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Health & Nurturing
2015 March
Pg 7 - The Sunshine Express
and designed experiments in mice to
test this possibility.
The team fed mice two very com-
monly used emulsifiers, polysorbate
80 and carboxymethylcellulsose, at
doses seeking to model the broad
consumption of the numerous emul-
sifiers that are incorporated into
almost all processed foods. They
observed that emulsifier consump-
tion changed the species composition
of the gut microbiota and did so in
a manner that made it more pro-
inflammatory. The altered microbiota
had enhanced capacity to digest and
infiltrate the dense mucus layer that
lines the intestine, which is normally,
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in germ-free mice, which lack a microbiota.
Transplant of microbiota from emulsifiers-treated
mice to germ-free mice was sufficient to transfer
some parameters of low-grade inflammation and
metabolic syndrome, indicating a central role for
the microbiota in mediating the adverse effect of
emulsifiers.
The team is now testing additional emulsifiers and
designing experiments to investigate how emulsi-
fiers affect humans. If similar results are obtained,
it would indicate a role for this class of food addi-
tive in driving the epidemic of obesity, its inter-
related consequences and a range of dis-
eases associated with chronic gut inflam-
mation.
While detailed mechanisms underlying
the effect of emulsifiers on metabolism
remain under study, the team points out
that avoiding excess food consumption is
of paramount importance.
¡°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 sug-
gested by earlier work that low-grade
inflammation resulting from an
altered microbiota can be an under-
lying cause of excess eating.¡±
The team notes that the results of their
study suggest that current means of
testing and approving food additives
may not be adequate to prevent use of
chemicals that promote diseases driven
by low-grade inflammation and/or which
will cause disease primarily in susceptible
hosts.
This study was funded by the National
Institutes of Health and Crohn¡¯s & Colitis
Foundation of America. (sources: www.
newswise.com and tinyurl.com/oy8u7mq)
largely devoid of bacteria. Alterations in bacterial spe-
cies resulted in bacteria expressing more flagellin and
lipopolysaccharide, which can activate pro-inflammato-
ry gene expression by the immune system.
Such changes in bacteria triggered chronic colitis in
mice genetically prone to this disorder, due to abnor-
mal immune systems. In contrast, in mice with normal
immune systems, emulsifiers induced low-grade or
mild intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome,
characterized by increased levels of food consumption,
obesity, hyperglycemia and insulin resistance.
The effects of emulsifier consumption were eliminated
Watching What We Eat
New Study Reinforces Earlier Work
Suggesting Emulsifiers
Cause Over-Eating
Emulsifiers, which are added to most
processed foods to aid texture and extend
shelf life, can alter the gut microbiota
composition and localization to induce
intestinal inflammation that promotes
the development of inflammatory bowel
disease and metabolic syndrome, new
research shows.
The research, published Feb. 25 in Nature,
was led by Georgia State University In-
stitute for Biomedical Sciences¡¯ research-
ers Drs. Benoit Chassaing and Andrew T.
Gewirtz, and included contributions from
Emory University, Cornell University and
Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which
includes Crohn¡¯s disease and ulcerative
colitis, afflicts millions of people and is
often severe and debilitating. Metabolic
syndrome is a group of very common
obesity-related disorders that can lead
to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular and/
or liver diseases. Incidence of IBD and
metabolic syndrome has been markedly
increasing since the mid-20th century.
The term ¡°gut microbiota¡± refers to the
diverse population of 100 trillion bacteria
that inhabit the intestinal tract. Gut micro-
biota are disturbed in IBD and metabolic
syndrome. Chassaing and Gewirtz¡¯s find-
ings suggest emulsifiers might be partially
responsible for this disturbance and the
increased incidence of these diseases.
¡°A key feature of these modern plagues is
alteration of the gut microbiota in a man-
ner that promotes inflammation,¡± says
Gewirtz.
¡°The dramatic increase in these diseases
has occurred despite consistent human
genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an
environmental factor,¡± says Chassaing.
¡°Food interacts intimately with the micro-
biota so we considered what modern addi-
tions to the food supply might possibly make
gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.¡±
Addition of emulsifiers to food seemed to fit
the time frame and had been shown to pro-
mote bacterial translocation across epithelial
cells. Chassaing and Gewirtz hypothesized
that emulsifiers might affect the gut microbi-
ota to promote these inflammatory diseases
¡°A sad soul can kill you
quicker than a germ.¡±
- John Steinbeck