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Did you know that you consume titanium dioxide every day? It is not good for your gut

Posted May 20, 2019

Our food is full of various additives. They are controlled and monitored by institutions that have to ensure that food is safe to consume. One of them is E171 – titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which works as a whitening agent. Now scientists from the University of Sydney say that the E171 can have negative impact on gut microbiota. In fact, it could lead to inflammatory bowel diseases or colorectal cancer.

Titanium dioxide is an extremely common whitening agent, used throughout the industry – from clothes and paint to food and medicine. Image credit: Epop via Wikimedia

Titanium dioxide is a very common additive, because it is very white. In fact, if you have white paint you can be pretty much guaranteed that it contains titanium dioxide. It is very common in food and medicine too – from pills to chewing gum or mayonnaise. We can be sure that you consume significant portions of it every day – that is how common it is. However, common does not mean safe. Scientists conducted a study with mouse models and found that E171 has an impact on the gut microbiota. This is bad news because consumption of titanium dioxide nanoparticles has significantly increased over the last decade.

Scientists say that safety of E171 has to be addressed. It is possible that these nanoparticles contribute to dementia auto-immune diseases, cancer metastasis, eczema, asthma, and autism. They definitely are not good for gut microbiota. Our gut bacteria have a significant influence on our health. They are considered to be gatekeepers from all sorts of diseases. And yet health effects of such food additives as E171 are still poorly understood. This new research shows that E171 could inflammation in the gut, which can lead to diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer. Meanwhile in standards and regulations titanium dioxide nanoparticles are considered to be completely safe.

Interestingly, titanium dioxide nanoparticles do not change the composition of gut microbiota. Instead they make them stick together into biofilms, which are not desired at all – they are known to contribute to diseases such as colorectal cancer. Laurence Macia, co-lead author of the study, said: “Our 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. We are saying that its consumption should be better regulated by food authorities”.

It is important to ensure that food additives are not going to damage one’s health. They are everywhere and they have to be safe. This means that more research needs to be done to make sure that additives such as E171 are not going to cause significant harm. After all, does everything have to be so white?


Source: University of Sydney

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