E171, a common coloring agent added in many foods is made up of titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Up until now, the safety of this additive has been debatable, but new evidence in mice shows the gut could become more susceptible to disease.
Manufacturers whiten various edibles with E171, including cake icing, candy and chewing gum.
Next year onwards, France is banning the additive E171 in any food products, as a result of rising concerns that it could increase health problems.
Research on mice, from last year’s Scientific Reports, actually show that the consumption of E171 lead to cancer tumors forming in the colon.
Another study published in Environmental Science: Nano, from April 2019 found E171 could alter the normal functioning of cells and their upkeep within the digestive system, which could imply potential damage to the gut’s mechanisms for self-protection.
Furthermore, this month’s study on mice reveals additional evidence that the additive makes the gut prone to disease in dangerous ways.
The research team administered the common additive to mice in the water they drank and assessed the effect of E171 on microbiota of the gut. While the particles of titanium dioxide had almost no impact, it affected the bacteria in the gut, leading to the forming of a biofilm. This can influence the response of the immune system to infections. Biofilms did not react well to antibiotic treatments either. Such formation of a biofilm has even been reported in colorectal cancers.
Laurence Macia, co-lead author of the study, says the research conducted shows that the nanoparticles of titanium dioxide interact with the gut bacteria and impair some functions, which could result in developing diseases.
In view of the results from the latest research, its author state that E171 can be harmful and officials should recognize and address the potential effects of this additive on health. Food authorities should regulate its consumption in a better manner.