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Common food ingredient linked to Crohn's, colitis

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Food emulsifiers that are widely used linked to colitis, Crohn's disease.

New research suggests emulsifiers that are in the bread you eat every day and in a wide variety of other foods may be contributing to chronic inflammation of the gut that leads to Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and more.


Researchers studied the effect of polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulsose in mice to find the emulsifiers promote inflammation. In addition to altering gut microbes, the common food additives might also contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and more.

Food emulsifiers alter gut microbia to produce inflammation

In mouse studies researchers found emulsifiers in food change gut bacteria to promote chronic inflammation and colitis. Gut bacteria produced by the food emulsifiers were found to infiltrate the lining of the intestines where bacteria do not normally reside.

Researchers confirmed the low-grade pro-inflammatory effect on the intestines by transplanting altered gut bacteria from emulsifier treated mice to germ free mice. The common food additive caused chronic colitis in the mouse models used in experiments.

Food additive could spawn other diseases from chronic inflammation

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Emulsifiers that are found in most processed foods to provide texture and stability also promoted metabolic syndrome that is a leading cause of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

They can be found in bread, ice cream, salad dressing, sauces, vegetable oil, mayonnaise, cakes and other baked goods and margarine.

Examples of just a few common emulsifiers found on food labels include:

  • Lecithin
  • Polysorbates
  • Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
  • Polyglycerols

Though the food additives are regulated, researchers for this study suggest current testing methods for food chemicals might be inadequate for disease prevention.

The study is published February 25 in the journal Nature

Scientists suspect a number of factors might contribute to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, the two most common forms of IBD. Food emulsifiers could be one more trigger for chronic gut inflammation, obesity and perhaps a wide range of other health disorders.



Lecithin is it not a good thing even as a additive. The only two substances in the study namely carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80.
You're right Larry.