Emulsifiers, a common ingredient in foods, improve the food texture and prolong its shelf-life. Experiments on mice, however, showed that emulsifiers contribute to modifications in bacteria population in digestive tract.
The effect of altered bacteria population leads to the development of IBD and metabolic syndrome, researchers announced.
IBD affects millions of people worldwide, and has severe and frequently debilitating symptoms, according to researchers. Included in the IBD family are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions related to obesity, leading to diabetes, as well as heart and liver diseases.
The study was published in the journal Nature.
“A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation,” study co-leader Andrew Gewirtz, from the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, said in a university news release.
However, the study was conducted on mice, and results in mice do not always transfer to humans. It is important to understand this study was never meant to determine whether emulsifiers are harmful to humans.
“We do not disagree with the commonly held assumption that overeating is a central cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome,” Gewirtz said. “Rather, our findings reinforce the concept suggested by earlier work that low-grade inflammation resulting from an altered microbiota can be an underlying cause of excess eating.”