Chocolates, Chewing Gums Can Do More Harm Than Rotting Your Teeth

If you are someone who loves eating chocolates and chewing gums, then this is for you. Eating candies, chocolates, bubblegums and lollipops are not only damaging to your teeth they may harm your intestines as well, warns a new study.

Researchers blamed a food additive that is commonly used in chewing gums, chocolates and breads. They warn, the common food additive, called titanium oxide, may substantially affect the functioning of small intestinal cells. According to the researchers, chronic exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide may significantly decrease these cells’ ability to absorb nutrients and block pathogens.

“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time, but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them,” said Gretchen Mahler, a professor at the Binghamton University, State University of New York, US, and one of the study authors.

“There has been previous work on how titanium oxide nanoparticles affects microvilli, but we are looking at much lower concentrations,” Mahler said. “We also extended previous work to show that these nanoparticles alter intestinal function,” she added.

For their research, lead author of the study Zhongyuan Guo, who is the Biomedical Engineering Teaching Assistant and current graduate student, and colleagues exposed a small intestinal cell culture model to the physiological equivalent of a meal’s worth of titanium oxide nanoparticles – 30 nanometres across – over four hours, which was considered as acute exposure, or three meal’s worth over five days which was considered as chronic exposure.

Investigating team learned that acute exposures did not affect the cells much, but chronic exposure decreased the absorptive function of the intestinal cells called microvilli. The number of microvilli decreased, and consequently the intestinal barrier was weakened and metabolism slowed, making it very difficult for cells to absorb nutrients like iron, zinc, and fatty acids. Moreover, enzyme functions were adversely affected, while inflammation signals heightened.

“To avoid foods rich in titanium oxide nanoparticles you should avoid processed foods, and especially candy. That is where you see a lot of nanoparticles,” Mahler said.

Food additive titanium dioxide is generally considered safe by the US health watchdog, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and its ingestion is almost inevitable. This compound is commonly used for bright white pigmentation in paints, paper and plastics as well as acts as an active ingredient in mineral-based sunscreens for pigmentation to block UV rays. In chocolates, this oxide is used to give it a smooth texture; in toothpaste to create abrasion; in food products like milk and donuts to for color and more appealing appearance.

The current findings are reported in a paper, titles as “Titanium dioxide nanoparticle ingestion alters nutrient absorption in an in vitro model of the small intestine,” which was published in NanoImpact.