Jun 30, 2023

Food Additive Harms Gut Microbiota

Carboxymethylcellulose: A Food Additive That Could Harm Your Gut Health

Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) is a synthetic emulsifier commonly used in processed foods to increase shelf life and enhance texture. However, recent research suggests that this food additive could be harmful to your gut health.

Studies have shown that CMC changes the intestinal environment of healthy individuals, disturbing beneficial bacteria and nutrient levels. This has led to concerns about the long-term effects of consuming this additive on human health.

What is Carboxymethylcellulose?

Carboxymethylcellulose is a synthetic member of a commonly used type of food additive known as an emulsifier. Emulsifiers are used in processed foods to improve texture, prevent separation of ingredients, and increase shelf life.

CMC is made by chemically modifying cellulose, a natural polymer found in plant cell walls. It is commonly used in a wide range of processed foods, including baked goods, dairy products, sauces, and dressings.

Is Carboxymethylcellulose Safe?

Until recently, it was believed that CMC was safe to ingest because it is not absorbed by the body and is eliminated in the feces. However, growing evidence suggests that this additive could be harmful to gut health.

Studies in mice have shown that CMC, as well as some other emulsifiers, can change gut bacteria and promote chronic inflammatory diseases such as colon cancer, metabolic syndrome, and colitis.

While these results are concerning, it is important to note that the extent to which they are relevant to humans is still unclear. More research is needed to determine the long-term effects of consuming CMC on human health.

How Does Carboxymethylcellulose Affect Gut Health?

Recent studies have shown that CMC can alter the makeup of bacteria that populate the colon and reduce select species. In addition, consumption of CMC can lead to a severe depletion of beneficial metabolites that are important for maintaining a healthy colon.

Colonoscopies carried out on participants who consumed CMC showed gut bacteria entering into the mucus, which is a feature of type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel diseases.

While consuming CMC did not directly lead to any disease in these studies, the results suggest that long-term consumption of this additive could promote chronic inflammatory disease.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Gut Health?

If you are concerned about the potential health risks associated with consuming CMC, there are several steps you can take to protect your gut health:

1. Eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods. This will help ensure that you are getting all the nutrients your body needs without the added risk of harmful food additives.

2. Read food labels carefully and avoid processed foods that contain CMC or other synthetic emulsifiers.

3. Consider taking a probiotic supplement to help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

4. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your gut health or if you experience any symptoms such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea.

In conclusion, while carboxymethylcellulose is a commonly used food additive, recent research suggests that it could be harmful to gut health. More research is needed to determine the long-term effects of consuming this additive on human health. In the meantime, taking steps to protect your gut health by eating a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods and avoiding processed foods that contain CMC may help reduce your risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases.