Monday, May 28, 2007

FOXNews Reports: Soda May Seriously Harm Your Health
AA replies: Unlike depleted uranium, being deployed to a third world warzone, or watching too much television, right you smarmy neo-con-fellating bastards?

It's funny what one has to do to actually find the source material for these stories. Neither FUXNews, nor The Independent (who first broke the story {WAIT: FOXNews is linking to stories by The Independent???}) cited the scientific publication where this material could be found. I perused a dozen repetitions of the article on the web, each done without citing the journal article where one could read the science behind the claim. I eventually found a copy of the article on a website where pros and antis were discussing food preservatives (more like screaming at each other over real or imagined symptoms from chemical additives) in relation to the story.

Now for the science behind the claim:

1) The product must actually contain ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) AND benzoic acid for benzene (the carcinogenic poison and industrial-use chemical) to be formed, not just benzoic acid. The concentration of benzene produced was highly correlated to the concentration of ascorbic acid, so eliminating ascorbic acid eliminates benzene production, and decreasing or increasing the amount of ascorbic acid can REDUCE benzene formation (prozone/postzone effect). In other words, leave out Vitamin C from the product, and you will not get benzene production! But did the story state: Vitamin C Creates Poison in Sodas!! Of course it didn't.

2) A metal ion called copper sulfate is also a factor (in this case as a catalyst) in benzene formation by the aforementioned mechanism. The elimination of this ion increased benzene formation, and increase of this ion decreased benzene formation. The addition of iron sulfate inhibited benzene production via this mechanism. The assumption made by the scientist was that copper sulfate would come from the water supply used to make the product, but he didn't do any research on what concentrations of copper sulfate go into bottling in his own country, let alone the U.S.

3) Whether or not this reaction can take place in the body was not evaluated in the scientific publication. The reaction works best at a pH of 2, which is the pH of the stomach. Therefore, it is possible that combining a Vitamin C tablet or orange juice with a glass of soda or a jam or even pickles preserved with benzoic acid and lacking Vitamin C might form benzene in the stomach. But recreating such conditions outside the body would not be ideal given the other ions and hormones related to digestion. So how would it be tested most accurately? Give people these consumables, then pump out their stomach contents and look for benzene. Chimps might be an adequate substitute. All this is speculation from the science, because other routes of benzene production, except under the controlled circumstances the scientist evaluated, were not discussed in the article.

4) The assertion that benzene damages the mitochondria of yeast cells is made by the Independent, which interviewed the scientist who conducted the original research, but that is a separate conclusion of research he did previously. Benzene is a carcinogen in humans, but mitochondrial damage should have nothing directly to do with cancer since cancer results from abnormal DNA in the nucleus of cells. The link between the two made by the article is POINTLESS and misleading. The real question is in what concentration benzene is damaging to cellular health, and is that concentration matched or exceeded by the route of benzene production discovered by this scientist. Is that issue addressed in his work? No. Is it addressed by the Independent or the dozens of other news agencies that copied the story from the Independent? No.

The abuse of science for media hysteria is sickening. FUXNews reports: Soda may seriously harm your health! No shit, Sherlock. Does this story about benzene formation amount to a hill of beans in comparison to a million other pin-prick health risks in our food supply and environment, not to mention the threat of rampant over-population permitted by all the chemicals we put in foods? You be the judge:

Are sodas bad for you? Yes. Why? Because of high calorie content, low nutritional value, and preservatives that have been linked to cellular damage.
Are there other foods that meet this profile? Yes. Any sugary or starchy snack food has this exact same profile.
Diet sodas remove the calorie content but still have the problem of no nutritional value and the presence of preservatives, not to mention artificial sweeteners.
All boxed, canned, and frozen foods have preservatives regardless of nutritional value. This includes fortified cereals which, without the vitamin and mineral addition, would probably have the same nutritional value as a Poptart broken into pieces with milk poured over it.
Salad bars and produce are sprayed with preservatives to allow them to sit out for hours/days.

Synthesized preservatives have played a part in the population boom that came after the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution combined mechanization and pesticides (like DDT!) to increase food production, and thereby solve the problem of malnutrition and food shortages that had kept a natural cap on human numbers. Without preservatives, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to feed the world's current population, let alone provide the diversity of food choices that make up the Western diet, simply because we couldn't get food to people fast enough to prevent food spoilage.

Until the use of mass-manufactured preservatives like sodium benzoate, what was the number one preservative in human civilization for the previous 6,000 years? Common table salt! And we all know there are no adverse effects of consuming large quantities of table salt, right?

This just in, FOXNews Reports: What you don't know about table salt is killing your baby!!!

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