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Just how are food additives affecting our gut                                                      April 10, 2022
Published by admin under Allergies,Dietary Guidelines
How are food additives affecting our gut?

Over time, common additives are changing the landscape of our microbiome.1*

Food additives have been around for a while. Pick up any processed food item in the grocery store and you will see a list of ingredients added to preserve freshness, provide color, thicken and add texture. Many of these ingredients are not natural ingredients but others are chemically derived. Over time, the consumption of some of these “added ingredients” is affecting our microbiomes and our health in general.

Salt is a good example and may be among one of the first preservatives added to foods like fish and meat to make them last longer. Today, it is highly overused in processed foods as a flavor enhancer, delivering a whopping amount of sodium that is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure for many.2*

Food additives and the streamlining of food production really took off during the Industrial Revolution. The canning of foods, which allowed products to be shipped, gave way to the less personal interface when buying food. Purchasing foods from the farmer, baker, or butcher was replaced by grocery stores, where people no longer saw the actual food production. These new practices resulted in food lasting longer and being able to travel further.  Our food began to change even more as chemists got creative and different additives proved to meet the needs of food manufacturers.1*

The idea of adding artificial ingredients to foods appears many times in history. When food was scarce, ingredients were added to stretch what little was there, or in an attempt to make food look better. Colonial America had regulations requiring inspection of flour and pork barrels. Massachusetts became the first state to ban adulteration of food with many states following in the 1700s. But these laws did not require food labeling.  Doctor Harvey Wiley of the Bureau of Chemistry shared America’s sentiment when he wrote the following poem:2*

Oh, maybe this bread contains alum and chalk

Or sawdust chopped up very fine,

Or gypsum in powder which they talk,

Terra alba is just out of the mine.

And our faith in the butter is apt to be weak,

For we haven’t a good place to pin it

Annatto’s so yellow and beef fat so sleek,

Oh, I wish I could know what is in it?2*

Bread contained chalk, foods were preserved with borax, and formaldehyde was used to prevent the meat from rotting. The industrialization of food changed the way we ate as companies chose profits over people in an attempt to have the best-looking food at the cheapest prices. People believed that their food came unadulterated and directly from farms and sadly it wasn’t true.2*

Abraham Lincoln created the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Chemistry in 1862, which would later become the Food and Drug Administration.  Dr. Harvey Wiley, a chemist was offered the position of Chief Chemist at the Department of Agriculture and created the ‘Poison Squad’ in which questionable food additives were tested on young healthy men, delivered in three square meals a day. Things like borax were fed to them in an attempt to verify the safety of preservatives and additives. From this Poison Squad, Dr. Wiley was able to say that borax, formaldehyde, salicylic acid, sulfuric acid, boric acid, benzoic acid, benzoates, and sulfates were unsafe. He delivered his opinion that “…Americans were shortening their lives by consuming the food additives used…”2*

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 brought the return of  ‘real food’, though many of the things Dr. Wiley deemed unsafe are in still in use and debated today…things such as bleached flour. So to say we have come a long way might seem shocking, but considering what used to be put in foods, maybe not.2*

Today, the list has just gotten longer. These compounds are used in order to improve the texture, palatability, and shelf life of many foods we find in the grocery store. While great effort is put into assuring the safety of these ingredients, the analysis of these substances relies mainly on how toxic they are on organs such as the liver and kidneys, and less attention is given to the effects these compounds have on cells of the immune system and the metabolic changes they create in the gut, which is connected to many metabolic diseases and obesity, which  have a “…strong immune-mediated component…”. 3*

Among these food additives is Xanthan Gum, and a new study reveals the long-term effects it has had on the human gut microbiota. This additive, which was developed in the 1960s in California, was approved by the US Food Safety Authority in 1968 as safe for use in food. Today it is used all over the industrialized world as a thickener or stabilizer in many foods such as ice cream, chocolate milk, baked goods and desserts, dressings, and various sauces.. It is also used as the substitute for gluten in gluten-free foods and can be found sold separately as a dietary supplement for keto and low carb diets. It is generated by fermenting sugar using the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. The production process creates a jelly-like liquid that is dried and turned into powder. 1*

When xanthan gum was introduced initially to the food supply, it was believed to go straight through the body without affecting the person eating it. Because it has a different chemical structure than other carbohydrates such as starch from plant food which we easily digest, we are now starting to see the long-term effects of eating this additive in that it is affecting the microbiota in the gut of people who consume it. 1*

The study, which was published in Nature Microbiology by scientists at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in collaboration with the University of Michigan and other international partners, shows that “human gut bacteria have adapted to this additive since it was introduced in the modern diet only fifty years ago.1*

