Grocery shoppers, beware: A common ingredient in many processed foods has been linked to the development of cancer in animals. According to researchers at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, emulsifiers—chemicals commonly used to prolong shelf life in packaged products—could increase the risk of developing colon cancer.
A new study published in the journal Cancer Research reports that emulsifiers, which are added to a mixture of water-based and oily ingredients to prevent separation over time, have the potential to negatively impact the good bacteria in the gut. Though food regulations limit the amount a particular emulsifier can be used in a product to one to two percent, there is no limit on the number of kinds of emulsifiers that can be used in a given food.
The team of researchers at Georgia State, lead by Emilie Viennois, set out to determine how the presence of these chemicals would affect the gut and body as a whole. In a previous study, Viennois found that the impact of emulsifiers on good gut bacteria encouraged the development of metabolic syndrome, which can in turn increase the risk of a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and inflammation.