by University of Sydney
Credit: CC0 Public Domain
The University of Sydney research provides new evidence that
nanoparticles, which are present in
many food items, may have a substantial and harmful influence on
The study investigated the health impacts of food additive
E171 (titanium dioxide
nanoparticles) which is commonly used in high quantities
in foods and some
medicines as a whitening agent.
Found in more than
900 food products such as chewing gum and mayonnaise,
E171 is consumed in high proportion everyday by the general
Published in Frontiers in Nutrition, the mice study (Impact
of the Food Additive Titanium Dioxide E171 on Gut Microbiota-Host
Interaction) found that consumption of food containing
E171 has an impact on
the gut microbiota (defined by the
trillions of bacteria that inhabit the gut) which could trigger
diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer.
Co-lead author Associate Professor Wojciech Chrzanowski said
the study added substantially to a body of work on nanoparticle
toxicity and safety and their impact on health and environment.
"The aim of this
research is to stimulate discussions on new standards and
regulations to ensure safe use of nanoparticles in Australia and
globally," he said.
While nanoparticles have
been commonly used in medicines, foods, clothing, and other
applications, the possible impacts of nanoparticles, especially
their long term effects, are still poorly understood.
Titanium dioxide consumption has considerably increased in the last
decade and has already been linked to several medical conditions,
and although it is approved in food, there is insufficient evidence
about its safety.
Increasing rates of,
...are among a growing
list of diseases that have been linked to soaring exposure to
"It is well
established that dietary composition has an impact on physiology
and health, yet the role of food additives is poorly
understood," said Associate Professor Chrzanowski, a
nanotoxicology expert from the University of Sydney's School of
Pharmacy and Sydney Nano Institute.
"There is increasing evidence that continuous exposure to
nanoparticles has an impact on gut microbiota composition, and
gut microbiota is a gate keeper
of our health, any changes to its function have an influence on
"This study presents pivotal evidence that consumption of food
containing food additive E171 (titanium dioxide) affects gut
microbiota as well as inflammation in the gut, which could lead
to diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal
cancer," he said.
Co-lead author Associate
Professor Laurence Macia from the University of Sydney said:
"Our research showed
that titanium dioxide interacts with bacteria in the gut and
impairs some of their functions which may result in the
development of diseases.
We are saying that
its consumption should be better regulated by food authorities."
"This study investigated effects of titanium dioxide on gut
health in mice and found that titanium dioxide did not change
the composition of gut microbiota, but instead it affected
bacteria activity and promoted their growth in a form of
Biofilms are bacteria
that stick together and the formation of biofilm has been
reported in diseases such as colorectal cancer," said Associate
Professor Macia, who is an immunologist expert on the impacts of
the gut and gut microbiota on health from the Faculty of
Medicine and Health and the Charles Perkins Centre.