This additive changes the microbiota

A very common additive, E415, which acts as a thickening agent, could be digested by certain bacteria in our microbiota. The health effects are currently unknown.

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[EN VIDÉO] The gut microbiota, a valuable ally for our health
There are different microbiota in the body: those of the skin, mouth, vagina… But the most important one is the gut microbiota. Scientists have long known of their potential, but the development of new techniques allows research to deepen to describe the nature of the interactions between host and microbiota, that of microorganisms between them and their impact on health.

Xanthan gum or E415 is an additive found in many industrial foods where it serves as a thickening agent. It is a long branched chain consisting of four sugar : that glucosemannose,acid glucuronic acid and pyruvic acid. It is considered harmless to health because it is not metabolized by the human body. However, a recently published study in natural microbiology points out that xanthan gum has an effect, not on our cells, but on the bacteria ours microbiota Colon. This additive has only been present in the so-called western diet – where highly processed foods have an important place – for about fifty years. A blink of an eye in terms of evolution, and yet gut bacteria have evolved enzymes able to break down and digest xanthan gum.

An additive digested by intestinal bacteria

One of bacteria in question belongs to the family of Ruminococcaceae. Its “xanthanophage” activity was brought to light by two researchers from the University of Michigan in the United States during a series of experiments performed on human samples. laboratory mouse then bioinformatic analysis. Bacteria capable of digesting xanthan gum have been isolated from the gut microbiota of a surprisingly large number of people in developed countries », explains Sabina Leanti La Rosa, one of the researchers who took part in the project.

A second bacterium Bacteroides intestinalis, which could digest the additive, was isolated from a single sample. The latter were able to digest the remains of xanthan gum after the first bacteria had infested it molecule quite. Does this affect our health? It still seems too early to tell. According to Sabina Leanti La Rosa: “ Based on this study, we cannot conclude if and how xanthan gum affects our health. But we can say that this additive affects the gut microbiota of people who ingest it through food. »

Xanthan gum has long been approved and has been re-evaluated by theEuropean Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2017. The article closes that xanthan gum is not harmful to health, although it may have a laxative effect in some people. Even then it was mentioned that the additive ” could be partially fermented during its passage through the colon through the action of the gut microbiota “. The University of Michigan study confirms this. E415 is not the first additive suspected of altering the intestinal flora; E171 and E466 could be involved in inflammatory problems in the gut.

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