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Titanium dioxide in food: 1 more reason to avoid it now

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Food additive promotes gut inflammaton in lab studies

Why is this common food additive bad for health? New information highlights why you will want to know about titanium dioxide in foods so you can avoid it starting now.


According to new research titanium dioxide increases inflammation in the intestines and makes it more difficult to absorb important nutrients like zinc, iron and fatty acids.

Study authors looked at what the food additive does to microvili on the surface of intestinal cells for their research, comparing what happens to the intestines within hours and then again over five days.

What they found is chronic exposure to the chemical that is used in cosmetics and to make food look more appealing has a subtle effect that accumulated over time.

Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Gretchen Mahler, one of the authors of the paper from Binghamton University, State University of New York said in a media release,

“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time—don't worry, it won't kill you!—but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them.”

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Harmful nanoparticles mostly in processed foods

Mahler said the nanoparticles are found mostly in candy and processed foods. Avoiding titanium dioxide can be almost impossible.

Thanks to advocacy groups, Dunkin Donuts stopped using the chemical. Testing done by Arizona State University in 2012 on 89 common food products showed five-percent contained titanium dioxide including:

  • Twinkies
  • Gum
  • Mayonaisse

Titanium dioxide is also added to some chocolates to make it creamier and skim milk to give it a bright color and even bread.

The FDA considers the chemical safe but there have been recent concerns from consumers who have been cautioned to avoid it in sunscreen and other cosmetics because rat studies show it might cause cancer.

To date, more research has been advocated to put to rest the safety of the chemical. The new study supports consumer concerns that titanium dioxide in food could harm health by promoting gut inflammation and blocking absorption of essential nutrients.

"Titanium dioxide nanoparticle ingestion alters nutrient absorption in an in vitro model of the small intestine"
Zhongyuan Guo et al.