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Potassium sorbate sources, health risks

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 by

Potassium sorbate is a popular food preservative agent. This white crystalline powder is the potassium salt of sorbic acid and is primarily used to prevent mold and microbes to increase shelf life. For the most part, health agencies heavily regulate the use of this substance, although adverse reactions may still occur due to exposure.

Its popularity is due to it being highly soluble and compatible at different pH levels. As of this writing, potassium sorbate is considered non-toxic, non-GMO, and kosher. This may change in the future depending on how well-received new research is. Some studies are now concluding that the common preservative can cause serious health problems.

Harmful effects that can be caused by potassium sorbate

Researchers at the Gazi and Ankara Universities in Turkey observed a small but distinct relationship between potassium sorbate consumption and an impaired immune system. In their study, the team found that the chemical damaged white blood cells which resulted in the body being more susceptible to disease. The vulnerability increased the likelihood of developing cell mutations causing cancer.

More worryingly, potassium sorbate intake can cause DNA damage. The harm was amplified when the preservative was mixed with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The researchers noted that this presents a very dangerous situation, as ascorbic acid and potassium sorbate are commonly used together, such as in canned fruits.

Long-term exposure to potassium sorbate can likewise prompt nutrient depletion. This happens because of diarrhea. The gastrointestinal tract may become irritated because of the chemical, and in an effort to relieve itself, cause hyperactivity in the intestines. Excessive diarrhea can cause dehydration and an inability to absorb nutrients and minerals. Potassium sorbate may also cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset.

Although rare, there are people who can develop a hypersensitivity or allergies to this preservative. Scientists have noted that allergies can develop from prolonged use of potassium sorbate. The preservative exaggerates the immune response and causes the person to break out.

Potassium sorbate is also used in various beauty products. However, topical application of the substance can trigger a skin allergy, along with rashes, redness, and other forms of skin irritation.

Body systems harmed by potassium sorbate

Potassium sorbate is an irritant that influences immune response. Whether taken internally or externally, the preservative causes cells to become hyperactive. This manifests itself through various ways, be it DNA damage or a skin allergy.

Where to learn more


Potassium sorbate is a popular food preservative. It is generally considered as safe, although new research suggests that the chemical is toxic if taken for long periods.

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