Consumption of certain emulsifiers may be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes

Consumption of certain emulsifiers may be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Consumption of certain emulsifiers may be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes

France-Emulsifiers are food additives very commonly used in processed industrial products. “They are used, for example, to obtain a beautiful shiny texture in products and to mix an aqueous phase with an oily phase, necessary to obtain a stable mixture and extend the shelf life,” explains Bernard Srourpharmacist epidemiologist, Junior Professor in epidemiology at INRAE ​​and co-author of the study.

There are more than sixty of them and they can be found in many products: ice creams, chocolate bars, industrial desserts, vegetable drinks, flavored yogurts, etc.

But they would not be free of health risks. In a study published in Lancet Diabetes&Endocrinology[1], Bernard Srour and his colleagues showed that regular consumption of emulsifiers could be associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. To do this, they analyzed the intake of food additives of this type in 104,139 people from the French NutriNet-Santé cohort. .

Launched in 2009 and now counting nearly 175,000 “nutrinauts”, it makes it possible to study the links between nutrition and health. “The participants are volunteers, whose average age is 43 years old. There are 79% women and a slight over-representation of favored socio-professional categories,” specifies Bernard Srour.

Dosage of more than 2500 products

“We were interested in their intake of certain food additives between 2009 and 2023.” To do this, nutrinauts responded to regular questionnaires on their consumption. “For 3 days over two weeks, and every 6 months, participants must indicate what they ate or drank during the day, specifying the origin: for example if it is an industrial or homemade cassoulet, or still consumed in restaurants. They can also specify the brand. This allows us to link with databases to know which additives, particularly which emulsifiers, they have been exposed to,” explains the researcher. “We based ourselves on the packaging to know whether or not there were emulsifiers present in the products. But we then carried out dosages on more than 2,500 products, because manufacturers are obliged to indicate the presence of emulsifiers, but not their dosage. We have also merged our data with European composition databases,” he emphasizes.

1056 people declared diabetes

“In this investigation, we observed that the higher the chronic exposure to certain emulsifiers, the greater the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

During follow-up, 1056 participants reported diabetes.

After an average follow-up of 7 years, the researchers observed in particular that for carrageenans for example, the increase in risk reached 3% per increment of 100 mg per day.

For tripotassium phosphate (E340), it reaches 15% in increments of 500 mg per day.

For guar gum (E412), it rises to 11% in increments of 500 mg per day.

And for sodium citrate (E331), the increase in risk is 4% per increment of 500 mg per day.

“The limitations of this study are in particular that it is based on a somewhat specific population, which has a healthier lifestyle than the general population. It is therefore not necessarily extrapolable to the general population. However, its advantage is that it can be carried out on a large population. Furthermore, another bias is the observational design of the study. We are not sure that what we are observing is cause and effect. We can only speak of an association between the consumption of emulsifiers and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Other experimental and epidemiological analyzes are necessary,” comments Bernard Srour.

This study will now be completed by the team’s researchers, particularly on blood markers to look at what will change when people are highly exposed to these additives.

“We will also need to look at the links between mixtures of additives in order to highlight possible cocktail effects,” he believes.

In the meantime, consumers can limit their exposure to emulsifiers by favoring raw products or with restricted additive lists.

Links of interest of experts: none

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