Food Additives Linked To Metabolic Syndrome, Overeating
Emulsifiers, common food additives that are used in products like mayonnaise, margarine, jarred sauces and ice cream, have been linked to increased risk for intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome.
Georgia State University researcher Benoit Chassaing found that two widely used emulsifiers, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose, could change gut bacteria in a way that triggers hormonal imbalances and inflammation. As a result, conditions like type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis may manifest.
"The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor," Chassaing said in a press release. "Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory."
An overeating trigger?
Changes in gut bacteria caused by emulsifiers could be intricately linked to hunger hormones and the drive to overeat, the researchers said.
Mice who were exposed to emulsifiers exhibited insulin resistance, obesity and increased levels of food consumption.
Understanding how these types of food additives may be driving the obesity epidemic, then, is of critical importance, the authors noted.
"We do not disagree with the commonly held assumption that over-eating is a central cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome," Gewirtz says. "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."