Food additive: emulsifiers increase the risk of cancer

Bad for the intestinal flora: emulsifiers promote the development of intestinal inflammation
Emulsifiers, which are present in numerous foods today, can lead to inflammatory bowel diseases and make tumor cells grow faster. Researchers have found this in animal experiments. Health experts have long been warning of additives in food.

Emulsifiers in numerous foods
Emulsifiers are used today in many foods such as sauces, desserts, shortenings or chewing gum. They serve to mix and stabilize two immiscible liquids, such as oil and water, to form a finely divided mixture, the so-called emulsion. Some of these additives are suspected to be harmful to health. This assumption is now confirmed in a new study.

Intestinal inflammation from food additives
Last year, scientists reported on Dr. Benoit Chassaing of Georgia State University in Atlanta in the specialist magazine "Nature" that "the food additives could be related to modern diseases such as chronic intestinal inflammation and the metabolic syndrome".

A study with mice showed that the emulsifiers carboxymethyl cellulose (E 466) and polysorbate 80 (E 433) change the composition of the intestinal bacteria and thus promote the development of inflammation. The researchers discovered “more types of bacteria that migrate into the thick layer of mucus inside the intestine and break it down”. Normally, hardly any bacteria penetrate this layer of mucus, so that the intestine is protected.

Cancer could be favored by emulsifiers
Now Dr. In a new experiment, Benoit Chassaing and his colleagues also tested emulsifiers on mice that already had tumors in the intestine triggered by chemicals. As the researchers report in the "Cancer Research" magazine, the growth of the ulcers in animals with the chemically induced intestinal tumors accelerated. According to the scientists, the additives could influence the intestinal flora in such a way that intestinal inflammation and consequently colon cancer would be favored.

Effects on humans unclear
In addition, the researchers found in the study that mice that had received emulsifiers in the diet gained more weight than animals from the comparison group. The team believes that the cause of these differences is the bacteria, not the additives themselves.

However, the new findings initially only apply to mice. Further studies would have to clarify whether the observed effects could also occur in humans. (ad)

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