Research (or at least public knowledge) on the importance of gut bacteria for health is becoming common knowledge. Bacteria plays an integral role in a variety of physiological functions. Defects in the gut micro biome play influence the development of inflammatory bowel disease, chronic low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Even more concerning (or revealing) is a study in 2011 that found that the gut bacteria of obese humans and mice differed from their non-obese counterparts.
Similarly, evidence has been continuously piling up over the past few years stating previously unknown health implications of popular food items / ingredients. Food additives are often vilified by “real-food” advocates, and in many cases rightly so. Research out of Georgia State University, and published in the the journal Nature, uncovered that mice fed dietary emulsifiers developed low-grade inflammation and metabolic syndrome over a 12-week period. Low-grade inflammation in the gut, along with metabolic syndrome, greatly increase the risk of someone developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease / stroke.
What caused the increased risk in disease?
Following twelve weeks of consuming the popular dietary emulsifiers (carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80), the mice had significant variations in gut bacterial composition as well as disruptions in the intestinal mucus. The disruptions in the mucus meant that the bacterial colonies were closer to the sensitive colon cells. To make matters worse, the emulsifier fed population also experienced weight gain, increases in fat mass and increased food consumption.
While the researchers agree that a primary cause of obesity is over-eating, this thorough investigation found that modern adaptations to the food supply potentially have drastic consequences.
Chassaing, B. et al (2015). Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Nature. 519. 92-96.