When you buy foods off the aisle of a grocery store, there is an assumption that they are safe and okay for consumption. But, that may not always be the case. There are many things added to the American food service company associations that consumers are completely unaware of. Additives like emulsifiers are used to aid in the texture of foods and to preserve them longer, but how safe are they?

A new study is showing that some common food additives are not only non-healthy, but they may also be linked to severe health consequences like chronic intestinal inflammation and colon cancer.


A new study released in the publication Cancer Research found that consuming dietary emulsifiers daily, which are found in the American food source, may lead to tumor development in mice. Researchers from Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences reported their findings.

To date, colorectal cancer is the fourth leading death-related cancer around the world and is responsible for an estimated seven hundred thousand deaths in 2012 alone. It has long been surmised that intestinal microbiota is the key to colon health. Microbiota is a diverse set of bacteria that are present in the intestines and are suspected to be responsible for the development of halting of colorectal cancer.

Microbiota is also indicated in the development of other illnesses such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are both related to chronic inflammation of the bowels. Inflammatory bowel diseases in this category are linked to an increased risk of colon tumorigenesis that predisposes a person to something called “colitis-associated cancer”. Low-grade inflammation is also associated with an altered composition of gut microbiota and many metabolic diseases.

The recent findings by researchers about mice and tumors may be the link to causation between emulsifiers and colorectal cancer. It may be a reason that colon cancer rates continue to rise. In the 20th century, colon cancer rates began to rise sharply. Researchers who conducted the research on emulsifiers have concluded that the key factors appear to be the presence of intestinal microbiota in the intestine that creates an increased risk for tumorigenesis. It is the microbiota that makes the perfect environment for tumors to grow.

The rash of various intestinal diseases in the past several decades would indicate that some environmental factors are driving the prevalence of disease. There have been previous studies conducted which led to the same results at Georgia, chronic low-grade inflammation in the intestines is enhanced by the emulsifiers that are found rampant in the American food supply.

What are emulsifiers?

Emulsifiers work very similar to detergent molecules, and they are incorporated into many of the foods that people eat, often without their knowledge. The emulsifying molecules work by altering the composition of natural microbiota in the gut and lead to an abundance of negative health consequences.

In the study, mice were fed the emulsifiers that are common in the American diet. Polysorbate 80 and carboxymethyl cellulose are the two emulsifiers that were studied, which are highly concentrated in the foods found in the aisles of many grocery stores. The researchers then observed that the mice who consumed the emulsifiers, were very different from the control group in the measurement and status of the microbiota in their intestines. The mice who were fed the emulsifiers showed inflammation, which was conducive to tumor growth.

They concluded that the inflammatory and immune response altered the cell death balance in the gut of the mice who consumed emulsifiers to the extent that it made the conditions perfect for cancer cells to grow.

American’s ingest things in the food supply daily that they give very little thought about. Emulsifiers are found in many of the foods that are consumed daily. The findings of this and other studies should give pause to the food industry when using emulsifiers in their production. Overall, emulsifiers appear to alter the microbiota found in the intestines and cause inflammation and chronic conditions that make the colon just right for the formation of colon cancer.

As emulsifiers in the American food source has risen, the rise in colon cancer has resulted. All the signs point to the conclusion that emulsifiers found in everyday foods may have a carcinogenic effect on a human being when consumed either in large quantities or on a daily basis.