To give a clear view of what is emulsifier, this are substances that help different things mix together when they ordinarily wouldn't. A great example of this are whipped ice-cream and smooth chocolate bars. Food scientists chuck in these extra ingredients for a variety of reasons, such as to improve texture and flavor, or to make a product last longer or look more appealing.
Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to aid texture and extend shelf life, can negatively afect gut microbiota, causing intestinal inflammation that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome, new research shows.
“The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor,” says Chassaing. “Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.”
Addition of emulsifiers to food seemed to fit the time frame for the acceleration of these diseases and had been shown to promote bacterial translocation (the passage of viable resident bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract to normally sterile tissues such as the lining of the intestine, as well as the heart lungs and other internal organs).
Bad news whether you are healthy or ill
Such changes in bacteria triggered chronic colitis in mice genetically prone to this disorder, due to abnormal immune systems. In contrast, in mice with normal immune systems, emulsifiers induced low-grade or mild intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome, characterized by increased levels of food consumption, obesity, hyperglycemia and insulin resistance.
The team notes 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 people.
The most severe health effects were seen in mice that consumed the chemicals at a level similar to a person whose diet consists of only ice cream, says Gewirtz. But the researchers saw effects even at one-tenth of the concentration of emulsifiers that the FDA allows in a food product.
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