If you’re eating processed foods, you’re putting yourself at risk for consuming dangerous food additives. Two of these additives are now being linked to colon cancer, due to the way they impact the gut.

Emulsifiers are added to most processed foods to extend shelf life and improve the texture of the food. According to recent research, that’s not all they do. Emulsifiers throw off healthy levels of bacteria in the intestine. This triggers chronic, low-level inflammation. Inflammation caused be emulsifiers can end up promoting colorectal cancer.

The Study

The study was conducted by researchers at Georgia State University’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences. They focused on two of the most commonly used emulsifiers: polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose.

Researchers fed mice doses of these emulsifiers similar to the amounts people would consume daily in processed foods.They found that mice who regularly consumed dietary emulsifiers experienced exacerbated tumor development. The emulsifiers drastically altered the composition of the gut microbiota. They caused it to become pro-inflammatory. Researchers noted that the change created an environment that favored cancer induction and development.

Emulsifiers and Colorectal Cancer

The study suggests that by eating processed foods containing emulsifiers on a daily basis, we are inducing chronic, low-level inflammation to our bodies. Inflammation is at the core of many diseases, which makes these findings extremely important. Inflammation is linked to arthritis, gall bladder disease, fibromyalgia, kidney failure and more.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States. Low-grade inflammation has been associated with altered gut microbiota composition and metabolic disease. This is what occurs in the body in many cases of colorectal cancer. This research suggests that dietary emulsifiers might be partially responsible for the association.

Emilie Viennois, PhD was the co-author of the study. He explained, “The incidence of colorectal cancer has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century. A key feature of this disease is the presence of an altered intestinal microbiota that creates a favorable niche for tumorigenesis.”

A Closer Look At Emulsifiers

Polysorbate 80 and carboxymethlycellulose are found in many processed foods. You can find them in baked goods, frozen deserts, non-dairy creamers and even dill pickles. They’re used to keep baked goods from going stale and help coffee creamers dissolve in coffee. They also keep dill oil dissolved in bottled dill pickles.

This isn’t the first time scientists have found problems with these emulsifiers. In 2015, researchers linked them to unhealthy changes in the gut. This included altered bacteria and inflammation. That study also found a link to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The best way to avoid harmful food additives is to cut processed foods out of your diet. Make sure to avoid foods that contain polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. This includes non-organic dill pickles, cooking sprays, many ice cream brands and lots of other processed foods. Always check your labels!

Watch the video below for more information:

Dr. Axe
Center For Science In The Public Interest
Georgia State University
Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute