Processed foods have been parts of our lives like butter on bread. Moreover, a lot of ingredients on the labels aren’t quite familiar to us. Researches, nonetheless, continually try to further explain how these seemingly unknown particles affect our bodies. Specifically, a recent study pointed out how a common food additive, titanium oxide, affects our intestines.
"Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time--don't worry, it won't kill you!--but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them," says Professor Gretchen Mahler of Biomedical Engineering Assistant, one of the authors of the paper.
But what foods exactly have this additive?
“It can enter the digestive system through toothpastes, as titanium dioxide is used to create abrasion needed for cleaning. The oxide is also used in some chocolate to give it a smooth texture; in donuts to provide color; and in skimmed milks for a brighter, more opaque appearance which makes the milk more palatable,” Binghamton University explains in EurekaAlert.
Well I guess this food additive might have been more common than we thought. So what exactly does this do with our body?
Results of the study showed that acute exposures (a meal worth for over four hours) did not have much effect, but chronic exposures (3 meals worth for over five days) diminished the absorptive projections on the surface of intestinal cells called microvilli. Fewer microvilli lead to weakened intestinal barrier slowing the metabolism, causing some nutrient like iron, zinc, and fatty acids to be more difficult to absorb. Enzyme functions were also negatively affected, while inflammation signals increased.
Titanium dioxide is generally recognized safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since ingestion is nearly unavoidable. However, we have to put in mind that everything that’s too much can be detrimental to our health and this additive is just one of the reminders.
"To avoid foods rich in titanium oxide nanoparticles you should avoid processed foods, and especially candy. That is where you see a lot of nanoparticles," Mahler adds.