It seems that the consumption of processed foods, characterized in particular by the presence of additives, has a deleterious impact on our gut microbiota. Indeed, a study examining emulsifiers (carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate 80) in rodents showed that they had a negative influence on the gut microbiota and on the interaction of the latter with reduced thickness of the intestinal mucous membrane….
Indeed, the work of Benoît Chassaing and Andrew Gewirtz (Nature, 2015) has shown that emulsifiers, added to many processed food products in order to improve their textures and extend their lifespans, can modify the composition and location and composition of the gut microbiota, leading to chronic inflammation causing metabolic syndrome and chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
Chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD including Crohn’s disease and hemorrhagic colitis) are severe and disabling diseases affecting millions of people worldwide. Metabolic syndrome refers to all obesity-related problems, and is considered a precursor to severe diseases such as type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease. The sharp increase in these diseases has occurred despite stable genetics, suggesting a key role played by one of the environmental factors, according to researcher Benoît Chassaing.
The addition of dietary emulsifiers to processed foods has correlated with the evolution of these diseases since the mid-20th century, and it had previously been shown that these additives favoured bacterial translocation of certain bacteria to epithelial cells. The work of Benoît Chassaing and Andrew Gewirtz demonstrates a major impact of these food additives on the functions of the gut microbiota, leading to the development of chronic diseases.
However, this research is currently highlighting that not all microbiota have the same sensitivity to the pro-inflammatory effects of dietary emulsifiers, some microbiota appear to be less impacted by the effects more deleterious than others. Further studies are required to better understand these differences, as well as the underlying mechanisms associated with them. Finally, several trials are underway in humans to determine the impact of these additives on human health.
Other food additives are currently being researched, and it has been observed, for example, that non-calorie artificial sweeteners (saccharin, sucralose and aspartame), administered to rodents, lead to intolerance to glucose when administered to rodents, via a mechanism here also involving the gut microbiota, much higher and were associated with an increased abundance of bacteria belonging to the genus Bacteroides and the order of Clostridiales in the intestine.
Data also accumulate on maltodextrin, polysaccharide used as an additive, with an impact on the microbiota and promotion of intestinal inflammation. Thus, these several particular additive sities characteristic of processed foods seem to harm the good health of our gut microbiota, promoting the development of chronic diseases.
The gut microbiota which is composed of more than 100 trillion microorganisms which, is specific to each individual, and only future research will be able to better define the components of a diet to improve the microbiota and health of everyone.