It is called carboxymethylcellulose and surely this name will say little. But in fact it is one of the most used additives in the food industry. The problem is that, as a very recent scientific research suggests, this substance is not inert but interacts with the intestinal microbiota, depleting it and paving the way for chronic inflammation. The study was published a few days ago in the journal Gastroenterology and is the result of a collaboration between French, American and German scientists (Chassaing et al, Gastroenterology, Nov 2021).
The E466 additive, where it is found and what it may cause
Carboxymethylcellulose is widely used in various food products. In fact, with the code E466, this additive appears in sweets, candies, sugar paste to be modeled for the creation of decorated cakes and packaged ice creams. Until recently, carboxymethylcellulose was considered a harmless substance for humans, as it is not absorbed by the body but expelled after ingestion. However, the situation has changed in recent times. In fact, animal research has led to suspect a destructive action of E466 on the intestinal microbiota, which is the set of intestinal bacteria. The microbiota not only guarantees a correct digestive phase, but contributes to the general well-being of the body, influencing body weight, mood, cardiovascular health and the immune system. Therefore, the researchers of the study we are talking about today decided to focus their analysis on the effects of E466 on humans.
The E466 additive increases inflammation, the experiment
Scientists recruited 15 adults, all in good health and without metabolic diseases. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to follow a diet completely devoid of the E466 additive. The second group followed a diet that included 15 grams per day of E466. The experiment lasted two weeks. At the end, what emerged was that the E466 additive modified the intestinal microbiota, reducing the variety of bacteria, especially the so-called good bacteria, associated with a health condition of the microbiota. Not only that, an invasion of intestinal bacteria has also been observed in the internal intestinal mucosa, which is normally sterile. What has been observed is a feature of inflammatory bowel diseases and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the consumption of foods containing E466 in the short term did not cause disease but what emerges is that in the long term this can open the way to inflammatory diseases and high levels of chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of obesity, depression, and a weak immune system.
Here is another proof that we are what we eat and that we should pay close attention to the labels of the foods that are brought to the table. However, you should always do it in moderation, you shouldn't exclude all sweets and ice creams from your diet. The problem is certainly not the single food that contains the additive E466 but a diet that includes every day different foods containing this substance.