Some food additives have been shown to cause behavioral disturbances, different in men or women.
Processed foods, characteristic of the Western Diet, are usually saturated with food additives whose objective is to improve the taste, texture, durability and, essentially, the palatability of the food consumed. Although they can be classified as safe, that does not mean that they are safe in the long term, as it also seems to be the case with sweeteners: they are known to be safe, but they can cause problems at the intestinal level.
In fact, some of these more common food additives may have unwanted and little-known adverse effects. That would be the case of the additives carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate 80 (P80), according to a recent study published in Scientific Reports by the University of Georgia, they would have some unpleasant adverse effects, at least in studies with mice: they can increase anxiety and antisocial behaviors.
The Unknown Dangers of Food Additives
According to this new work, by Geer de Vries and Benoit Chassaing, from the University of Georgia, and Andrew T. Gewirtz, from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, these food additives would affect differently according to sex, which would suggest that they would have different mechanisms at the brain level in males and females, in the mice studied.
In fact, previous research by Chassaing and Gewirtz would have concluded that these substances can cause low-grade intestinal inflammation, altering the gut microbiome, although in a different way than sweeteners. Likewise, their studies would have linked the use of food additives to diseases such as obesity, metabolic syndrome or inflammatory bowel diseases.
For this reason, the same researchers raised the proposition that food additives could contribute to systemic inflammation, affecting the brain and consequently behavior.
So, they added one of the two food additives, either CMC or p80, to the drinking water of the study mice. After the passage of 12 weeks, they detected changes in the gut microbiome of the rodents at different levels. In addition, the animals experienced anxiety behaviors in the case of males, and antisocial behaviors in the case of females.
At the moment, it is not possible to know what mechanism is responsible for food additives contributing to these behavioral alterations, although researchers suspect that intestinal inflammation could collaborate, producing molecular messengers with long-distance effects (such as in the brain).
Behavior differences due to food additives
On the other hand, regarding the differences in behavior in males or females, the researchers suggest that there are several factors at play. One of them would be the known difference between the immune system of men and women (or male and female rodents, in this case), something that would contribute to the composition of intestinal bacteria and the way the digestive system processes food.
In fact, in the case of humans, there are autoimmune diseases (dependent on the malfunction of the immune system) that clearly affect one sex over the other. Therefore, adding food additives to the diet would cause differences in the intestinal microbiome, a microbiome that would already suffer a difference by sex, thus contributing to a different behavior accordingly.
To conclude, the researchers recall that this is not the first study to show that food additives should be taken into account due to their consequences for the intestinal microbiome, or for the general symptoms that they can cause in the human body, which in turn has clear effects on human health in general.
In fact, there are other very common food additives today that have various proven effects on humans, especially when consumed in excess, although it depends on individual sensitivity. One of them is monosodium glutamate, which we already talked about in Cocinillas, and which during 2017 was re-evaluated and declared safe by the European Food Safety Authority. However, the same EFSA advises reviewing the maximum levels allowed in some foods such as pastries, soups, broths, sauces, meat or condiments, since from 42.9 mg / kg / day you could already suffer the so-called “Chinese Restaurant syndrome ".
On the other hand, phosphates, one of the typical food additives in kebab and other meats, could be being consumed in excess: the recommendation is not to exceed 700 mg a day, and the average adult diet usually exceeds three grams. And, if these phosphates are added in the form of an artificial additive, the absorption is faster and easier. In the case of kebab, this substance aims to maintain the stability of the meat proteins, its color and its flavor, contributing to the already known excess of the Western Diet. In the long term, excess phosphorus has been shown to increase cardiovascular risk and the risk of kidney problems.
Coming to the food options, there is no single belly-busting food that can help you. However, what’s needed is that you become smarter with the choices you make. A good way to start off would be by making some simple meal swaps or cutting out your regular snacks. Liquid calories could be a big contributor too. Ditch out sugary drinks, alcohol and heavy smoothies for simpler, low-calorie drinks.