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Food Chem Toxicol. 2006 Dec;44(12):2003-7. Epub 2006 Jul 8.

Food preservatives sodium sulfite and sorbic acid suppress mitogen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

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Biocenter, Division of Biological Chemistry, Innsbruck Medical University, Fritz Pregl Strasse 3, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


Antioxidant preservatives prolong the quality of food and ensure the nutritional adequacy, palatability and safety of many processed foods and beverages. Effects of sodium sulfite (E221) and sorbic acid (E200) were investigated in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) which were purified from blood of healthy donors. Cells were stimulated with the mitogen phytohaemagglutinin in vitro, which induces proliferation of T-cells and the production of Th1-type cytokines like interferon-gamma. The latter triggers enzyme indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase, which degrades tryptophan, and GTP cyclohydrolase I, which leads to increased neopterin production, in monocyte-derived macrophages. Sodium sulfite and sorbic acid suppressed both these biochemical changes in a dose-dependent way (P<0.01 at 1 mM sodium sulfite and 50 mM sorbic acid). Data demonstrate a suppressive influence of sodium sulfite and sorbic acid on the activated Th1-type immune response.

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