How nanoparticles in your food and vitamins could harm health

2012-02-18 11:35

Cornell researchers warn of health hazards from nanoparticles in food and vitamins that are consumed daily by humans. Findings from the scientists show an FDA-approved substance in food additives and vitamins could cause deficiency in the way iron is absorbed in the gut in ways not previously known.

A nanoparticle is a small molecule with at least one dimension less than 100 nm.used to stabilize molecular weight. They're used in food to prevent caking and in vitamins to facilitate absorption. Researchers have been studying the molecules to find ways to deliver cancer drugs directly to tumors. They are added to sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Concerns have been raised that the particles applied to the skin can enter the body from inhalation and when applied to the lips, in findings previously reported by Ramona Bates, M.D. for EmaxHealth.

The study, led by Michael Shuler, a professor of Chemical Engineering and chair of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, found large doses of polystyrene nanoparticles that are added to food and vitamins affects the absorption of iron in studies conducted on chickens.

The research team used chickens because they absorb iron in the gut in the same way as humans. Chickens are also vulnerable micronutrient deficiencies seen in humans. The results were reported online Feb. 12 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.


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