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Biotech Science

Some Soft Drinks May Damage Your DNA 643

Parallax Blue writes "The Independent is reporting new findings that indicate a common additive called sodium benzoate, found in soft drinks such as Fanta and Pepsi Max among others, has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA in a cell's mitochondria. From the article: 'The mitochondria consumes 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 neuro-degenerative diseases, but above all the whole process of aging.' European Union MPs are now calling for an urgent investigation in the wake of these alarming new findings."
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Some Soft Drinks May Damage Your DNA

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  • by pcmanjon ( 735165 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @03:30AM (#19289829)
    "uropean Union MPs are now calling for an urgent investigation in the wake of these alarming new findings"

    While the FDA in the United States is doing what? Standing by turning their cheek?
  • nothing new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @03:40AM (#19289897) Journal
    this is nothing new, sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in acidic foods and drinks and in the presence of citric acid it can evolve very small amounts of benzene. benzene is dangerous because it is what we call an intercalary mutagen- what that means is it can insert its self between the DNA helix grooves and that is what can mess up DNA copying and transcription [translation from DNA to RNA to proteins etc.] in the USA benzene is allowed at 10ppb but in soem states it can be lower [california is 5ppb] to give an idea of how much that is an olympic swimming pool is 25,000 gallons, 95,000 liters and so 10ppb would be about a gram of benzene taken by weight. soft drinks in other countries have been reported to have up to 85 ppb although this can be fixed by reducing the amount of sodium benzoate and or citric acid in combination. citric acid can be replaced by malic acid which imparts that sour flavor in drinks.
  • by Rod76 ( 705840 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @03:43AM (#19289917)
    I stayed away from Diet drinks due to Aspartame and its siblings and now my high fructose corm syrup addiction lays on the chopping block because of some second rate preservative, is there no decency in the world? Why can't we go back to making things that are only bad for your teeth and waistline, is that to much to ask?
  • A no win situation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @03:54AM (#19289969)
    Soda rots your teeth and probably contributes to diabetes II.

    Diet Soda, it has been found in a European study (German?) to fuck with your blood sugar level - the body thinks it's getting sugar, pumps you with insulin, and it turns out you aren't getting any.

    And all the sugar-substitue additives have been questions for years.

    Drink Water or at worst carbonated water. Maybe a little tea or iced tea made from decent leaves (not the garbage leaves in lipton surrounded by bleached paper to dunk in water), or even a little expresso.

    Leave out the soda pop, leave out most of the milk (thought to contribute to kidney stones), leave out the juice, etcetera. And for god's sake leave out anything sweetened with high fructose corn syrup - poison. Our ancestors were able to make due with water as a drink and so our bodies should be acclimated to it.

    The funny thing is, we have access to the cleanest water in history, without it being muddy or full of minerals, and we found a "need" to have all this oversweetened garbage instead.

    It's not hard, start drinking for a week - you'll be over the sweet addiction. I like ice water the best. If you have to, treat yourself to a juice drink or milk once a day.
  • by Stickerboy ( 61554 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @03:59AM (#19289999) Homepage
    News at 11.

    This should be trivially easy to prove/disprove by an epidemiologic study. There are plenty of people who drink soda with the benzoates in them; there are plenty of people (myself included) who drink a rather large amount of soda with potassium/sodium benzoate added.

    Obviously, if the benzoates are really bad for you, there should be more things wrong with us, and the effect should be dose-dependent on how much benzoate you take in.

    Honestly, the smell test (do I detect a whiff of paranoid, protect-the-children bullshit?) makes me think this is the Alar Scare [] of 2007.
  • Re:Frogurt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @04:10AM (#19290057) Journal

    but the positive effects are mainly economic

    we have been genetically modifying foods in one way or another for hundreds of years- only now are we using genes from OTHER species. crops engineered to be resistant to a certain pest can reduce the amount of pesticide or [ergot fungus] that gets into the food supply. there are genes that over time have broken or exist in similar but uncrossable species that are very useful. in the case of yellow rice for example, a gene for beta carotene was introduced resulting in a rice that can help prevent blindness in third world countries where rice is a major food crop. the gene that produces vitamin C in mammals is broken in primates and other species that if corrected could prevent scurvy in malnourished nations. it is good to test and try to understand the effects of genetic engineering but to blindly fear it because of things like this is irresponsible
  • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @04:22AM (#19290095) Homepage
    This is what happens when a sound concept like the inability to totally avoid risk and the need to strike a balance in addressing it gets used by someone with two or maybe three brain cells, all of which are giving each other the silent treatment.

