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.

I’m a registered Nutritional Therapist and creator of the 7 Day Gut Reset online course for gut health improvements. I am bringing you snippets of useful nutrition and health research regularly.


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 ice cream, low fat products or  thickened milk to provide some texture. It’s also known as cellulose gum and binds water and fat to create a thickened product.

Researchers used mice, so whilst this isn’t a human study some indications on gut health may be taken. Mice were given dietary emulsifiers in their drinking water for 12 weeks. Previous studies have shown adding in 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 they find:

This study showed that the emulsifiers affected the behaviour of the mice, due to the gut-brain link. The mice showed altered anxiety-like and sociability behaviour and there were some difference between male and female mice. 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 metabolic dysregulation in mice. This kind of upset to insulin responses can lead to diabetes or obesity in people.

What’s does it 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. Think about how much processed food you eat, and where you can reduce exposure to these kinds of compounds.

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