A recent study using mice has suggested that food additives such as E numbers might cause bowel cancer.
The study discovered that E numbers caused inflammation of the gut, which in turn led to the cancerous tumours growing.
Rise in Bowel Cancer
A recent surge in cases of bowel cancer has forced scientists to attempt to understand what may be causing it. Now they are looking at some everyday culprits which you might not expect. Products containing emulsifiers include bread, margarine, and sweets.
The emulsifiers change the bacteria in your gut, and it is now feared that they are causing more bad bacteria to infest the gut. This disrupts what should be a healthy balance, and causes serious side effects including inflammation.
Once the inflammation takes hold, cancerous tumours can find a good environment for growth.
Previous research had found that microorganisms in the stomach will make inflammation in the bowel worse, and make you more likely to contract Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. These conditions are both known to aid the growth of tumours.
Meanwhile, scientists are now fairly certain that emulsifiers are helping to create a similar environment, which will allow cancers to grow more easily.
A Common Cause for Study
It’s clear that research into this cancer was necessary, as it is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. It is also the fourth most diagnosed. There are 41,000 new cases each year, of which 16,200 result in death.
So how did they come to these results? The researchers had their base at the Georgia State University, where they tested their theories on mice. They gave them doses of two different emulsifiers that were similar to what you would expect in some processed foods. They found that the bacterial make-up of their stomachs was drastically changed, allowing for inflammation and cancer to be more common.
Lead researcher Dr Emilie Viennois said: 'The incidence of colorectal cancer has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century. A key feature of this disease is the presence of an altered intestinal microbiota that creates a favourable niche for tumorigenesis.'
As the research has only currently been done on mice, more results and testing will be needed before we can draw accurate conclusions. However, it could be that this really is a direct issue. If so, we could see a big change in production as the research moves forward. Imagine a world where bread must come packaged with a cancer warning!
Implications for Food Production
So what does this mean for the food industry? Anyone involved in new product development may want to start thinking about this now. The initial results are only tested on mice and as such will not be taken so seriously. However, a backlash against processed products could form if it is proved that they have the same effect on humans.
The smart path now is to start figuring out ways to take those emulsifiers out of the food, or at least to reduce the amount being used. It is important that this can be achieved if there really is a link between bowel cancer and emulsifiers.
If you are involved in food recruitment, now would be a good time to start looking for bright new minds. Solutions to these problems are very much needed, and it is clear that there are plenty of ways in which we can improve current foods. Increasing the health values while maintaining the same great taste will never be easy, but that’s why work needs to start as soon as possible.