Widely Used Food Additives Linked to Crohn’s Disease and Colitis
New research shows that emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to add texture and extend shelf life, can modify the gut microbiota composition and localization to instigate intestinal inflammation that advances the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome.
Emulsifiers are primarily used in margarine, mayonnaise, creamy sauces, candy, ice cream, packaged processed foods, and baked goods.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a disorder of energy utilization and storage, diagnosed by a co-occurrence of three out of five of the following medical conditions: abdominal (central) obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides, and low high-density cholesterol (HDL) levels.
Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Description of the Study
According to Medscape, the research, published February 25 in the journal Nature, was led by Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences' researchers Drs. Benoit Chassaing and Andrew T. Gewirtz. The term “gut microbiota” alludes to the diverse population of 100 trillion bacteria that occupy the intestinal tract.
The team fed mice two very commonly used emulsifiers, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulsose, at doses seeking to model the broad consumption of the numerous emulsifiers that are integrated into almost all processed foods.
They observed that emulsifier consumption altered the species composition of the gut microbiota, and did so in a manner that made it more pro-inflammatory. Such inflammation is associated with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis as well as metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Future Studies Planned
The research team is now testing additional emulsifiers and designing experiments to investigate how they affect humans.
If similar results are obtained, it would prove that this class of food additive is indeed responsible for the epidemic of obesity, its inter-related consequences and a range of diseases associated with chronic gut inflammation.