By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
While most of us are trained to avoid, colours, artificial flavouring and preservatives in packaged food, emulsifiers appear to have fallen under the radar. Research however suggests that food manufacturers may have to make more space on the front of their packaging to add the words "No emulsifiers" if they want consumers to buy their products. It appears that emulsifiers may contribute to inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis and metabolic syndrome. Packaged food is best avoided
Emulsifiers hold oily and watery substances together. A natural example we are familiar with is mayonnaise where egg yolk is used as an emulsifier to hold oil and vinegar together. In food processing, emulsifiers are used to hold ingredients together, improve texture and extend shelf life, but once again science proves that appearance and cost savings are placing our health in jeopardy.
The research led by Georgia State University Institute discovered that emulsifiers, considered to be innocuous additives, can alter gut microbiota composition and lead to intestinal inflammation and the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, afflicts millions of people and is often severe and debilitating. Metabolic syndrome is a group of very common obesity-related disorders that can lead to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular and/or liver diseases.
Studies found emulsifiers fed to mice caused changes to the composition of their gut microbiota making it more pro-inflammatory. The altered microbiota had enhanced capacity to digest and infiltrate the dense mucus layer that lines the intestine, which is normally, largely devoid of bacteria. The changes in bacteria triggered chronic colitis in mice genetically prone to this disorder, due to abnormal immune systems. In mice with normal immune systems, emulsifiers induced low-grade or mild intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome, characterized by increased levels of food consumption, obesity, hyperglycemia and insulin resistance.
Source: Science News Feb 2015
You'll notice that the research was conducted in 2015 so it's not new but it triggered my attention because of lecithin. Lecithin is an essential fat found in the cells of the body and soy lecithin is a commonly used emulsifier in food processing.
Maybe you're wondering what the problem is if don't eat packaged food, but it's this.
Some people think lecithin is a health food and it's used in the manufacturing of medicines to treat conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer's, gallbladder, liver disease, certain types of depression, high cholesterol, anxiety, and eczema. Quite recently I was at a well-known health retreat where lecithin is served alongside chia seeds as a topping for yoghurt and fruit.
I mostly want to bring your attention to this: lecithin is a common ingredient used to bind raw cakes together. You know these cakes - the ones everyone thinks are great for you - if not necessary slimming!
I've been writing about healthy food for so many years it's a miracle there's anything left to write about, but there's always some piece of science out there to help dispute a growing food trend. What's important is to find out about it before that trend really catches on!
To conclude the messages are these:
Lecithin is not a healthy ingredient
If some delicious gooey all natural raw cake looks too good to be true, it probably is.