    If I had your level of understanding in the world, I'd shut myself in my own basement to avoid perpetually embarrassing myself.
  • Re:Frogurt (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @04:29AM (#19290127)

    why can't be just deal with the good old food we're used to and know isn't going to do anything bizarre to our bodies

    You mean like alcohol, saturated fats, or tobacco?

    Or, maybe you'd rather be hurt by mold or bacteria than by the preservatives that prevent them?

    When you've got beverages being made in ways to minimise only cost and maximise only the positive reaction with our taste buds then you're going to get stuff like this.

    You mean like stuff that one scientist claims is dangerous and is rightfully being investigated?

    The fact is, we're living longer and healthier with all of this "processed crap" than we ever did with "good old food". We should take health issues seriously, and Sodium Benzoate needs to be further tested.

    So, yeah, go eat your organic non-GMO veggies and "free range" chicken. But not all of us can afford to pay 5x as much for our food. This is what gets me about GMO opponents - they fail to understand that there is a significant proportion of the world that would kill for ANY semblence of nutrition. It's GMO crops and "factory farms" that are feeding most the world.

    We live in a world of risks. Sometimes our chemistry screws up and we end up killing some people. But we rarely kill very many. We live in a world of chemicals, some of which are safe, some of which we know are harmful, and some of which we think are safe but are actually (somewhat) harmful. The vast majority are in either of the first two categories. Some are in the third. We will find more as time goes on. That's a good thing.

    So, don't look at this discovery as, "OMG we need to throw out 50 years of food science". Look at it as, "well, we screwed up, but at least we know now".

    If you want to go after anything, attack our high-fat high-calorie low-excersize lifestyle.

  • No kidding. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zCyl ( 14362 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @04:58AM (#19290271)
    Not to mention sodium benzoate causes headaches in a good percentage of humans, and over the long term has been found to trigger obesity and diabetes in lab rats. (It might do this in humans too over the long term, but it's hard to get humans to sign up for such studies.)

    It would be funny if it weren't so sad that people drink diet sodas that are loaded with this, and they think they are doing their body a favor.
  • Re:*sigh* Old news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Death_Aparatus ( 571087 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @05:04AM (#19290291)
    Amusingly, by this time next week I'm sure they're going to be drinking the same old crap again, with all of this forgotten.
  • evil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nanosquid ( 1074949 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @05:24AM (#19290389)
    Drinks manufacturers point out that sodium benzoate has been approved for use by regulators

    Regulatory approval should not permit manufacturers to escape their responsibility: "it was approved" should never be a way of escaping liability over dangerous substances. Regulatory approval can, at best, be an extra safety check, not something manufacturers can rely on.
  • by nietsch ( 112711 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @05:38AM (#19290445) Homepage Journal
    "Our ancestors were able to make due with water as a drink and so our bodies should be acclimated to it."
    Sorry, but do you have any proof for this except from "it should be, because out ancestors did it"? You may disguise it with some evolutionary selection handwaving, but basically you are propagating the romantic notion of 'le bon sauvage' (the good wild [man]). Did you ever compare the average lifespan of 'our ancestors' with the current average lifespan? Maybe current culture does some things detrimental to your health, but overall it is much better then what our ancestors had to go through if you measure it by lifespan.
    The other hidden argument that you use is that it is morally better to restrict yourself and almost never indulge on luxury. What are you, some monk that derives pleasure (oh no, bad!) from chastising himself?
    The article was about someone making a health scare over an additive that has been tested and approved decades ago, on the basis of some muddy test in-vitro by, afaict, one researcher. Where are the references to peer-reviewed journals, have others replicated his results, etc. People apparently have a hard time understanding that a poison is not only in the substance, but also in the dose. It could very well be that with normal consumption you never reach a significant dose that has any effect at all.
    I think that there is more danger in the trip to the grocery store wit your car, than there is in the additives in the soda pop you buy there.
  • No publication? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jenik ( 1030872 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @06:14AM (#19290609)
    PubMed doesn't seem to have any papers on this, at least by this Piper guy... I'll wait for a peer reviewed publication.
  • by saforrest ( 184929 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @06:21AM (#19290639) Journal
    the gene that produces vitamin C in mammals is broken in primates and other species that if corrected could prevent scurvy in malnourished nations. it is good to test and try to understand the effects of genetic engineering but to blindly fear it because of things like this is irresponsible

