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Common Food Additives Inhibit Gut Bacteria, Causing Inflammation

Aug, 2020

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Titanium dioxide is an ingredient used to whiten many food products such as cake decorations, chocolates, coffee creamers, chewing gum, pastries, and candies.

A new study by the research team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found some evidence suggesting the food additive named titanium dioxide (also known as E171) can disturb the gut bacteria and cause colonic inflammation. Recently, France has banned the use of titanium dioxide at the beginning of 2020. However, it is allowed in the United States and several other nations. The researchers found that a common food additive can considerably alter gut bacteria in mice, leading to colonic inflammation and changes in protein expression in the liver.

The new study was published in the Small journal. Titanium dioxide is an ingredient used to whiten many food products such as cake decorations, chocolates, coffee creamers, chewing gum, pastries, and candies. Moreover, it can be used in some other products such as paint, cosmetics, and paper. However, in the past few years, many food manufacturers across the world have stopped using titanium dioxide due to the increasing concerns over its safety. Most of the titanium dioxide particles used in food are relatively large, more than 100 nm in diameter.

According to recent studies, titanium dioxide particles, less than 100 nm, could be more bioactive and induce adverse effects than larger particles, more than 100 nm. During this research, the team explored the adverse effects of different sized particles in mice (obese and non-obese). The team fed them with titanium dioxide particles (33 nm or 112 nm) for up to 8 weeks. The researchers found no toxic effects, however, they found several other adverse effects. The small particles caused considerably higher levels of colon inflammation. The effects were higher in the obese animals. However, it was a small animal study, hence the results cannot be straightway applied to humans.

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