Additive in ultra-processed foods linked to diabetes, study says

Additive in ultra-processed foods linked to diabetes, study says

A study into the impact of additive emulsifiers in ultra-processed foods found a correlation with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Food additive emulsifiers are commonly used to enhance or preserve the texture, taste and appearance of products. The study said they are a marker of ‘ultra-processed’ foods, which have been linked to increased risk of chronic conditions by more than 75 studies.

Published in The Lancet, the study analysed data from more than 100,000 adults between 2009 and 2023 to measure exposure to additive emulsifiers. By the end of the study, 1,056 participants had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Several additive emulsifiers were associated with developing the condition, including xanthan gum, sodium citrate and gum arabic.

The researchers said: ‘We found direct associations between the risk of type 2 diabetes and exposures to various food additive emulsifiers widely used in industrial foods.’

The reason for the link is thought to be because the additive emulsifiers disrupt the gut microbiome. This could lead to inflammation, causing chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

However the researchers also stressed the need for more research to confirm the findings and promote action against potentially harmful ingredients. They said: ‘Further research is needed to prompt re-evaluation of regulations governing the use of additive emulsifiers in the food industry for better consumer protection.’

‘A 50% greater risk of death’

In February, a review found evidence of ultra-processed foods being linked to more than 30 different physical and mental health issues. The review analysed data from 9.9 million people through food questionnaires and dietary information.

Researchers said evidence showed a higher intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with a 50% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Additionally, a 48 to 53% greater risk of developing anxiety and a 12% greater risk of type 2 diabetes.

A previous study also suggested that one in seven adults are addicted to ultra-processed foods. This level of addiction is similar to other legal substances in adults, the study suggests. For example, 14% for alcohol and 18% for tobacco. The authors of the study said that labelling products as ‘addictive’ might help people to change their eating habits.

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