Foods with emulsifiers increase cardiovascular risks, study finds

A recent study conducted by researchers from Université Sorbonne Paris, in collaboration with scientists from various institutions, has raised concerns about the potential health risks associated with consuming foods containing emulsifiers. Published in The British Medical Journal, the study suggests that the widespread use of emulsifiers in processed foods could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The findings have prompted calls for a reevaluation of regulations regarding the use of food additives to safeguard consumer health.    

Emulsifiers, categorized under the "E number" group of food additives, are commonly found in packaged foods such as pastries, cakes, ice cream, desserts, chocolate, bread, margarine, and ready meals. These additives, including mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, modified starches, lecithins, carrageenan, phosphates, gums, and pectins, are added to enhance the appearance, flavor, consistency, and shelf life of processed foods.    

Previous research has suggested that emulsifiers may disrupt gut bacteria and contribute to inflammation, potentially making individuals more susceptible to cardiovascular issues.  

The study aimed to investigate the potential associations between exposure to emulsifiers and the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including coronary and cerebrovascular diseases. The researchers analyzed data from a prospective cohort study involving 95 442 French adults with an average age of 43, who had not previously experienced CVD. Participants completed a minimum of three (up to 21) 24-hour dietary records during the initial two years of the study.    

By cross-referencing food and beverage consumption records with three databases identifying the presence and dosage of food additives, the researchers were able to assess the participants' exposure to emulsifiers. Laboratory tests were conducted to gather quantitative data, and cardiovascular events were meticulously recorded.    

After an average follow-up period of 7 years, the study revealed that higher consumption of cellulose, mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, and specific emulsifiers such as carboxymethylcellulose, trisodium phosphate, and certain variants of E472, was associated with an increased risk of CVD.  

The researchers emphasize the importance of reevaluating regulations governing the use of food additives in the industry to protect consumers. With emulsifiers being widely used in various processed foods, the study's findings call for a closer examination of the potential risks posed by these additives and the need for stricter guidelines to ensure public health.    

As further research is conducted in this field, it is hoped that these findings will prompt policymakers and regulatory bodies to consider the long-term impact of food additives on human health, leading to informed decisions and measures to mitigate potential risks.