Melbourne: A common additive used in many food items such as chewing gum and mayonnaise may have a substantial and harmful influence on human gut health, a study has found. Published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, the study investigated the health impacts of food additive E171 (titanium dioxide nanoparticles) which is used in high quantities in foods and some medicines as a whitening agent.
Found in more than 900 food products such as chewing gum and mayonnaise, E171 is consumed in high proportion everyday by the general population, said researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia.
The study in mice found that consumption of food containing E171 has an impact on the gut microbiota — the trillions of bacteria that inhabit the gut — which could trigger diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer. “The aim of this research is to stimulate discussions on new standards and regulations to ensure safe use of nanoparticles in Australia and globally,” said Associate Professor Wojciech Chrzanowski, from the University of Sydney.
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.