The Food Additive That Could Cause Metabolic Syndrome

   |  Updated: February 26, 2015 19:56 IST

The Food Additive That Could Cause Metabolic Syndrome

Food additives are used to add flavor, consistency, texture or shelf life to your food. While a majority of them are legal some of them aren't. But even from the ones that are allowed, there are a few you want to be careful of. One such food additive is 'emulsifiers'.

Emulsifiers are one of the most frequently used additives used to thicken food, make it real creamy, add texture and also increase shelf-life. They work as binding agents as one half of them likes to be in water and the other likes to be in oil.  Ice cream, mayonnaise and even bread are a few food they're used in.

According to a new study published in the journal 'Nature', emulsifiers can induce intestinal inflammation causing metabolic mayhem in your body. The additives alter the gut microbiota composition that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, afflicts millions of people and is often severe and debilitating.

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Lead researcher Andrew T. Gewirtz of Georgia State University said, "A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation. Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory."


Emulsifiers made it easy for bacteria to chew through the intestine and disturb the metabolism causing metabolic syndrome which is a group of very common obesity-related disorders that can lead to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular and/or liver diseases.

To test their hypothesis, researchers fed a bunch of mice two very commonly used emulsifiers, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose, that are added to almost all processed foods. They observed that emulsifier consumption changed the species composition of the gut microbiota and did so in a manner that made it more pro-inflammatory.

The altered microbiota had enhanced capacity to digest and infiltrate the dense mucus layer that lines the intestine. Alterations in bacterial species resulted in bacteria expressing more flagellin and lipopolysaccharide, which can activate pro-inflammatory gene expression by the immune system.

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But the researchers agreed that it could be possible that emulsifiers aren't the only cause. "We do not disagree with the commonly held assumption that over-eating is a central cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome," Gewirtz said.

Researchers noted that the results of their study suggest that current means of testing and approving food additives may not be adequate to prevent use of chemicals that promote diseases driven by low-grade inflammation and/or which will cause disease primarily in susceptible hosts.


With inputs from IANS

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