    You're not just talking about genetically engineering foods, but now humans? On a massive, global scale?

    1) Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for higher primates for a reason: our ancestors ate a lot of it, and thus no longer needed to produce it. These genes for synthesizing it that you want to "reactivate" haven't been expressed for millions of years, which means they haven't been selected on (to the same degree). For a programming analogy, how quickly does commented-out code become obsolete?

    It's not at all clear that we're still capable of synthesizing Vitamin-C, that it's just a matter of "turning on" a gene somewhere: it might require extensive implantation of non-primate mammalian DNA into our genomes. And this is not a small change.

    2) Who would research and administer this genetic re-engineering system? Big Pharmaceutical, that's who. You're naive if you think there's any good side to letting go about re-engineering the genes of any person, let alone impoverished people who are in less of a position to speak up about abuses.

    3) I frequently hear pitches like this, for certain types of technological solutions which could save the lives of the desperate poor. In addition to your suggestion, we could, for example:
      - i) genetically engineer a number of crops with higher yields, providing more food,
      - ii) blanket Africa with DDT, killing mosquitoes (and therefore preventing malaria transmission),
      - iii) actively destroy swampland in rural Africa and other tropical regions, to reduce the size of mosquito breeding grounds.
    The argument for these technologies (saved human lives) is easy to advance. There are various specific counterarguments to be used for specific cases, but there are two general counterarguments:

    A straightforward swap of human lives in exchange for some consequence we haven't defined or investigated is never a great idea. What if we replace all crops with engineered ones, but those are all wiped out ten years later by a plague that preys on the new genetic homogenity of these crops? What if there's something else that grows in swamps that, it turns out, we really need? The appeal to lives saved is always an emotional appeal, but there's no point to the trade if we don't know the price.

    The reasons for Third World poverty are not technological, but social and political. We could give more food to hungry people now; we don't need to wait till we get higher-yield crops. (To relate to your example, we could send Vitamin-C pills to malnurished nations now: surely this would be cheaper that a widespread program of genetic re-engineering!) And if we aren't giving it away now, aren't we fooling ourselves by thinking that we will when we have more to give away?
  • by Grr ( 15821 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @06:30AM (#19290679)
    Keep practicing []. As soon as you start associating the bitter taste to the upcoming solution of your engineering problem, you're set.
  • by Threni ( 635302 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @07:03AM (#19290815)
    > their science coverage is often very very poor

    They've also taken up the `cannabis is harmful` line, after years of campaigning for its decriminalisation. Its rival, the Guardian, covered the Independent's ridiculous change in its Bad Science column, noting that there was no proof that cannabis was 1) stronger now than before, or 2) causing more harm. I no longer buy the Independent.

    > but really the only reason i continue to read it is that the other papers are so shockingly bad.

    In my experience, people buy papers which reflect their world view, particularly their political views. If you think about it, though, it doesn't matter if you agree with the views as long as you understand the filtering process. It's possible for me to read, say the Times or the Telegraph (very conservative - with a small c - papers) and find out about something even if I believe in the exact opposite of the spin being put on the article by the paper.

