If you want to read something horribly distressing that is not related to politics, here's something for you: new research is now suggesting that emulsifiers in food -- we're talking chemicals like xanthan gum, carrageenan and lecithin, all of which are typically used to boost a food product's shelf life and help its texture -- are potentially linked to cancer.
The study, which came out in the journal Cancer Research, says that tumors in the bowels of mice seem to have been triggered after mice were given the emulsifiers, which seemed to attack the good bacteria living in the rodents.
Unfortunately, colorectal cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide; in fact, in 2012, it was responsible for approximately 700,000 deaths.
"The incidence of colorectal cancer has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century," said Dr. Emilie Viennois, assistant professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, in the study. "A key feature of this disease is the presence of an altered intestinal microbiota that creates a favorable niche for tumorigenesis."
That's right -- these emulsifiers are literally creating a favorable niche, or, in other words, a hotspot breeding ground for cancer.
Here's the issue: these emulsifiers are lurking everywhere. If you want your ice cream to have that smooth and creamy texture, you need the emulsifiers; you need them for water and oil to blend instead of separate, and forget enjoying any processed foods ever again without them.
The researchers do say that additional research needs to be thoroughly conducted before anybody can conclusively say that emulsifiers are proven cancer-causing agents, and they also note that animal studies are not necessarily replicated in humans.
Still, it is worth noting that the mice that were fed the two common emulsifiers had gut microbiota compositions that were drastically changed, and made them more pro-inflammatory, and thus more likely to be hospitable to colorectal cancer.