We’re asking the question on how harmless the common additives in our food really are. Perhaps we should be thinking more about what is actually in the food we eat.
We are really lucky, in the UK, that our food and the additives in it, have been thoroughly tested to ensure that they won’t poison us. Not in the short term anyway – though we are increasingly aware that the amount of sugar, salt and poor-quality fats may be harming our health in a slow but steady way.
But what about all the other things that are written on the food labels? The E numbers and unpronounceable names? It’s tempting to assume that they are all bad – but some have valuable functions like helping to preserve our food for longer. Better a few chemicals than a nasty case of food poisoning.
Other additives, however, are there to give food a better colour, a better ‘mouth-feel’ or to make our food more appealing in other ways. And it’s one of those that has been shown to be causing trouble for our gut bacteria.
We are discovering more and more about our gut bacteria and our intestinal flora in general. These are the organisms that live on our gut lining and can actually be of huge benefit to us. It appears that they interact with us – seemingly affecting our mood, our health and even our weight. Having healthy gut bacteria can make a big difference.
One of these ‘safe’ food additives, though, is changing the levels of these healthy gut bacteria according to a recent study. It may pass through our bodies, without being absorbed, but our gut bacteria seem to be taking the hit instead. And that may not be helping us at all.
It’s just a small study, but it’s adding to an ever-increasing body of research that shows that what we eat can influence our microbiota – another name for that army of trillions of bugs that live within us and may be as much of an influence on our health as our own cells.
The research will continue – but, in the meantime, it seems to make sense to avoid foods that need labels, wherever possible. Think fresh veg, nuts, seeds, eggs, wholegrains and anything that has had limited processing. That way we just get the produce that nature intended us to eat, with all the nutrients and without any unexpected surprises later down the line.
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