APR 29, 2024 8:58 AM PDT

Emulsifiers found in food positively associated with diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Greta Anne

The relationship between diet and health outcomes has long been an area of interest in epidemiological research. Recently, attention has turned to food additives, particularly emulsifiers, which are common additions to processed foods. Emulsifiers are used to improve texture and shelf life, but their potential impact on health, particularly in relation to metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes, remains poorly understood. A groundbreaking study conducted within the NutriNet-Santé cohort in France with results published in The Lancet: Diabetes and Endocrinology sheds light on this issue, offering valuable insights into the association between emulsifier intake and type 2 diabetes risk.  

The study, encompassing over 104,000 participants enrolled between 2009 and 2023, revealed several significant associations between individual emulsifiers and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Emulsifiers such as carrageenans (E407), tripotassium phosphate (E340), and acetyl tartaric acid esters of monoglycerides and diglycerides of fatty acids (E472e) were positively associated with type 2 diabetes risk.  

This study was the first large-scale prospective cohort study to systematically evaluate the relationship between emulsifier intake and type 2 diabetes risk. While authorized emulsifiers are considered safe based on acceptable daily intakes (ADIs), other recent experimental studies have highlighted potential adverse effects beyond traditional toxicity assessments. This underscores the need for a re-evaluation of existing regulation.  

The study analyzed various biological mechanisms underlying the observed associations, suggesting differential pathways for emulsifiers associated with cardiovascular disease versus type 2 diabetes. This nuanced understanding highlights the complex interplay between diet, gut microbiota, and metabolic health, emphasizing the importance of considering unique risk profiles for different health conditions.  

Moving forward, the study calls for further multidisciplinary research to unravel the biological mechanisms linking emulsifier exposure to type 2 diabetes risk. Mechanistic epidemiology, experimental research, and short-term interventions are proposed as avenues for gaining deeper insights into this complex relationship. By identifying specific emulsifiers linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, the study highlights the need for further research on the underlying biological mechanisms and public health interventions for reducing the burden of metabolic disorders worldwide.

Sources: The Lancet: Diabetes and Endocrinology  

About the Author
Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
Greta holds her PharmD and is a writer at Labroots. She also has a strong background in neuroscience & psychology. When she is not working as a pharmacist or a writer, she enjoys fostering her creative initiatives such as traveling, working out, spending time at the beach, and cooking!
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