Common additives in food can affect gut health, study reveals

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In some of our food, there are tiny particles known as metal oxide nanoparticles used as food additives.

Scientists from Binghamton University and Cornell University recently conducted a study to understand how these nanoparticles might affect the health of our gut.

What are Metal Oxide Nanoparticles?

Metal oxide nanoparticles are minuscule particles, invisible to the naked eye, that are added to food for various reasons.

For instance, titanium dioxide is used to enhance food’s whiteness and brightness, silicon dioxide prevents food from clumping together, iron oxide helps maintain the red color in meats, and zinc oxide, which kills harmful microbes, is used as a preservative.

The Research

To discern how these nanoparticles affect our gut, the scientists used chickens for their study, as a chicken’s intestinal tract is quite similar to a human’s.

They injected five different nanoparticles into chicken eggs and studied the gene expression, types of bacteria, and the structure of the small intestine in the chickens after they hatched.

The Findings

The study found that silicone dioxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles appeared to have negative effects.

They disturbed the normal functioning of the chickens’ intestines, altered the bacterial balance, and affected the chickens’ ability to absorb minerals.

Conversely, some nanoparticles showed neutral or even positive effects. For instance, zinc oxide appeared to support intestinal development, and iron oxide might be used to add iron to food. However, it could also change how the intestines function and affect overall health.

What Does This Mean for Our Diet?

The findings of the study do not imply that we should eliminate foods containing nanoparticles from our diet. Instead, according to Professor Gretchen Mahler, it underscores the importance of understanding what’s in our food.

Comprehending how these nanoparticles could impact our gut health could guide us to make better food choices in the future.

“We’re eating these things, so it’s important to consider what some of the more subtle effects could be,” Mahler says.

This research is part of ongoing efforts to comprehend the potential impacts of these tiny food additives on our health.


The next time you select a food product, consider its content. There might be more to it than meets the eye.

Awareness about the potential impacts of such tiny additives on our health can help us make more informed dietary choices.

For more health-related studies, read about the link between the antimicrobial in toothpaste and inflammation and cancer in the gut, and how vitamin B may help reduce inflammation. The study was published in the journal Antioxidants.

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