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Hot Topic: Impact of Processed Foods on Gut Microbiota

BY: Kelly Hensel

What Conventional Toxicology Doesn’t Tell You: The Impact of Processed Foods on Gut Microbiota, Inflammation, and Metabolic Disease
Session 92
Monday, July 13; 2:15–3:15 p.m.
Room N427bc

Based on research by Andrew Gewirtz, this session will explore the hypothesis that artificial preservatives used in many processed foods may increase the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic disorders. In a study done in mice, chemicals known as emulsifiers were found to alter the make-up of bacteria in the colon—the first time that these additives have been shown to affect health directly. About 15 different emulsifiers are commonly used in processed Western foods for purposes such as smoothing the texture of ice cream and preventing mayonnaise from separating. Regulatory agencies such as the FDA rule that emulsifiers are “generally regarded as safe,” because there is no evidence that they increase the risk of cancer or have toxic effects in mammals.

But when immunologist Andrew Gewirtz and his colleagues fed common emulsifiers carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80 to mice, they found evidence that the chemicals affected the animals’ health. Although their diet was not otherwise changed, healthy mice whose water contained the chemicals became obese and developed metabolic problems such as glucose intolerance. In mice genetically engineered to be prone to inflammatory gut diseases, emulsifiers also seemed to increase the severity and frequency with which the animals developed inflammatory bowel disease.

Presented by: Andrew Gewirtz, Georgia State University


3 Responses to “Hot Topic: Impact of Processed Foods on Gut Microbiota”

  1. sundar shrestha says:

    To Andrew Gewirtz
    Hello Sir,
    I like this topic because it involves in our daily life. One or in another way, we are consuming these chemicals. My question is whether those emulsifiers were used to formulate specific food for testing animal or the chemicals were directly mixed with already prepared food? Do you think this affects the bio-availability of emulsifiers to testing animal? Thank you for your response.

  2. Hector Nunez says:

    Please investigate these issues that affect our quality of life, in our organization we are dedicated to empowering consumers with information from the evidence so you can make intelligent decisions, surely the information provided is relevant to decision making.



  3. Berna Magnuson says:

    It is incorrect to state that “Conventional Toxicology” would not “tell you” these effect. All studies using standardized testing protocols for food additive approvals required measurement of body weight, food consumption, blood chemistry and tissue pathology. Therefore, any compound that affects body weight (i.e.. causes obesity) or metabolic syndrome which affects blood chemistry, would be detected and not approved.
    In many cases where additives are added to drinking water, instead of incorporated into the food as food additives are in standardized methods and in human exposures, there is an impact on food intake or inaccurate measurement of actual dose consumed (as was the case in the recent Nature study incorrectly concluding that artificial sweeteners caused an effect on gut microbiota) .

    Clearly, anyone who would make this statement is not familiar with the detailed and exhaustive testing of “conventional toxicology”.

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