Emulsifiers and Colorectal Cancer – What’s the Link?

Emulsifiers and Colorectal Cancer – What’s the Link?

Hippocrates once said that food is the ultimate medicine to every health condition. This was long before lab-derived ingredients and artificial flavors were developed and added to the most consumed foods around the world.

Looking at the nutritional information of many of the popular clear, it is very clear that common food is no longer a medicine. In fact, many of the foods may not even be okay for regular diets of people from all age groups.

An example of such foods is ultra-processed foods. Unfortunately, ultra-processed foods form a large portion of the Standard American Diet. These contain many harmful ingredients including the one that has been recently linked to colon cancer – emulsifiers.

Emulsifiers are a vital ingredient in nearly all of the processed and ultra-processed foods as they are needed for better texture. Without emulsifiers, it is impossible for these foods to have a long shelf life

In addition to the recent discovery of a link to colorectal cancer, the additive is also responsible for many other health conditions such as triggering low-level to chronic inflammation and lowering levels of healthy bacteria.

Emulsifiers and Colorectal Cancer - What's the Link?
Image By Standard Process

What did the study show?

To be clear, the study that linked colorectal cancer to emulsifiers conducted at the Georgia State University found the development of cancer in lab tested mice. Although it only shows a potential risk of cancer, it is better to avoid this ingredient given that it is linked to various gut conditions.

In this recent study, researchers at Georgia State University deduced that regular consumption of dietary emulsifiers by mice lead to a considerably fast tumor development. This conclusion also appeared in the Cancer Journal.

The study focused on two of the most commonly consumed emulsifiers known as polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. The mice were fed the same amount as the approximated amount people would get daily from the processed foods in their diet.

What were the effects of the emulsifiers?

The emulsifiers were seen to affect the composition and health of the gut of the mice greatly that made the gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory. This created an ideal situation for the growth of cancerous tumors.

Read more about the study here.

Changes in the gut bacteria triggered them to express more lipopolysaccharide and flagellin which are known for activating pro-inflammatory gene expression by the immune system in the body.

This also means that if you are consuming processed foods on a daily basis, you might be inducing low-level but chronic inflammation rapidly and since inflammation is now known to be one of the root causes of severe health conditions, this is a big discovery.

In addition, there is generally a lot of research that shows how the balance of microorganisms in the body can lower the risk of developing cancerous tumors.

Cutting out foods that affect the balance of those microorganisms might be a good idea given that colorectal cancer is now the fourth leading cause of deaths caused by cancerous tumors.

What are other effects of emulsifiers?

Emulsifiers can lead to a number of other health conditions along with increasing the risk of growth of cancerous tumors such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and metabolic diseases. This is also why digestive diseases are more prevalent than ever now.

Secondly, there are also new types of digestive disorders that are being diagnosed in people. An example of this is the leaky gut syndrome which is a recently discovered problem that affects the permeability of the gut.

RELATED: What Are The Signs Of The Leaky Gut Syndrome?

You would also be surprised to find out almost all of your favorite foods that you buy from the stores contain emulsifiers including most of the baked goods, frozen desserts, dill pickles, non-diary creamers, ice-cream, and all of the processed packaged snacks.


Emulsifiers and Colorectal Cancer - What's the Link?
Image By Serious Eats


It is also not the first time the most used emulsifiers which are carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate 80 are in the news for being harmful. A study conducted in 2015 also showed a link between obesity, metabolic syndrome, and emulsifiers.

Considering all other effects of processed foods, it is better to consume them as little as possible as they might also contain many other harmful ingredients such as carrageenan.





Andrea White

As a graduate of Public Health and Policy, Andrea developed an interest in disease development, food and safety and the latest advancements in health. She is a Freelance writer who had affiliations with multiple blogs. Andrea is now pursuing her post-doctorate in Behavioral Sciences.

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