WARNING: Popular food additive greatly INCREASES the risk of chronic disease
(NaturalHealth365) Over the past 70 years, the consumption of highly processed foods has skyrocketed in the United States – and rates of chronic inflammatory disease, such as type 2 diabetes, have soared along with it. (According to the CDC, 34. 2 million Americans, or one in every ten people, now have type 2 diabetes). Researchers say this is no coincidence and that a common food additive, carboxymethylcellulose (CMC), may play a role.
A brand-new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology sheds new light on the impact of CMC on human health. The research shows that the chemical – an emulsifier used to prolong shelf life and improve and thicken texture – can disrupt the all-important gut microbiome or community of bacteria living in the intestinal tract. Let’s take a closer look at the study and its implications.
Food additive – long presumed safe – may carry severe health risk
CMC has long been assumed to be safe, as it is believed to pass harmlessly through the body before being excreted. (The truth is: few human studies had been performed on this synthetic chemical since its approval in the 1960s). After animal research suggested that CMC could, in fact, alter gut bacteria and worsen chronic inflammatory disease, an international team of researchers decided to take a closer look.
In a double-blind clinical study – conducted by Georgia State University and the University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with French and German researchers – 16 healthy participants (all students at the University of Pennsylvania) consumed either an additive-free diet or an identical diet supplemented with the food additive for 11 days.
CMC disturbs the balance of gut bacteria and worsens disease
The team found that the CMC group underwent detrimental changes in the bacterial population of the gut microbiome, with a dramatic depletion of beneficial bacteria such as F. prausnitzii. They also displayed decreases in important amino acids in the digestive tract and experienced more after-meal discomfort than the control group. Even more alarmingly, colonoscopies at the study’s beginning and end demonstrated that some of the CMC group had gut bacteria encroaching into the (normally sterile) inner mucus layer of the gut. This got the team’s attention as well, as this intrusion is characteristic of IBD and type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that the food additive might promote chronic inflammatory diseases, such as colitis, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and even colon cancer. They called for further testing to explore the impact of carboxymethylcellulose on human health.
“It (the study) certainly disproves the ‘it just passes through’ argument used to justify the lack of clinical study on additives,” commented co-senior study author Dr. Andrew Gerwitz. Lead author Dr. Benoit Chassaing added that responses to CMC are “highly personalized” and that, ideally, a system could be designed to determine which individuals might be sensitive to specific additives.
Gut bacteria perform MULTIPLE life-sustaining functions
Why is the health of the gut microbiome so important?
It turns out that many types of gut bacteria are not only beneficial but necessary for health. These important microbes break down starches, fibers, and potential toxins while synthesizing indispensable vitamins and amino acids, such as vitamin K and B12. In addition, researchers have learned that “friendly” bacteria also produce serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters needed for a stable mood.
In addition to lifting mood, a healthy gut microbiome can help to regulate appetite and prevent obesity. Finally, the microbiome plays a vital role in regulating immune system health (not surprising because 75 percent of the immune system is located in the gut).
Support your microbiome health naturally through diet and lifestyle choices
In addition to eliminating or sharply reducing consumption of processed foods (really a “no-brainer”), how can one promote a healthy gut microbiome?
Natural health experts advise avoiding pro-inflammatory white sugar at all costs and opting for flavorful fruits and veggies such as mangoes and yams if you crave a sweet taste. Eating plenty of fiber-rich fresh fruits and vegetables can help discourage the growth of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. Certain foods – such as bananas, beans, asparagus, cocoa extracts, and onions – contain prebiotic fiber, which provides fuel for “friendly” gut microbes.
You can also nourish the microbiome with probiotic fermented foods, such as unsweetened yogurt with live cultures, fresh sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi.
And, avoid the use of antibiotics unless your trusted medical professional deems it necessary. If so, use a probiotic supplement during treatment to help recolonize healthy bacteria.
In addition to getting proper nutrition, you can support a healthy gut microbiome with sufficient rest, regular exercise, and natural stress reduction through yoga, biofeedback, Tai Chi, or acupuncture.
The disturbing new research on the food additive CMC, and the growing incidence of chronic degenerative diseases in the United States, provides consumers yet another reason to avoid highly-processed, chemical-laden packaged foods – and opt for healthier fare.
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