Of the cancers that affect men and women in the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most common.
Research suggests that the prevalence of this common cancer may be due in part to emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are additives that are used in most processed foods to improve texture and extend shelf life. They are present in many of the foods we eat fairly regularly.
The Study: Emulsifiers & Intestinal Inflammation
Scientists have discovered that changes in the intestinal microbia could be a significant risk-factor for colorectal cancer. These microbial changes are also a key factor in Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Because of this, research was done to discover the impact of emulsifiers on the microbial composition in the digestive tract.
Recently, a study was performed on mice using two of the most common emulsifiers, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. Results showed that mice who consumed these chemicals showed dramatic changes in their gut microbia which led to a great deal of inflammation. Not only did the emuslifiers create a pro-inflammatory environment, it also changed the balance between cell creation and cell death. Disrupting this natural process enhances tumor development.
Should You Cut Out All Processed Food?
Although the test on mice showed a correlation between emulsifiers and a greater risk of colorectal cancer, these studies have not been performed on people. The possibility exists that these effects may not be seen on humans.
With that said, it is always a good idea to eat as many natural, non-processed foods as possible. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean meats will improve your colorectal and overall health.
Factors That Increase Risk of Colorectal Cancer
While studies can’t yet confirm emulsifiers role in colorectal cancer, there are several preventable factors that are proven to increase risk:
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
- Eating diets high in fat
- Heavy alcohol use
Schedule Your Colonoscopy
The best tool you have to preventing colorectal cancer is early detection. Pre-cancerous tumors and early stages of colorectal cancer are found during routine colonoscopies.