The food we consume daily isn't just about flavor; it's also about how those ingredients interact to create texture and extend shelf life. Food additive emulsifiers play a vital role in our processed foods, but a new study published in The BMJ has raised some intriguing questions about their impact on our cardiovascular health.
This prospective cohort study examined the link between emulsifier consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The study, which included over 95,000 adults, discovered some eye-opening associations:
Emulsifiers and CVD Risk: People with higher intakes of certain emulsifiers faced an increased risk of CVD. Specifically, emulsifiers known as total celluloses (E460 and E466) and total monoglycerides and diglycerides of fatty acids (E472b and E472c) were linked to a higher risk of CVD.
Emulsifiers and Coronary Heart Disease: Similarly, those with elevated emulsifier intake had a higher risk of coronary heart disease. Total celluloses (E460 and E466), total monoglycerides and diglycerides of fatty acids (E472c), and trisodium phosphate (E339) were all associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Emulsifiers and Cerebrovascular Disease: The study also found that total monoglycerides and diglycerides of fatty acids (E472b) were associated with a higher risk of cerebrovascular disease.
To understand the significance of these findings, it's essential to consider previous research. Experimental studies had already hinted at potential health risks associated with emulsifiers. For instance, studies on carboxymethylcellulose (E466) showed that it could damage the intestinal barrier, leading to inflammation. Similarly, high carboxymethylcellulose intake was linked to gut microbiota changes and an increased risk of colon cancer.
A recent human intervention study also found that high carboxymethylcellulose doses were associated with gut inflammation and reduced microbiota diversity. Likewise, monoglycerides and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471) exhibited pro-inflammatory effects on gut microbiota in experimental studies. These experimental findings align with the epidemiological findings of the current study.
This study adds a new layer to our understanding of the potential health impacts of food additive emulsifiers. It underscores the need for continued research and potential regulatory changes within the food industry to prioritize consumer health.