A new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York discovered that the ability of the small intestine to act as a buffer against pathogens and absorb nutrients is decreased after significant exposure to an additive found in many foods, from bread to chewing gum.
The common food additive that causes so much trouble is made up of nanoparticles of titanium dioxide. For the research, the scientists exposed a cell culture model from the small intestine to the quantity of titanium dioxide that is usually found in a meal for four hours to simulate an acute exposure. Then, they substituted a different cell culture to the equivalent of three meals for five days for a chronic exposure.
The results show few effects on acute exposures, but the chronic exposures affected the absorbent cells from the surface of the small intestine called microvilli. This can cause a slower metabolism and certain nutrients become harder to absorb. These nutrients include zinc, iron, and fatty acids.
Also, the functions of the enzymes were affected in a negative way and the signals of inflammation increased.
Gretchen Mahler, biomedical engineering assistant professor at Binghamton University, assures people that titanium dioxide is not deadly. Since it is such a common food additive, the researchers aimed to see what are some of the effects it had on the small intestine and wanted people to know of them, but they did not mean to scare people.
Previous studies showed possible effects of the nanoparticles on microvilli, but they did not focus on smaller concentrations that are usually found in meals. Ingestion of titanium dioxide is almost unavoidable, but the FDA regarded it as safe.
The substance is insoluble and inert and is used in paper, paints, and plastic for white pigmentation. It can also be found in certain sunscreens where it blocks ultraviolet light.
Now you may wonder how we can ingest titanium dioxide. It can also be found in toothpastes, or in chocolate where it is used for a smoother texture, in donuts for color, or in skimmed milk to give it a brighter appearance.
A study from 2012 performed at the Arizona State University tested common foods, including chewing gum, mayonnaise, and Twinkies, and found nanoparticles of titanium dioxide in all of them.
The researchers advise people to avoid processed foods, since this is where the additive is found in abundance. Children might be upset since candy is one of the top foods that contains titanium dioxide.
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