  • by bheer ( 633842 ) <rbheer@gm a i l .com> on Sunday May 27, 2007 @08:34AM (#19291241)
    > This reminds of a funny story. I was eating breakfast with my cousin one morning and I had organic orange juice. He looked at it and said to me "err.. what does it taste like?" :)

    Astonishingly enough, organic orange juice doesn't taste any different from oranges from a tree to which *reasonable* quantities of chemical fertilizer has been applied. Try some blind tests if you wish.

    Of course, I'm pretty sceptical about most of the organic produce on the market being 100% chem-fertilizer free. In fact, the anti-fertilizer bias *ads for organic products* seek to produce is as harmful as its opposite, i.e., hyper-industrialized farming.

  • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @08:47AM (#19291315) Homepage
    Okay, here's some numbers for you...

    The acceptable FDA levels for caffiene consumption is 200 mg/day. (please note the lack of any determination of this based on how much you weigh.)

    The acceptable FDA levels for aspartame consumption is 50 mg/kg of body weight. The more you weigh, the more you can acceptably consume. (The American Diabetic Association disagrees, and puts the acceptable levels at 17 mg/kg of body weight.)

    The acceptable FDA levels for sodium benzoate consumption is 340 mg/day. Again, note the lack of any change in this based on your body weight.

    Now, sodium benzoate is what the article is about, right? So, how much sodium benzoate is in a soda?

    All of these are for 12 oz. cans.

    Pepsi: 1.15 mg
    Mountain Dew: 2.3 mg
    Diet Mountain Dew: 2.5 mg
    Dr Pepper: 1.15 mg
    Coke: 1.15 mg
    Diet Coke: 2.5 mg

    So, if you're a Dr Pepper "junkie" like me, you'd have to drink almost 300 cans a day before you would have to worry about being above the FDA guidelines.

    Now, yes, of course, it's possible that the FDA data is out of date. Yes, it's possible that there hasn't been enough study and maybe the acceptable levels of sodium benzoate need to be adjusted.

    Even if they're off by a factor of 10, how many people do you know that drink 30 Pepsis a day?

    More research, less scare tactics. Thank you.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @08:53AM (#19291341) Homepage Journal
    Certainly. And cyanide occurs in many stone fruits (peaches, plums etc). But it occurs only in trace amounts and people don't eat that much stone fruits -- even vegetarians.

    The problem is that so many people have substituted soda for water.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 27, 2007 @08:55AM (#19291355)

    Sigh. Why ruin a perfectly good drink with sickly sweetness? Tea is best enjoyed with a small amount of milk, nothing more.

    *sigh* tea is enjoyed as you like it, and I'm a little sick of this argument.

    I enjoy my tea black with two sugar. Sometimes more, I enjoy sweet tea, and I'm not a fan of milk. I'm not exactly the same as you. Some people love chocolate. I can't stand it.

    Please don't tell me what you think I should enjoy because you happen to like it, I'm not identical to you and it's patronising to assume I've accidentally been drinking the wrong thing all these years. (I'm Australian, patronising is supposed to be spelt like that)

    It's not like I haven't tried tea with a small bit of milk, I just find that I enjoy sweet black tea a great deal more. Personally I find dairy slowly cooling in warm water kind of sickening, for some reason, but I don't run around telling people they aren't drinking their tea right.

    I especially resent this argument coming from someone who has stopped drinking tea with sugar, grown accustomed to the taste, then after trying tea with sugar again declared it the most sicking thing known to man. If you've grown accustomed to something else, that's great and healthy for you (probably because you couldn't control your weight before, tubby) but I need the extra calories and I like the taste.

    And what's with the elitist attitude among tea drinkers that you're somehow superior to other tea drinkers if you enjoy it without sugar? Look at me, I'm so much more of a tea fan than you. I have such better taste, you can't possibly be appreciating your tea the way I am. Anything can be turned into pretentious competitive argument, but telling people how to drink their tea is a step too far.

    In conclusion, die.

