Emulsifiers are added to processed foods to extend shelf life and aid texture. But a new study finds they can alter your gut bacteria in a way that promotes inflammation and triggers colon cancer.1
Big food makers started adding emulsifiers to their products around 1950. Around the same time, the incidence of colorectal cancer started rising in the U.S.2
It is now the second deadliest cancer. Colon cancer kills about 50,000 Americans a year. Only lung cancer is more lethal, taking 158,000 American lives annually.3
Researchers fed mice two common emulsifiers, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. They discovered the additives changed the composition of the animals’ gut bacteria, leading to low-grade inflammation. Even worse, the mice were more susceptible to developing colon cancer.
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Researchers say they believe the same process happens in humans. Dr. Emilie Viennois led the study at Georgia State University. “The incidence of colorectal cancer has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century,” said Dr. Viennois. “A key feature of this disease is the presence of an altered intestinal microbiota that creates a favorable niche for tumorigenesis.”4,5
How Processed Foods Wreck Digestive Health
Many processed foods contain emulsifiers. They make foods look more appealing by stopping oil- and water-soluble ingredients from separating. Besides triggering cancer, they are linked to colitis, obesity, and diabetes.6
The two emulsifiers used in the study, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose, are used in ice creams, mayo, ketchup, sauces, toothpaste, cakes, peanut butter, margarine, chewing gum, and many other products.7
It’s smart to read labels closely to avoid them. They are often hidden in small print. Or they are labeled under the general term “emulsifier.” Your best defense is to avoid processed foods altogether. Processed meats are especially dangerous.
Try to eat fresh, organic produce with every meal. It helps feed the “good” bacteria in your gut. Onions, garlic, and leeks are particularly beneficial.
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