Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, looked at how food preservatives affect the microbiota.[i] Using a mouse model, over the course of 15 weeks, they noticed that a particular preservative they tested, “…temporarily perturbed the diversity of microbes in the mouse gut, but this change was transient…” By week 5, there were statistically significant alterations which resolve around week 9. However, the lead researcher concludes, “We do not know enough about what preservatives do to the microbiomes in the gut.”
Ordinarily, this article would not have particularlyl jumped out at me except that I remembered reading awhile back that emulsifiers, which are also a common food additive, also cause microbiome disruption and intestinal inflammation. I did a quick search to find the article I’d read on it and yes, it dates back to 2015. “Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to aid texture and extend shelf life, can alter the gut microbiota composition and localization to induce intestinal inflammation that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome.”[ii] According to that research, emulsifiers (which are added to all processed food) altered the microbiota in such a way as to make it more pro-inflammatory, and able to digest and infiltrate the mucus lining of the gut. In mice genetically prone to IBD, this caused severe colitis. In mice with normal immune systems, it still caused low grade intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome.
This research team “…notes that the results of their study suggest that current means of testing and approving food additives may not be adequate to prevent use of chemicals that promote diseases driven by low-grade inflammation and/or which will cause disease primarily in susceptible hosts.”
A good New Year’s resolution: eat a whole foods diet!