    (Yes I know I need to relax. Shush and leave me to my ranting.)
  • by mr_matticus ( 928346 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @09:09AM (#19291435)
    The reason why you feel like crap when eating something unusual is because you've allowed that consumption to lax and your body has adjusted to that diet. It does not follow that eating at Wendy's occasionally makes people ill. It makes YOU ill because your body is no longer accustomed to it.

    Along the same vein, vegetarians are encouraged to eat meat occasionally so that the enzymes that are intended to ingest it can remain in proper balance. If you're a vegetarian and never eat meat for years on end, but then one day you can't pass on that ham sandwich, it's going to hurt. That doesn't mean that people who eat meat are living a worse life.

    Likewise, if you grew up on a simple and narrow diet, say, for the sake of argument, something typical of a highland/steppe agrarian diet--grains and meat, and you suddenly ate spicy Indian food for a week, you'd probably have some digestive regrets.

    I'm not saying the opposite, either--eating fast food and sugar all the time is certainly not good for you. But if you make it a habit to eat a highly restricted diet, then breaking that diet will cause you pain. Eating an appropriate diet with moderation of all kinds of foods is no less healthy and far more fun. It's okay to eat at McDonald's sometimes if you like it. It's okay to order that six-chocolate pie on your birthday. It's okay to tear into that Haagen-Daaz when your week has gone to shit. It's habitual abuse of these foods that cause problems.
  • by SunTzuWarmaster ( 930093 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @09:20AM (#19291477) Homepage
    My drink of choice is 70% water, 30% juice (pure, not from concentrate, 100% juice). I'm afraid I can't see why fruit juice made your hit-list.
  • by nietsch ( 112711 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @09:27AM (#19291507) Homepage Journal
    Please, you must have forgotten to place that link to a peer-reviewed journal, or were you giving in to some feelings of superiority?
  • by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @09:28AM (#19291513) Journal

    But the insinuation that these chemicals are damaging and cause problems for everyone, is false. In fact I would venture a guess that the people who have bad experiences with these substances are very much in the minority, otherwise these problems would be much more recognized and accepted.

    I'll agree that these things likely don't cause problems for everyone, however there's a problem with many doctors not realizing that they can cause problems for some people. We know that various foods can be triggers for migraines, and migraine sufferers will be advised by their doctor(s) to avoid those foods, or at the least to track when they eat them so they can determine if they're a trigger or not. We really need the medical establishment to accept that things like aspartame can cause migraines and other serious problems in some people, so that they can advise people to do the same thing with that as they do trigger foods. There's no reason even a handful of people should continue to suffer horrid migraines unknowingly when they might get rid of them just by cutting out the diet soda.

    For what it's worth I'm not surprised to hear about the link between aspartame and migraines. Once it hit the market I learned very quickly that drinking even a little of a diet drink using it gives me one nasty headache. I actively avoid it, and I guess I'm lucky that the headache onset occurs quickly enough for me to identify aspartame as the culprit.

  • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @10:19AM (#19291781) Homepage
    Specially because benzene and its derivative (the aromatic group on Benzoat) are known to cause blood cancer (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) and other problems (Medular Aplasy).

    It has been linked in several studies, and the whole family of preservative food (E210 to E213) is *supposed* not to be used anymore in Europe (compare the French wikipedia page [] saying that it's cancerogenic and english language [] saying that WHO has only set tolerance levels).
    At least for Switzerland (non-EU country), I know it is illegal. I strongly suspect that it's also the case in most countries member of the EU.

    It's is something that is known, and though in medical school. I'm just flagerblasted to learn that they still produce soft drinks with E21# inside.
    A quick check on the soda I have in fridge (bottled in Switzerland) reveals non of them has E21x preservative inside.

