The battle against food additives has been a long one, fraught with frustration and upset stomaches. In today’s agricultural world—and with today’s booming population size—it has become difficult to find foods without these unfamiliar ingredients. Convenience food has become commonplace, and so has consumer’s lack of investigation into what all these hard-to-pronounce additives are and how they affect our health.
Carrageenan has been under the microscope for a long time and research has led to some head-scratching, sometimes contradictory, conclusions. A lesser known food additive made it to the headlines last week for its connection to impeding regular functions of the small intestine, namely the organ’s ability to absorb certain nutrients.
Titanium oxide is an additive commonly found in all sorts of foods from chewing gum to bread. Not only that, but this FDA-safe compound can also appear in paints, plastics and sunscreen. Ingestion of it is considered “nearly unavoidable,” according to Science Daily. Because of this fact, researchers from Bingham University and State University of New York set out to see what kinds of effects occur with continued exposure.
Luckily, the researchers stress the point that extended exposure to titanium oxide won’t kill us (phew!). And, in fact, most of us would find ourselves having ingested this additive over a long period of time without knowing it. However, there do seem to be some interesting things happening in the body when we are exposed to it chronically, or over an extended period of time. This type of exposure showed the small intestines’ microvilli having a diminished ability to absorb nutrients such as iron, zinc and fatty acids. Inflammation increased and the functions of enzymes were interrupted, as well.
“There has been previous work on how titanium oxide nanoparticles affects microvilli, but we are looking at much lower concentrations,” Gretchen Mahler, on of the study’s authors and Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor, told Science Daily. She believes the public has a right to know what kind of health effects are happening with everyday consumption of products containing titanium oxide.
The solution to protecting against these factors is actually quite simple. “To avoid foods rich in titanium oxide nanoparticles you should avoid processed foods, and especially candy,” Mahler explains. The additive can show up in surprising places in everyday foods, such as chocolate bars (to make them smooth), donuts (for color), skim milks (for a more opaque appearance) and even toothpaste (for abrasive properties). Cutting back on processed products and boosting up your intake of whole, non processed foods can provide a bunch of benefits for our health, including saving us from insidious food additives.
This article originally appeared on Care2.com.