Common food additive disturbs the gut

A common food additive disturbs the & rsquo; intestine

CMC is widely used in processed foods.

A substance commonly used as an additive in food, carboxymethylcellulose (CMC), disrupts the balance of bacteria and molecules in the human intestine, according to a study relayed on Tuesday by Inserm, without concluding for the time being on the health consequences.

A high daily intake of CMC “disrupts the composition of the gut microbiota, in a way that reduces its diversity,” according to the study, published last week in the journal Gastroenterology.

It was already known that CMC, widely used in processed foods as a thickener or emulsifier, disrupted the intestinal balance in mice and promoted inflammation in them that could worsen diseases such as colon cancer.

The Gastroenterology study is the first to assess the consequences of consuming CMC in humans.

For ten days, the researchers took seven people, without any health problem. intestinal, 15 g per day of CMC. They compared their progress to nine patients who received a placebo. In each case, the patients did not consume any other emulsifier.

At the end of the eleven days, the patients consuming CMC saw their microbial balance markedly disturbed. Likewise, their intestinal “metabolome”, that is to say all the molecules that participate in the functioning of the organism, came out of the experiment unbalanced.

“These findings support the idea that frequent use of CMC in processed foods may contribute to (promote) a range of chronic inflammatory diseases,” the researchers conclude, citing Crohn's in particular.

However, this study cannot be certain. It is only interested in a small sample of people and needs to be repeated on a larger number.

In any case, it was not carried out for a sufficient period of time. to measure long-term health effects.

Above all, the study is based on a high daily dose of CMC, which does not necessarily correspond to the reality of what is assimilated on a daily basis by consumers.

This question is “not easy to answer, because the quantities used by the agro-food industries are not mentioned on the products: only the presence of these additives is mentioned”, explained to AFP Benoît Chastaing, researcher at Inserm and lead author of the study.

His team intends to measure the actual consumption of CMC in the population from samples taken from excrement.

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