Unexplained tummy troubles? It may be caused by food packaging additives, say scientists

Many people who want to protect the health of their digestive tract already know to avoid processed foods that contain food additive nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide.  Now it turns out that other types of food additive nanoparticles like zinc oxide that are lurking in our food from the lining of food cans may also lead to health problems; once in the food packaging, these nanoparticles then migrate and leach into the food itself where they can potentially wreak havoc in our digestive systems.


Food packaging could be negatively affecting nutrient absorption in your body

Food packaging additives containing nanoparticles could be negatively affecting the way in which your digestive tract operates, according to new research funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and conducted by faculty and students at Binghamton University, State University at New York…

Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles are present in the lining of certain canned goods for their antimicrobial properties and to prevent staining of sulfur-producing foods. In the study, canned corn, tuna, asparagus and chicken were studied using mass spectrometry to estimate how many particles might be transferred to the food. It was found that the food contained 100 times the daily dietary allowance of zinc.

The scientists then looked at the effect the particles had on the digestive tract…

“[These nanoparticles] tend to settle onto the cells representing the gastrointestinal tract and cause remodeling or loss of the microvilli, which are tiny projections on the surface of the intestinal absorptive cells that help to increase the surface area available for absorption. This loss of surface area tends to result in a decrease in nutrient absorption. Some of the nanoparticles also cause pro-inflammatory signaling at high doses, and this can increase the permeability of the intestinal model. An increase in intestinal permeability is not a good thing — it means that compounds that are not supposed to pass through into the bloodstream might be able to.”

-Dr. Gretchen Mahler, associate professor of bioengineering, Binghamton University, State University at New York



Journal Reference:  Fabiola Moreno-Olivas, Elad Tako, Gretchen J. Mahler. ZnO nanoparticles affect intestinal function in an in vitro model. Food & Function, 2018; 9 (3): 1475 DOI: 10.1039/C7FO02038D