Preservatives slow down the decomposition of bodies?

We are shoveling such a large amount of preservaties into our mouths, that after our deaths our bodies decompose much slower in the morgues. I have received this query the other day, let’s see if there’s any truth to it.

„I have heard this story from two of my friends almost at the same time, so when I looked it up on the web, I have found several instances of the story, matching almost word by word. Each of them starts with the following formula: ‘according to a friend of mine who’s a pathologist’ – note that it is never an actual pathologist saying it first hand – ‘we consume so much preservatives that bodies decompose at a much slower pace in the morgues'” – this „word of wisdom” was sent to me by a reader the other day.

And indeed, if you google the topic, you stumble upon the following comments:

„I have read in an article that 50 years ago it took 6 month for a human body to decompose. Nowadays it takes more than 5 years.”

„I have been told too by an old pathologist, that back in the day, they had to put the corpses into the freezers so they don’t start to decompose, but these days, because of the many preservaties one eats, a corpse is fine at room temperature for days.”

On first thought, I considered this story to be another instance of further thinking by the people, but I wanted an expert opinion, so I contacted dr. György Dunai, research fellow of the National Forensic Medical Institute in Budapest.

According to Dunay, their institute performs an autopsy on 2500-2600 bodies – from a wide spectrum of causes and backgrounds – every year, but they have never encountered the above mentioned phenomenon.

He thinks there is no scientific explanation for this: we indeed consume large amounts of preservatives, but our metabolism partly breaks down these chemical compounds, partly they are transformed chemically, losing their preservative effects in the process.

According to the expert: the chemical compounds that form (and even accumulate) during this transformations can have negative effects, but as far as our story is concerned, he is positive, that this is nothing but an urban legend.


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