Commonly Used Food Additives Disrupt The Microbiome

The appreciation of the beneficial microbes that live in both the colon and the gut has given rise to a study of synthetic food additives and their impact on health.

In a collaborative study, researchers from Georgia State University’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences, INSERM (France), the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University (USA) and Max Planck Institute (Germany) got together to find out the effects of the commonly used food additive – Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC).

CMC is used to create texture and lengthen the shelf life of food products. The study was carried out on-site, whereby volunteers were fed an additive-free diet or the same diet supplemented with CMC.

The researchers then looked at intestinal bacteria and metabolites. Finding that the communities of microorganisms in the colon were disturbed by the ingestion of the synthetic food additive CMC.

In particular, there was a depletion of beneficial bacteria in the colon.


 In the past, it was been assumed that these food additives were safe because they were thought to simply pass through the intestinal tract and leave via faeces. This study disproved that opinion.

One of the senior authors of the paper, Dr Andrew Gewirtz from Georgia State University concluded

“It certainly disproves the ‘it just passes through’ argument used to justify the lack of clinical study on additives.”

The researchers of the study agreed that food additives should be carefully tested in a well-controlled environment. Lead author Dr Benoit Chassaing, research director at INSERM, University of Paris, France, added 

“Indeed, our results suggest that responses to CMC and likely other food additives are highly personalized and we are now designing approaches to predict which individuals might be sensitive to specific additives.”