Emulsifiers, additives commonly found in food, may cause obesity and metabolic syndromen, according to new research.
Emulsifiers are added to food to increase its shelf life and make it taste better. But they also change gut bacteria.
Moreover, emulsifiers are linked to metabolic syndromen, which can, in turn, lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers fed mice polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose, two common emulsifiers. The emulsifiers changed the behaviour of the gut, increasing rates of inflammation and metabolic syndrome. The effects resembled those of increased food intake, obesity, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance.
The research could lead to better ways of testing food, and an increased knowledge of how additives affect our bodies.
That said, this study was only conducted on mice, whose metabolisms work differently to those of humans. The next step in the research is to conduct the study on humans.
Andrew T. Gewirtz, co-lead author of the study, said: “A key feature of these modern plagues is the alteration of gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation.
“The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor.
“We do not disagree with the commonly held assumption that over-eating is a central cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
“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.”

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