    Could /. from EU contries confirm ?
  • Dose-Response (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Step Child ( 216708 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @10:27AM (#19291843) Homepage
    Before we indulge in conspiracy theories (though it appears that it's too late), I think that eyebrows should be raised, but we shouldn't be screaming that the sky is falling. I think this famous quote can't be repeated enough with respect to these kinds of articles: "All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous." (Paracelsus)

    The study mentioned in the article was done on yeast cells. We need to do a controlled animal study in which different doses of this chemical are administered. By doing these kinds of studies, we can begin to understand the risk that this chemical poses to us given the most common range of exposure levels. Who knows - maybe we'll begin to see warning labels, or the industry may just switch to another, less hazardous preservative. Until then, calm down, and remember that every ingredient in your food and drinks can be considered toxic in sufficient quantities!
  • Re:Frogurt (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yakumo.unr ( 833476 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @10:42AM (#19291901) Homepage

    That can also be attributed to clean water, an abundance of food of any description, and significantly better healthcare.

    While pumping yourselves full of processed crap, and over sterilize your environment, you pump yourself with scientifically advanced other crap to cope with your suffering immune system.

    There are plenty of places in the world (Okinawa being one of particular note []) where they eat healthy fresh organic food every day, lowest heart disease rates, and have some of the longest and highest quality of life through old age, without any of that crap.

    This is becoming an increasing problem in the western world though, as the crap in our food increases, the sterility of our food and environment, and both our bodies, and the bacteria/viri or whatever the drug is designed to fight, build up greater drug tolerance (MRSA etc []).

  • Re:Frogurt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tgd ( 2822 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @10:51AM (#19291959)
    Um... 25 was not mid life...

    The average age expectancy has gone up because child mortality rates dropped, not because people are living longer. People who survived childhood have been living into their 80's at a minimum for centuries and there's little evidence that it changed much even before then.

    Now the real question is, did you really not know that, or did you know it and were playing on the fact that many people don't to push your position in your reply?
  • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @11:02AM (#19292031) Homepage Journal
    Actually, for a good portion of European history mild beer was pretty much the safest way to get liquid. Not only did it provide some calories and vitamins, it sterilized the water and helped lots of ugly Europeans get their groove on. They went on to dominate the world for a long time.

    I, for one am doing my part to uphold European tradition by consuming large quantities of beer.

    You are right though, the article is suspected FUD until proven to be FUD. Look for some bottled water company funding it in the background....
  • by thelandp ( 632129 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @11:05AM (#19292055)
    Wow ... your logic seems to be: This finding about sodium benzoate disagrees with the previous FDA position. Therefore it must be wrong.

    You seem to have completely missed the point of the article, which that this is a new finding about the dangers of this substance. Naturally the previous FDA numbers would be out of date if the new finding is true. And your example of a factor of ten is completely spurious - where did you get the ten figure from?

    More thought, less posts. Thank you.
  • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @12:25PM (#19292601) Homepage
    I'm saying that instead of treating this like "OMG! Coke is gonna make me die and my kids will all have cancer by age 15!", you should actually have... I don't know... some numbers to go with the article?

    Does the article say what amount of sodium benzoate was used in their tests? Why, no.

    Does the article give any numbers at all, referring to the FDA figures I quoted? Why, no.

    How about the amount of sodium benzoate in certain sodes? (Information I provided.) Why, no.

    So, can we, from the article, extrapolate how much soda we would have to drink to see the same reaction in our mitochondria as in the yeast cell mitochondria? Why, no.

    So, in summary, is the article long on scare tactics and short on actual information as to how much soda could be bad for you?

    Why, yes. Yes, it is.
  • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <> on Sunday May 27, 2007 @01:37PM (#19293103)
    Ah yes, aspartame, the health bugaboo du jour among internet users. []

    Read through that, including all of the links at the bottom. Why not talk about dihydrogen monoxide [] while you're at it? It's responsible for everything from leukemia to water poisoning. It's so dangerous that it will literally eat away unprotected metal if exposed for a number of years. It's like an acid! Now that's powerful stuff - and powerful dangerous!

    For what it's worth I'm not surprised to hear about the link between aspartame and migraines.

    People looking for a connection between something they suspect to be dangerous and any potential health issues - no matter how anecdotal - are never surprised to find those connections. And those anecdotes will eventually form a "proven" theory in their minds.

