HealthPoor dietary choices and unhealthy eating habits can contribute to feelings of...

Poor dietary choices and unhealthy eating habits can contribute to feelings of anxiety.

According to a research study published in Europe PubMed Central by Dr. Ali Noorafshan it was discovered that rats exposed to doses of sodium benzoate experienced increased anxiety levels and showed signs of impaired motor skills. This finding is significant because sodium benzoate is an additive found in processed foods like sodas and jams. Food manufacturers have been artificially producing this substance in laboratories. Incorporating it into our food supply to extend its shelf life. Moreover when combined with vitamin C sodium benzoate has been linked to the development of cancer highlighting the negative effects associated with its consumption.

The experiment involved twenty rats, ten of which were administered a dose of 200mg/kg of sodium benzoate for four weeks. Following this period anxiety levels and motor skills were assessed using a maze (EPM) test and a rotarod test.

The EPM test was used to measure the rats anxiety levels. The EPM apparatus resembles a three sign shape. One arm is open, without any barriers or walls while the other arm is closed with walls to prevent falling off. We would expect individuals who experience anxiety to spend more time on the exposed sections of the EPM while those who have anxiety tend to retreat towards the enclosed sections.

Imagine a scenario where a lumberjack balances on a log in a river; that’s essentially what a rotarod test measures. The duration for which a rat can remain on the rod reflects its ability to think and react swiftly. In this regard rats that can stay on the rod for longer demonstrate motor skills.

The impact of preservatives on the body

Based on findings from the EPM test control group rats spent 26% of their time in the open arms whereas rats exposed to sodium benzoate spent only 9.5%. Since sodium benzoate exposed rats showed a preference for seeking safety in closed arms it indicates higher levels of anxiety. Furthermore, during the rotarod test these same rats were unable to maintain their balance effectively as control group rats highlighting impaired mobility. These outcomes suggest that sodium benzoate significantly affects well being and motor abilities. Dr. Noorafshan concluded from this study that sodium benzoate induces anxiety and hampers movement and coordination.

While sodium benzoate occurs naturally in some foods excessive amounts can become harmful. Here’s a breakdown of how sodium benzoate can affect both the mind and body due to chemical imbalances;

  • Glycine; The liver utilizes glycine to metabolize sodium benzoate. Dr. Arcady Markel has showed that low levels of glycine can contribute to feelings of anxiety.
  • Zinc; Sodium benzoate has been found to decrease zinc levels in the brain. There is evidence suggesting that a deficiency in zinc can impair motor skills.

Processed Junk Food Is Ubiquitous

While extending the shelf life of food may economically benefit companies and provide some cost saving advantages it’s important to consider the drawbacks. Dr. Noorafshan acknowledges that in our food industry with the rise of processed, convenient and fast foods food additives have become increasingly significant. As concerns over foods continue to grow allegations regarding the presence of sodium benzoate in major companies have surfaced. Opting for preservative foods is a straightforward choice; however finding products, without sodium benzoate may prove more challenging than anticipated.

Carla Nasca, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral fellow of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in the laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at the Rockefeller University, New York. Dr. Nasca received her B.A. in Molecular Biology and her M.S. in Electrophysiology from the University of Palermo in Italy. She earned her Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Pharmacology from the University Sapienza in Rome, Italy, before moving to The Rockefeller University under the mentorship of Dr. Bruce McEwen.


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