Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about ways in which modern food processing may be related to our growing epidemic of obesity (or globesity, as those authors called it). In that post, I mentioned that many food additives are potentially thought to be contributing to the problem, in that they may adversely affect the microbiome, and thus, the way we digest food.
Well, just yesterday, I spotted an article out of the University of Sydney, in Australia, wherein researchers looked at the effects of the additive titanium dioxide on human health.[i] It is apparently used as a whitening agent in high quantities in more than 900 food products (like chewing gum and mayonnaise), and in many medicines as well. While it is an approved additive, relatively little safety testing has actually been done.
These researchers found, in a mouse study, that titanium dioxide adversely affects the activity of the bacterial microbiome (i.e. it altered the production of their normal metabolites) and also stimulates gut inflammation, potentially triggering inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer. It seems to promote the formation of biofilms – those slimy masses of bacteria that protect the organisms inside: ““This study investigated effects of titanium dioxide on gut health in mice and found that titanium dioxide did not change the composition of gut microbiota, but instead it affected bacteria activity and promoted their growth in a form of undesired biofilm. Biofilms are bacteria that stick together and the formation of biofilm has been reported in diseases such as colorectal cancer…”
The article states: “The interaction between gut microbiota and host plays a central role in health. Dysbiosis, detrimental changes in gut microbiota, and inflammation have been reported in non-communicable diseases. While diet has a profound impact on gut microbiota composition and function, the role of food additives such as titanium dioxide (TiO2), prevalent in processed food, is less established….[Our] findings collectively show that TiO2 is not inert, but rather impairs gut homeostasis which may in turn prime the host for disease development.”[ii]
Says the co-lead author, Dr. Laurence Macia: ““Our research showed that titanium dioxide interacts with bacteria in the gut and impairs some of their functions which may result in the development of diseases. We are saying that its consumption should be better regulated by food authorities.”
So…I did a quick search of my kitchen. I buy organic and found no titanium dioxide (so far) in my foods. But, I then did an internet search of my medicines and supplements, and low and behold, there it was.
Titanium dioxide is in so many things, in fact, that I don’t know if there’s any way to avoid all of it. It’s everywhere!
[ii] Pinget, GV, et. al. Impact of the food additive titanium dioxide (E171) on gut microbiota-host interaction. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2019. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00057