Cornell Study: Nanoparticles in foods may harm gut microbiome

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nanoparticles-in-food(NaturalHealth365) Would you like to enhance your mood, promote smoother skin, improve heart and immune function, enjoy better sleep, and increase your energy levels?  If you answered “yes,” you’ll want to take better care of your gut by avoiding metal nanoparticles being found within the food supply.

Decades of research show us that a healthy gut microbiome (the community of bacteria living inside your digestive tract) is linked to better health overall – and the reverse is true, as well.  When “bad” bacteria in the gut overpower the “good” bacteria, we tend to see health problems ranging from obesity to depression.

Unfortunately, it turns out that a hidden part of our diet may be negatively affecting our gut microbiome.  Let’s discuss this new study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Antioxidants.

NEW research suggests: Metal nanoparticles found in food could threaten a healthy gut environment in humans

The study, conducted by a group of researchers at Cornell University, sought to investigate how certain “food additive metal oxide nanoparticles” commonly found in the American diet can influence intestinal health and function.  The metallic nanoparticles studied were:

  • Titanium dioxide (TiO₂)
  • Silicon dioxide (SiO₂)
  • Zinc oxide (ZnO)
  • Iron oxide (Fe₂O₃)

The first two “are commonly used as food coloring or anti-caking agents,” note the study authors, while the latter two are “antimicrobials and coloring agents” and “can be used as micronutrient supplements” in lower-cost, mainstream vitamin brands like Centrum.

By exposing animals (developing embryos of chickens, in this case) to food-grade nanoparticles and then later analyzing their tissues, the researchers made several important conclusions:

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  • The presence of these four nanoparticles impacted both the function and structure of the chicks’ intestines – such as by altering the intestinal lining, which normally serves as a protective barrier to pathogens and chemicals, and by reducing the surface area of the lining itself, which could lead to decreased nutrient absorption
  • The nanoparticles also negatively impacted the amount of beneficial bacteria in the animals’ gut

Obviously, there are important ethical issues regarding animal research.  Plus, studies on animals aren’t perfectly translatable to humans, no matter how compelling the data is.  That said, this study does highlight the need for future research on these metallic food additives in human subjects so that we can make better choices for ourselves and our loved ones at the grocery store.

Want a healthy gut?  Here are four things you should keep in mind

Given what we know about the benefits of a healthy gut, keeping up some gut-friendly habits is definitely worth your while.  Here are four things you can be doing daily to promote improved gut bacteria and gut function:

  1. Eat more fiber.  According to Johns Hopkins, most Americans eat only about half of the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.  But fiber, especially from organic fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds (like chia seeds), is essential for supporting the “good” gut bacteria that can help you thrive.  So aim to get your fiber from food rather than supplements.  (And if you are going to invest in dietary supplements of any kind, read the ingredients carefully, look for third-party testing, and be willing to pay a little more if it means the quality is better.)
  2. Add in probiotic foods.  Things like fresh yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and pickled ginger are known to support a healthy digestive system.  Meanwhile, avoid highly-processed foods with added sugar, as this has been linked to increased inflammation and fewer “good” bacteria in the gut.
  3. Stay well-hydrated.  In addition to eating a diet rich in fiber and whole foods, drinking enough clean water promotes bowel regularity and may even promote beneficial diversity in your gut bacteria, according to a 2021 article published in The Journal of Nutrition.  The best way to tell if you’re drinking enough water is to look at your urine: it should be pale yellow in color.  Aim for about half your body weight in fluid ounces per day.
  4. Get enough sleep.  Sleep helps manage stress and provides an essential opportunity for your body and gut to repair itself.  8 hours per night on average is best for most adults!

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