Common food additive found to impact gut microbiome

A common food additive, titanium dioxide nanoparticles E171, may have a significant and harmful affect on human health, according to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Researchers investigated the health impacts of E171, which is commonly use in high quantities in foods and medicines as a whitening agent. It can be found in more than 900 food products, including chewing gum and mayonnaise, the study said. The general population consumes E171 in high proportions every day.

The study, which used mice, found that consumption of food containing E171 has an impact on the gut microbiota, which could trigger diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer, researchers said.

The discovery adds y to a body of work on nanoparticle toxicity and safety and their impact on health and environment. While nanoparticles have been commonly used in medicines, foods, clothing, and other applications, the possible impacts of nanoparticles, especially their long term effects, are still poorly understood.

Titanium dioxide consumption has considerably increased in the last decade and has already been linked to several medical conditions, and although it is approved in food, there is insufficient evidence about its safety.

Increasing rates of dementia, autoimmune diseases, cancer metastasis, eczema, asthma, and autism are among a growing list of diseases that have been linked to soaring exposure to nanoparticles.

Investigators said the research showed that titanium dioxide interacts with bacteria in the gut and impairs some of their functions which may result in the development of diseases. They call for its consumption to be better regulated by food authorities.