When the chemical preservative sodium benzoate mixes with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), benzene forms as a by-product. Benzene is an aggressive carcinogen, even in minute amounts.
That's why I strongly recommend avoiding fruit-flavored soft drinks, which are often made with both sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid.
But now there is news that sodium benzoate itself could be responsible for DNA damage. Peter Piper, an English professor of molecular biology and biotechnology at Sheffield University, has been studying this common preservative for the past seven years. When he tested the impact of the substance on living yeast cells, he was alarmed to find that the benzoate was damaging the "power station" of all cells, the mitochondria.
Speaking to The Independent, Piper said, "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."
Damage the energy production capacity of a cell, and the cell will begin to malfunction in a serious way. Piper suggests that a number of conditions, including Parkinson's, cirrhosis of the liver, and accelerated aging, can be linked to this type of damage.
The bottom line is this. We really don't know what many of the "harmless" artificial ingredients and chemical preservatives in our food will do to us. In most cases, the long-term effects are unknown. So, as always, stick to whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. And think twice - make that three times - about buying soft drinks that contain sodium benzoate.