A wide range of foods contains ingredients that we call emulsifiers. A new study in mice shows that these compounds can produce both physiological and behavioral changes.
Food additives have always attracted a lot of attention and, rightly, since they are ubiquitous, we must analyze their impact on our health. Emulsifiers have recently caught fire.
Manufacturers use these chemicals to change the texture of foods and extend their shelf life.
They include emulsifiers in many foods, such as certain types of bread, chocolate, margarine, processed meats, and so on.
Previous studies have shown that emulsifiers can alter the mouse microbiome, causing low-level inflammation and increasing the risk of obesity and metabolic disorders.
A study in humans has concluded that intestinal bacteria “may be directly affected by these commonly used food additives, so as to subsequently cause intestinal inflammation”.
Recently, a group of researchers at Georgia State University in Atlanta took this research to a higher level and investigated whether two common emulsifiers, carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate 80 (P80), could also affect welfare. mental
Intestinal health, psychological health.
Although the transition from intestinal health to psychological health may seem a little exaggerated, scientists have already described a clear, two-way conversation between the gut and the brain.
Studies have shown that our intestinal health and the health of our intestinal bacteria can have a significant influence on our mental well-being. For example, a 2011 study found that treating mice with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a kind of “good” bacteria, caused measurable changes in the brain and reduced behavior similar to anxiety.
Another study showed that mice with no intestinal bacteria exhibited higher levels of anxiety-like behavior when compared to controls. A more recent study has shown that the use of antibiotics in young mice can significantly alter the microbiome, anxiety levels, and long-term social behavior.
This latest study examined whether P80 and CMC could alter the mental state of mice. The researchers published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.
The team added the CMC and P80 to the drinking water of the mice for 12 weeks. They then measured their behavior, changes in their microbiome and other physiological parameters.
The principal investigator, Professor Geert de Vries, briefly explains his work: “We asked the following question: can the effects of emulsifiers in general systemic inflammation also affect the brain and behavior?” The answer was yes.
The impact of emulsifiers.
Scientists have shown that emulsifiers actually have an impact on intestinal bacteria, but in different ways for both male and female mice. They also showed that behavioral changes were different between the sexes.
Specifically, they found an increase in anxiety behavior, particularly in male mice. In female mice, social behavior decreased.
It is not clear how emulsifiers can affect behavior, but there are some theories.
“We know that inflammation causes local immune cells to produce signaling molecules that can affect tissues in other places, including the brain.” The intestine also contains branches of the vagus nerve, which provide a direct path of information to the brain.
Teacher. Geert de Vries
Why there should be sexual differences is more difficult to explain. However, scientists know that there are some differences between the functioning of the male and female immune systems. This can therefore give clues.
The group plans to continue this line of research. Changing the mouse model to larger animals will be a necessary move, writes the authors, “determining how far mouse studies are relevant to humans is inherently difficult,” especially in behavioral disorders.
Researcher co-author Benoit Chassaing said, “We are currently studying the mechanisms by which food emulsifiers affect the gut microbiota and the relevance of these findings to humans.”
It is also interesting to note that, of the four anxiety tests,