Emulsifiers – New research in mice that certain types of common food additives can impact the gut permeability, and microbiome, as well as affecting anxiety behaviour.

Below I take a look at some relevatn nutrition research.


What did researchers do:

Anyone eaten any carboxylmethylcellulose or polysorbate-80 today?

Doesn’t sound like something you’d like to eat, but it’s actually in quite a lot of our processed foods, especially to provide some texture in

  • ice cream,
  • low fat products
  • thickened milk.

It’s also known as cellulose gum and binds water and fat to create a thickened product.

This was a mouse study, so not always directly applicable to humans. 

Mice were given emulsifiers in their drinking water for 12 weeks.

Previous studies showed adding  Carboxymethylcellulose CMC or P-80 to the diet of mice altered the composition of the gut bacteria, and induced low-grade inflammation and metabolic disorders.

What did the study find:

This study showed that the emulsifiers affected the behaviour of the mice, probably due to the gut-brain link.

The mice showed altered anxiety-like and sociability behaviour changes when they had taken large amounts of emulsifiers.

There were some differences in how the male and female mice reacted.

Male mice showed more anxiety-like behaviours and female mice showed reduced social behaviour as a result of these changes.

These emulsifiers also induced chronic low-grade inflammation, ultimately leading to changes in the way the mice processed fats and glucose.

This kind of upset to insulin responses may lead to diabetes or obesity in people.

What’s does the study mean?

Whilst this study was in mice, not humans, we already know emulsifiers can alter the gut microbiome.

This shows there may be a further impact on our mental health as well.

If you eat ice cream once a month, you probably won’t be affected by the additives. But if you eat it 5x a week as well as other heavily processed foods you may notice a change when you stop eating them.

If you’re worried about your gut health or have ongoing IBS symptoms you may wish to consider how much processed food you eat, and where you can reduce exposure to these kinds of compounds.

Contact me for your free 15 minute discovery call to talk about how we can work together. 

Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I help people with IBS, SIBO, reflux and other gut health issues.

I can help you to:

  • understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
  • eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
  • develop healthy, sustainable habits for life

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