Emulsifiers are ingredients used to combine water and oil. Egg yolks and lecithin are examples of natural substances that can emulsify and are commonly used in baked goods and dressings. Some less-than-natural food additive emulsifiers, however, are being called in to question for creating illness.
Polysorbate-80 and carboxymethylcellulose were studied for their abilities to disrupt the protective mucus layer of the intestinal wall. Researchers found that relatively low doses of the two emulsifiers “induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome in wild-type hosts and promoted robust colitis in mice predisposed to this disorder.”
A layer of mucous and bacteria lines the intestinal wall; this protective layer is responsible for the transport of nutrients from food and protecting the body from viruses and harmful bacteria. The theory is that because these emulsifiers increase the surface tension of water, they are able to “cut” through the mucous layer, leaving the intestinal wall open to attacks from pathogens and other toxins in the gut. Researchers say that the inflammation and bacterial changes that resulted from this disruption caused mice to gain weight, develop metabolic syndrome, and be at an increased risk for colitis.