. So from today’s meals, I put myself at an increased level of cholesterol, lower risk of heart disease, increase risk of intestinal cancer, risk of weight gain, lack of many vitamins, increase risk of liver disease, increase risk of accelerating mental retardation, and so many other things.

It basically comes down to this. Everything you eat is bad and good for you.

Comment by Hsien

I share your frustration, NA, but there are still some tried and true guidelines for healthy living including moderation!

Comment by NA Subscribed to comments via email

Yup, moderation is the key. As long as a person doesn’t over do it, and gets plenty of exercise and keeps away from the very fatty food and the other food that is really bad for you, a person should be able to life a healthy life for the most part.

Comment by Anita Cheske R.N.

Given all that you know about our “foods” and our toxic exposure daily from thousands (really)of sources,the true answer to sustaining a healthy,energetic, and age reversing life is using the safest most absorbable forms of the nutrients our bodies must have that are missing in our foods today(and not just in the US). I was hooked up by a nutitionist 12 yrs. ago to the highest quality and most cost effective nutitional supplement system I have ever seen and have recommended it to thousands of people over the years. As a nurse people ask what I think and I feel blessed to have what I know has been proven to far “out feed” anybody who gives it the real test of consistent consumption.I therefore, do not fret over toxins,viruses, cancers, or bacterias that are obviously creating havoc in many individuals immune systems today!
I am able to not worry and BE HAPPY!

Comment by Clif Subscribed to comments via email

what does this have to do with the validity of this article? the study seems to prove that there is a problem and with AML on the rise this may be a contributing culprit…

Comment by shirley

I am wondering about the lemon juice in the plastic lemon shaped container….it has sodium benzoate as a preservative.

Comment by Brenda Subscribed to comments via email

Some flavored water has sodium benzoate. It is crazy to have to worrie about every little thing you put in your mouth when you would think the FDA or who ever would want to keep us safe.
My self and my son CAN NOT DRINK anything with sodium benzoate because it itches our throat so bad. On occasions my asthma was triggered and once I had to take my inhaler. My Son would continue to clear his throat every few seconds for hours. It took us a long time to realize it was the flavored water, never crossed my mind until I had to take my inhaler. This is somthing that can become worse over time which in my case and my son it did. A few others I know have complained of the same thing.

Comment by J-dizzle

Professor Peter Piper? Really?????


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