    This does not constitute scientific proof of anything, however. But it is the way these internet rumors get started.

    Your headaches drinking diet soda were likely caused by either caffeine (which restricts blood flow) or the placebo effect. (Nobody ever thinks they're affected by the placebo effect - as if they're somehow smarter than everybody else. But the placebo effect exists, it's well documented and acknowledged by every reputable scientist.)

    As for sodium benzoate, I would suspect that the FDA hasn't done anything about it because there's nothing that needs to be done about it. Not that I think the FDA never makes mistakes or isn't occasionally beholden to corporate interests, but sodium benzoate is an additive that's been used since the early 1900's and, like many such internet health bugaboos, is a naturally occuring substance in "healthy" foods you probably eat every day - including (according to Wikipedia) cranberries, prunes, greengage plums, cinnamon, ripe cloves, and apples. If it were dangerous, there are plenty of scientists out there who'd have figured it out long before now. Even if you don't believe that, you have to at least agree that over 100 years of use of this additive, we'd have seen at least some these alleged effects by now in the general populace, yes?

    With all the health scares out there, you'd think our very lives were being cut short by chemical additives. Yet people continue to live longer, healthier lives even as we use more products containing these additives. I'm not saying it isn't better to eat natural foods - I try to do so myself as much as possible. But it does nothing other than add to your stress level (which does reduce lifespan) to constantly be worrying about the possible negative effects of the stuff in your food, especially when it's been neither scientifically proven nor peer-reviewed.

    And with regard to diet soda specifically, there is no even alleged effect of aspartame or sodium benzoate - no matter how crackpot - that is worse than the proven health effects of drinking all the empty calories in a non-diet soda. Obesity directly kills hundreds of thousands of people every single year, yet we are constantly looking for ways to mentally justify continuing on that path. "All these chemicals are dangerous!" No, what's dangerous is being fat. So if you are (unjustifiably) worried about diet soda, your alternative is to drink 100% juice or water. Going back to drinking regular soda instead of diet because you're worried about your health just makes you a hypocrite - or an idiot.
  • by boingo82 ( 932244 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @01:43PM (#19293155) Homepage
    That's inaccurate - anything less than 100% juice cannot be labelled as "juice". It must be labelled as "juice cocktail", "juice punch", or "juice drink" depending on the percentage.

    Also, it is really NOT that hard to find 100% juice once you know what to look for - usually a gigantic 100% JUICE!!!! label on the front.

  • by perral1 ( 1108133 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @04:36PM (#19294343)
    Whether something is "chemically inert" has no correlation to the placebo effect. It is merely a way to TEST for the placebo effect. The placebo effect is simply the idea that if you think something will happen if you do something, it probably will happen, simply because your mind makes it happen. This is especially apparent in such things as headaches, where the brain can very easily convince itself that it feels pain that isn't there. Thus, you think eating (drinking) Splenda will give you headaches, so it does. People that DON'T have this idea in their head generally do NOT notice any sort of correlation between Splenda and headaches.
    None of this is scientific experiment, and I am not going to take a position on whether or not I personally think that these chemicals cause headaches; I'm merely explaining what the placebo effect is.
  • Orange soil (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CustomDesigned ( 250089 ) <> on Sunday May 27, 2007 @04:36PM (#19294347) Homepage Journal
    There is plenty of non orange soil to build on. Orange soil is perfectly safe as long as you don't dig it up. The only reason to build on the orange soil, instead of leaving it as a park, is the intense housing pressure in Northern Virginia. In other words, moolah. The companies digging up the orange soil to build stuff made all kinds of promises about how careful they were going to be, and how they would always keep the orange soil wet until it was buried again and never ever let it become dust to blow in the wind, and how they would provide monitoring stations to ensure that none of the dust that they weren't going to make was blowing into nearby developments, and how they promised to be liable for anyone who could be shown to have been exposed by their digging. So yes, I would hold them to their promises. But they won't be around 30 years from now, so it is a safe bet for them. Hopefully, they were true to their word about the preventative measures (although leaving the stuff in the ground is the best preventative measure), and no one will have a problem.

