In today’s world, the dietary habits of people are significantly different from those of the past century. This is due to a variety of reasons including the variation in lifestyles, increase in choices, and daily habits. The biggest thing that may have made what the Standard American Diets are today are the developments in the food industry.
Whenever you go to the grocery store now, you look around and find a wide variety of options in whatever you came to buy. It is common to get distracted and end up buying random foods that attract you. These choices are only available due to the advancements in techniques of the industry producing them.
For example, one of the biggest achievement is increasing the shelf life of foods. To do this, multiple food additives are used but so far, the most common ones are emulsifiers. Addition of emulsifiers can increase the longevity as well as improve the texture of the food.
Where such changes may have given us more options, research on whether they are safe or not still continues. Earlier studies on emulsifiers showed that they may alter the gut bacteria in mice. This then leads to a higher risk of metabolic disorder, obesity, and inflammation.
Recent research further studies the effects of these additives. A team of researchers from Georgia State University in Atlanta studied two most commonly used emulsifiers. These are carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate-80 (P80).
In conclusion, they stated that like in mice, emulsifiers may also affect the gut microflora in humans which may lead to mental health problems.
Read the study here.
How Was the Study Conducted?
Previous studies on emulsifiers and their effects in humans concluded that like in mice, they may be the reason for intestinal inflammation in humans. The new one takes mental health into account. Although the connection between gut bacteria and mental health may sound highly unlikely to people, scientists have mentioned it before.
Research has highlighted how the health of the digestive system and the gut bacteria can have an influence on the mental well-being. For example, a study showed that treating mice with a type of gut bacteria known as Lactobacillus rhamnosus can help with anxiety-like behaviors.
The team of researchers in the new study also look at changes in the brain of mice caused by P80 and CMC. This was done by adding the two emulsifiers in the water of the mice. The researchers then studied the changes in behavior, in physiology, and gut microflora after a period of 12 weeks.
What Were the Results?
After the twelve week period had passed, the researchers noticed changes in the gut microbiome of the mice. However, these changes varied in male and female mice. Alterations in behaviors of both were different as well. For instance, female mice had a decrease in their social behavior while male mice had high levels of anxiety.
The cause behind this effect of the emulsifiers is still unknown. The co-author of the study Prof. Geert de Vries gives the following possible theory:
“We know that inflammation triggers local immune cells to produce signaling molecules that can affect tissues in other places, including the brain. The gut also contains branches of the vagus nerve, which forms a direct information pathway to the brain.”
Further investigation is needed to study this effect. Additionally, the researchers add how switching to larger animals is also mandatory for better results and understanding in the future.