Food Additive Titanium Dioxide Linked to Colon Cancer: Study

Over the past several years, we have published a number of scientific studies linking the nanoparticle food chemical “titanium dioxide” to serious health outcomes, many linking the additive to complications with the digestive system. Now, the results of a new scientific study reveal why that may be so.  Scientific researchers have now demonstrated that food-grade titanium dioxide, which is used as a white pigment/coloring additive in everything from toothpaste to candy to dairy products, accumulates in colon cells, causing what may be permanent damage–including colon cancer*.

Study overview

The scientists set out to investigate the ability of cells to restore cellular alterations in cell granularity, molecular fingerprints of nuclei acids, proteins and lipids, ROS production, possible interaction with the cell nucleus, DNA damage, antioxidant enzymes activity and cytoskeleton architecture after a 24-hour of titanium dioxide exposure was removed from cell cultures.

“Using electron microscopy, the researchers identified the presence of food-grade titanium dioxide (TiO2) in a human colon cancer cell line that they maintained in a cell culture medium.When they exposed human cells to titanium dioxide, they did so at small, variable concentrations. Other cells with no exposure to titanium dioxide served as the control group.

After 48 hours of exposure, the culture medium was replaced with an unexposed cell culture medium. Forty-eight hours later, the cells were analyzed. Titanium dioxide—at all concentrations—persisted in the colon cells even 48 hours after exposure. The exposure caused damage to the cells and DNA alteration.” (source)

Scientists’ conclusion about food additive Titanium Dioxide

“Toxicology of food additives has previously encountered many challenges when new technologies are developed as the consumers demand affordable and attractive new products without fully investigating the toxicity. In this regard, chemicals that once were considered safe are now widely known to be carcinogenic and even if the consumption has been reduced, there could be remaining effects in living organisms.” (source)

titanium dioxide effect on intestines before and after shots

Colon without titanium dioxide (control) and after ingestion of food containing nanoparticle food additive Titanium Dioxide.

Scientific Research has Linked Titanium Dioxide to Serious Health Consequences

Scientists have previously demonstrated that the nanoparticle food additive titanium dioxide accumulates in human organs. The titanium dioxide additive has been detected in the spleen and liver, found in the feces of newborn babies, and discovered in the mother’s placenta.  And previous research, including a 2021 article published by French scientists in the peer-reviewed journal Particle and Fiber Toxicology, has uncovered similar problems with titanium dioxide. We have published articles of laboratory research that that implicates titanium dioxide in inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancers.

To see previous scientific studies on the problems associated with titanium dioxide, go to our Chemical Watch Blog, scroll to the bottom of any article and type ‘Titanium Dioxide” into the search box. Or Contact us and we will do a search of our internal database of scientific studies for you.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still says Titanium Dioxide is safe

Despite the fact that in 2021 the French Agency for Food, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety concluded that the food additive titanium dioxide could no longer be considered safe, and in 2022 the European Union banned titanium dioxide use in food, the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains the additive is safe for human consumption.

*Colon cancer is on the rise. A recent global study, published in the journal Gut, found that nearly 2 million new cases of colorectal cancer were estimated in 2020, as well as approximately 930,000 deaths.


From our book, The Food Hacker’s Handbook:  A Guide to Breaking the Processed Foods and Additives Addiction



This nanoparticle white pigment (officially classified as a food additive as opposed to a food dye) is present in processed foods common on grocery shelves, as well as in fast food and conventional restaurant foods. Frequently unlabeled in U.S. foods, this additive is used as a white pigment food coloring for processed foods such as skim milk, white cheese, yogurt, frosting/frosted foods, icing, candies, snack foods, mayonnaise, salad dressings, powdered sugar, marshmallows, pudding, breakfast toaster pastries, and non-diary coffee creamer, among many others. It is also commonly used in medicines [including multivitamins] and toothpaste [and many other personal care products] (Weir et al., 2012, Blaznik et al., 2021). [Pet food may also contain this nanoparticle food additive.]

Scientists are still determining the health safety and potential health hazards of nanoparticles in food. According to the professional organization American Society of Safety Engineers (the guide has since been removed from their website) ingested nanoparticles can be absorbed through small nodules in intestinal tissue (Peyer’s Plaques) that are part of the immune defense system. If nanoparticles enter the digestive system and proceed into the bloodstream, they can potentially move throughout the body and cause damage. Additionally, the Society concludes that “Nanoparticles may also accumulate in certain organs, disrupt and impair biological, structural and metabolic processes and weaken the immune system.” Animals studies have demonstrated that nanoparticle ingestion changes the structure of the lining of the intestinal walls. Among other potential problems, such structural changes hold the potential for over-absorption of harmful compounds. Additionally, research has indicated there are potential adverse health effects of nanoparticles on respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and studies of manufactured nanoparticles have demonstrated toxic properties. Among other health-related issues researchers are studying the potential link between Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles in food and an increased risk for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and colitis. And finally, a recent study funded by the National Science Foundation and published by the American Chemical Society found that nanomaterials in food and drinks can interfere with digestive cells, changing the normal organization and decreasing the number of microvilli (finger-like projections on the cells that help us digest food). What this means essentially is that in humans, if such an effect occurs as food and drinks pass through the gastrointestinal tract, these nanomaterials could lead to poor digestion or diarrhea. ©

Journal reference: Rodríguez-Ibarra, C., et al. Food grade titanium dioxide accumulation leads to cellular alterations in colon cells after removal of a 24-hour exposure, Toxicology Journal, Volume 478, August 2022, 153280.