If your diet consists of processed foods, there’s a good chance you’re filling your body with artificial preservatives. These substances have been shown to wreak havoc on our bodies. According to research published in Nature, artificial preservatives used in processed foods may increase your risk of inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic disorders. In the study, researchers studied different emulsifiers to determine their effects on the body.
Oil and water don’t mix on their own, but they do form emulsions, which is an important part of many processed foods. Emulsifiers are chemicals that make emulsions happen, in order to create a more desirable texture or keep foods from separating. An oil-in-water emulsion is necessary for many processed foods, including mayonnaise, ice cream, bread and other baked goods.
There are many different emulsifiers that are commonly used in processed foods in the United States. According to The US Food and Drug Administration, emulsifiers are generally regarded as safe, but recent studies suggest different.
Immunologist Andrew Gerwitz of Georgia State University preformed a study alongside his colleagues to determine the effects of artificial preservatives. They fed two common emulsifiers to mice – carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80. The researchers found evidence that the chemicals negatively affected the health of the mice.
Healthy mice whose water contained the chemicals became obese and developed metabolic problems, including glucose intolerance. In mice that were genetically engineered to be prone to inflammatory gut diseases, the emulsifiers increased the severity and frequency with which the animals developed inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers noted negative effects even at one-tenth of the concentration of emulsifiers that the FDA permits in food products. The mice developed chronic colitis, become obese, hypoglycemic and resistant to insulin.
Gerwtiz and his team suspect that the emulsifiers have the ability to break down the heavy mucus that lines the gut and prevents bacteria from coming in contact with gut cells. When this mucus is broken down, bacteria causes inflammation in the gut, which can lead to changes in metabolism.
Emulsifiers To Watch Out For
If your diet consists of processed foods, you’re going to have a hard time finding such food that is emulsifer-free. Even foods labeled as organic may contain these agents. Gerwitz cautions, “When it comes to people making their own decisions, between our studies and others out there, it’s better to eat less processed food.”
Check your labels for the following emulsifiers:
- Ceatyl Alcohol
- Cholic acid
- Desoxycholic acid
- Diacetyl tartaric acid esters
- Mono- and diglycerides
- Monosodium phosphate
- Ox bile extract
- Propylene glycol
- Xanthan Gum