FEB 03, 2019 4:27 PM PST

Assessing the Impact of Tiny Food Additives on Gut Microbes

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Nanoparticles are increasingly used in food; they might act as coloring or antimicrobial agents, nutrients or nutrient delivery systems, among other uses. New research has investigated how engineered nanoparticles, or ones that occur naturally in food, impact the various microbes that live in our gastrointestinal tract. Those microbes have a powerful effect on our health and can be beneficial or harmful. The relationship between humans and the bacteria they host is described in the video. Scientists have now found that ultra-small particles can attach to microbes living in the gut, and affect their life cycle as well as how they interact with their host.

"Prior to our studies, nobody really looked whether and how nano-additives directly influence the gastrointestinal flora," said Professor Roland Stauber of the Department of Otolaryngology, Head, and Neck Surgery at the Mainz University Medical Center. "Hence, we studied ... a wide range of technical nanoparticles with clearly defined properties in order to mimic what happens to currently used or potential future nanosized food additives. By simulating the journey of particles through the different environments of the digestive tract in the laboratory, we found that the all tested nanomaterials were indeed able to bind to bacteria." 

The work, which found that nanoparticles inhibit one particular pathogenic microbe, was reported in the Nature Publishing Group journal Science of Food. That bacterium, Heliobacter pylori, has been identified as a cause of gastric cancer and was inhibited by silica particles. This work suggests that certain nanoparticles might have a therapeutic effect in some cases. However, microbes that were attached to nanoparticles weren’t recognized as easily by the immune system, which might increase inflammation in the gut.

Our gut microbes can have an array of effects on many different aspects of our health. "Hence, nutrition and its containing nanoparticulates may affect the microbiome-host balance, finally influencing human health. In order to reduce potential risks and, ideally, promote health, the impact of dietary nanoparticles needs to be understood," noted Professor David J. McClements from the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, USA.

'It was puzzling that we were able to also isolate naturally occurring nanoparticles from food, like beer, which showed similar effects. Nanoparticles in our daily food are not just those added deliberately but can also be generated naturally during preparation. Nanoparticulates are already omnipresent," added Stauber.

The research shows that these natural nanoparticles and their synthetic counterparts should be evaluated to see how they influence gut microbes, and by extension, human health. "The challenge is to identify nanoparticles that fit the desired purpose, perhaps even as probiotic food supplements in the future. Challenge accepted," concluded Stauber.

The podcast featured in the video above from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health discusses the use of nanoparticles in food.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Science of Food

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
FEB 04, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 04, 2020
Revealing How a Common Virus Evades the Immune System
The human metapneumovirus (HMPV) might now be well-known, but it is the second biggest cause of respiratory infections....
FEB 10, 2020
Immunology
FEB 10, 2020
Measles infections can give the immune system amnesia
The immune system detects the presence of invading microbes that it recognizes from previous infections, and initiates a full-blown immune response. New re...
FEB 17, 2020
Immunology
FEB 17, 2020
Another HIV vaccine attempt fizzles out
Years of work and over $100 million in study costs have been abandoned after an HIV-vaccine tested in South Africa failed to protect treated individuals ag...
FEB 18, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 18, 2020
Coronavirus Illness COVID-19 Has Now Caused Over 2,000 Deaths
The outbreak of COVID-19 disease caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 has now claimed 2,005 lives and caused at least 75,079 cases....
MAR 05, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 05, 2020
Researchers Learn How Gut Microbes Can Promote Heart Disease
The microbes in our gastrointestinal tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, have a powerful impact on our health and well-being....
APR 01, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
APR 01, 2020
One dollar kit diagnoses COVID-19 in 10 minutes
Researchers have begun efficacy testing for a new SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic kit that claims to be able to test for COVID-19 infection in just 10 minutes. In th...
Loading Comments...