Consumption of certain emulsifying food additives is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes

On April 24, Inserm and INRAE published a press release on the link between emulsifying food additives and the risk of diabetes. The press release is based on research findings published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. The results of this research suggest an association between chronic ingestion of certain emulsifying additives and an increased risk of diabetes.

The study was carried out by a number of different bodies, including CRESS researchers Mathilde Touvier and Bernard Srour, the study’s principal co-authors, and analyzed the health data of over 92,000 adult participants in the French NutriNet-Santé cohort, with regard to their consumption of certain food emulsifiers.

Emulsifiers are among the most commonly used additives in industrial processed and packaged foods.

The press release states that: “[Emulsifiers] are often added to industrial processed and packaged foods such as certain pastries, cakes and desserts, yoghurts, ice creams, chocolate bars, industrial breads, rusks, margarines and ready meals, to improve their appearance, taste, texture and shelf life. They include fatty acid mono- and diglycerides, carrageenans, modified starches, lecithins, phosphates, celluloses, gums and pectins.”

The results, the fruit of several years’ research, are based on French data from the NutriNet-Santé cohort between 2009 and 2023 (104,139 adults).

“During follow-up, participants reported the occurrence of diabetes (1,056 cases diagnosed), and reports were validated using a multi-source strategy (including reporting and reimbursement of anti-diabetic drugs). Several well-known risk factors for diabetes, including age, gender, weight (BMI), education level, family history, smoking, alcohol and physical activity levels, as well as overall nutritional quality of the diet (including sugar intake) were taken into account in the analysis.”

This study represents a first exploration of these relationships, but further investigations are now needed to establish causal links. However, the study does have some limitations, as the press article suggests, “such as the predominance of women in the sample, a higher level of education than the general population, as well as generally more health-promoting behaviors among NutriNet-Santé study participants”. However:

“These results are from a single observational study at present, and do not by themselves establish a cause-and-effect relationship. They need to be replicated in other epidemiological studies around the world, and complemented by experimental toxicological and interventional studies, to shed further light on the mechanisms linking these emulsifying additives and the onset of type 2 diabetes. They provide key elements to enrich the debate on the re-evaluation of regulations on the use of additives in the food industry, in order to better protect consumers”, explain Mathilde Touvier and Bernard Srour, principal authors of the study.

Finally: “Among the next steps, the research team will be looking at variations in certain blood markers and intestinal microbiota associated with the consumption of these additives. It will also look at the health impacts of additive mixtures and their potential “cocktail effects”.


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