    30 years ago, there was a Buddist temple that started building on orange soil. Their construction was halted. They just didn't have the money to push their temple through. That has not been a problem for the current crop of orange soil builders.

  • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @08:15PM (#19295911)

    You know, screw you. Everyone does something that could potentially harm someone else
    You know what? Fuck you.

    First off, there's nothing wrong with lawsuits. They are the civilized way to resolve disputes. The only alternatives are to: A. resort to force or B. take whatever injustice you are unable to prevent (which is what you are advocating). This notion that lawsuits are bad is extremely disturbing.

    Second, whether there's a lawsuit or not, there's a cost involved in the actions which the construction company and land developer (in this case) should be completely aware of. Namely, their actions may lead to the *DEATHS* of others. This cost is not part of the initial construction project, and is paid for by the victims. In any rational, civilized society, this is called an injustice. The point of a lawsuit in this case is to rectify (as much as possible) the injustice. Specifically, to force the developer to pay the costs for their actions, and not force them on to others.

    Why is it that the anti-lawsuit types always seem to promote the notion that individuals should be held responsible for their actions, yet when it comes to corporations, any attempt to use the legal system to enforce responsibility for *their* actions is seen as some sort of atrocity?
  • by mr_matticus ( 928346 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @08:17PM (#19295925)

    And if you have to build up your tolerance to these chemicals (which is what you're describing), well perhaps that should tell you something about the chemicals, not the guy's diet.
    The human body also had to build up tolerance for lactose. Does that mean that drinking milk is unnatural? What about building up tolerance to products used in foreign cuisine? Soldiers stationed throughout the world one or two centuries ago got sick all the time from eating things they'd never encountered. You'll find that most foods today would not have been found in the diet of humans a few centuries, and certainly not a few thousand years ago, and eating them in fact would make them all ill. Now, I can eat food from anywhere in the world, because I'm fortunate to have grown up in a life of travel and good food (rarely eating most processed "snack foods" and even more rarely eating fast food), where I developed not only a tolerance, but a liking, for foods from around the world that humans historically have not had. You'd also find that most of the "chemicals" in your food are completely harmless, and many of them are practically essential the preparation of certain foods.

    The number of people who die from eating contaminated or poorly prepared/preserved foods is far lower today than it ever has been. Avoiding "stuff produced with chemicals" is extremely restrictive=-more so than heart patient diets, in fact. Even most of the products at my local Whole Foods contain some form of "chemicals" that humans would not have ingested 100 years ago. Your purism doesn't make much sense, really.
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Monday May 28, 2007 @01:18AM (#19297581)
    Read through that, including all of the links at the bottom. Why not talk about dihydrogen monoxide while you're at it? It's responsible for everything from leukemia to water poisoning. It's so dangerous that it will literally eat away unprotected metal if exposed for a number of years. It's like an acid! Now that's powerful stuff - and powerful dangerous!

    Okay, I read through the link you provided AND the associated links, and none of it was worth a dented copper penny; all it did was re-state that, "We're not going to offer any science, but Aspartame is safe. Honest!" --Two of the links even went right back to the FDA, which was complicit in allowing Aspartame onto the market in the first place. If they lied once, then how on earth does it make sense to allow them any credibility a second time? That's just silly.

    The Time Magazine article even reiterates the old Monsanto saw; --that the Methanol aka, wood alcohol, which Aspartame breaks down into isn't a problem because Methanol also appears in tomatoes, (which everybody knows are safe, right?). --A true claim which nonetheless fails to add that tomatoes also contain ethanol which chemically neutralizes the toxic effects of methanol, which is NOT true for Aspartame or any of the products Aspartame is used in. That Time Magazine can make such a stupid editorial mistake as to reprint Monsanto PR spin only illustrates just how poorly researched the article was. (Not surprising for a lousy propaganda rag like Time, but that's beside the point.)

    The point is that you have provided rotten links which do nothing at all to prove the safety of a toxic substance.


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