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Increased Use of Emulsifiers in Processed Foods and the Links to Obesity


Purpose of Review

The purpose of this review is to discuss the implications of the increased prevalence of emulsifiers in processed foods in daily consumption, the links to obesity both in mice and in vitro studies, and how those findings correlate with humans.

Recent Findings

There is rising interest in understanding the contributors to the obesity epidemic. One potential component recently studied has been the consumption of processed foods causing inflammatory changes leading to metabolic syndrome. This phenomenon has been shown in several mice and in vitro studies with changes in microbiome composition, elevated fasting blood glucose, hyperphagia, increased weight gain and adiposity, hepatic steatosis increased inflammatory markers, and a correlation with increased incidence of colorectal cancer.


Emulsifiers are found in most foods consumed in the US population, which has increased over the years. This review focuses on understanding the initial approved safe levels of emulsifier consumption, the preceding increased use in foods with higher daily consumption than was previously tested, measuring these levels in animal models, and the positive association with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Future research will require prospectively studying emulsifier consumption more accurately along with the associated respective changes in the microbiome to determine the relationship to obesity.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Laster, J., Bonnes, S.L. & Rocha, J. Increased Use of Emulsifiers in Processed Foods and the Links to Obesity. Curr Gastroenterol Rep 21, 61 (2019).

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  • Emulsifier
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Nutrition
  • Gut microbiome
  • Processed foods