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New perspective on the effects of dietary emulsifiers on gut microbiota

A new publication authored by researchers at the US Food and Drug Association (FDA) concludes ”….our updated dietary exposure estimates for these seven emulsifiers, did not raise safety concerns at the current specified levels of use. Additionally, by examining two time periods (1999–2002, 2003–10), it was concluded that there is no evidence that exposure levels to emulsifiers have substantially increased”. The paper was published in Food Additives and Contaminants: Part A (2017) and includes an evaluation of CMC, P80, lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, stearoyl lactylates, sucrose esters, and polyglycerol polyricinoleate.

This new US FDA investigation is conducted in response to a previous report on adverse effect of two specific emulsifiers on mouse gut microbiota. These findings were published in the prestigious and influential science journal, Nature in 2015. Since then, these observations have spurred significant interest both in the scientific community and in public media. In the Nature study, researchers from Georgia State University, Cornell University and Emory University reported that CMC and P80 at the tested levels ”induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome in wild-type hosts and promoted robust colitis in mice predisposed to this disorder”.

At Emulsifers for Good, we try to follow developments within this field closely and we are already aware of related on-going studies that will undoubtedly help us understand this topic in more depth during the coming years. However, if you come across new studies, you are most welcome to update us. Similarly, if you are a researcher or professional in the field, we invite you to contribute to the blog.

About the author

Claus Hviid Christensen

In addition to serving as Editor of Emulsifiers for Good, Claus Hviid Christensen is the CEO of Nexus A/S, which is the R&D company for Palsgaard A/S. He graduated from the University of Copenhagen in 1992. During his research career, he has published more than 175 scientific papers, which have been cited more than 20,000 times. He was the founder and director of the Danish national research center of excellence on ”Sustainable Chemistry” established in 2005 when he was a full professor at the Danish Technical University. Later, he has worked as senior executive within engineering, renewable energy, infrastructure construction, and food innovation businesses. Claus Hviid Christensen has also served as non-executive board member and government adviser in several countries, e.g. as the Chairman of the Danish Council for Research Policy. He can be reached via