A common food additive found in everything from chewing gum to bread, if exposed chronically, can decrease the ability of small intestine cells to absorb nutrients and act as a barrier to pathogens, finds out a new study.
Ingestion of the compound, called titanium dioxide, is nearly unavoidable. It can enter the digestive system through toothpastes and chocolates, as titanium dioxide is used to create abrasion needed for cleaning in tooth paste and to give the smooth texture to chocolates.
"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," said one of the authors of the study, Gretchen Mahler, Assistant Professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
The researchers exposed a small intestinal cell culture model to the physiological equivalent of a meal's worth of titanium oxide nanoparticles -- 30 nanometers across -- over four hours (acute exposure), or three meal's worth over five days, for the purpose of study.
Acute exposures did not have much effect, but chronic exposure diminished the absorptive projections on the surface of intestinal cells called microvilli, the findings published in the journal NanoImpact showed.
With fewer microvilli, the intestinal barrier was weakened, metabolism slowed and some nutrients -- iron, zinc, and fatty acids, specifically -- were more difficult to absorb.
Enzyme functions were negatively affected, while inflammation signals increased, finds out the study.
"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," a researcher who took part in the study said.
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Health news source: IANS
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