According to NMBU researcher Sabina Leanti La Rosa, “…These additives were introduced in the 1960s when we did not have the means to appreciate the major influence the gut microbiota has on our health and nutrition. With the advancement in microbiome science, we now see the effects that we did not see in the beginning…”.1*

Professor Phil Pose, who leads the Microbial Ecology and Meta-Omics group at HMBU, where the researchers conducted this study work adds “…The gut bacteria we have investigated show genetic changes and a rapid adaptation to enable them to digest this particular additive…”1*

The study revealed that the ability to digest xanthan gum is common in the microbiota in the industrialized world and is dependent on one single bacterium’s activity.1*

This bacterium known as Ruminococcaceae was found among the gut microbiota of many people in industrialized countries. “…In some samples, another type of microbe was also found that interacted with the xanthan gum, this one in the species Bacteroides intestinalis. This bacterium could hijack and further break down small pieces of xanthan gum created during the digestion of the larger xanthan molecules by the Ruminococcaceae bacterium. The Bacteroides bacterium was equipped with the now special enzymes that allowed it to eat these small xanthan gum fragments…”1*

This study is important because it shows how when we consume food additives they can influence the gut, by creating “…a potential xanthan gum driven food chain involving two types of gut bacteria…”. The researchers applied a multi-disciplinary approach to create a blueprint for understanding metabolism within the gut. They hope to apply this to any complex gut ecosystem.1*

Our bodies are amazing at adapting to various conditions, but when it doesn’t recognize something, it reacts by trying to get rid of it,  through digestive issues, inflammation, or other metabolic changes. The best way to know what you are eating is to purchase whole foods that you can identify such as vegetables, fruits, meats, and legumes. Consider your source when buying bread, cheeses, and other processed items. If the label contains many names you don’t recognize, chances are these are additives and preservatives put in that food to maintain freshness, add color and make the product more appealing. It is very difficult in today’s world to avoid additives. But being aware of what you are consuming is the first important step. Remember, food producers, are in it for the money. You have to be the one that is in it for yourself!*

Healthiest wishes,



Where have you “bean” all my life?

Beans and legumes are plentiful, good for you and so much less expensive than meat.*

You don’t have to look far to see the rising cost of everything. Step into the grocery store and sticker shock is everywhere, especially meat prices and red meat in particular. I have some good news for you! One of the healthiest things you can eat for your microbiome is also one of the cheapest things you can buy. And that is beans and legumes! (For definition sake, all beans are legumes, but not all legumes are beans). They really are the perfect food. They offer an excellent source of protein, minerals, vitamins, and complex carbohydrates. They are practically sodium-free, very low in fat, and very high in fiber, making them filling and a great source of prebiotics.(1,2)*  

Even the beans with the lowest fiber content have more fiber than most other foods. One cup of high-fiber beans, such as black beans or pinto beans delivers a whopping 16 grams of fiber. The fiber found in beans is primarily soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol making beans an excellent heart-healthy alternative to meat. Including beans and legumes in your diet confers such health benefits as helping reduce cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels and promoting and increasing healthy gut bacteria because fiber is a prebiotic on which healthy bacteria feed. Eating plenty of beans in your diet along with lots of fresh produce, in combination with taking Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™, will help ensure your gut stays healthy and your immune system strong. It can also promote weight loss if that is your goal.1*

“…The American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and American Cancer Society recommend legumes and beans as one of the most important food groups for disease prevention and optimal health…” When you look at the healthiest regions of the world, legumes and beans are a staple in the diet. Whether it is in the Mediterranean or Japan, you will find beans and legumes as a regular part of the menu. (2,3)*

Let’s look at just a few beans and legumes and their health benefits!  


Multiple scientific studies have shown that chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, can help with weight loss, reduce risk factors for heart disease, and possibly even the risk of cancer, especially when they are substituted for red meat in the diet. In Campodimele, Italy, a hilltop village south of Rome, there are “…so many centenarians that it’s known in Europe as the “Village of Longevity.” Daily, its citizens enjoy a diet full of beans like lentils, chickpeas, and white beans…” (1,3)*

When compared to other high-carb foods, chickpeas are highly beneficial at reducing blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity. Consuming chickpeas may also improve cholesterol levels.  “…A number of studies have shown that chickpeas can reduce both total cholesterol and “bad” low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease …” Other studies have demonstrated how chickpeas may also reduce levels of unfriendly bacteria in the intestines while helping improve bowel function.1*

Just one cup of chickpeas contains 12.5 grams of fiber, 14.5 grams of protein, and the recommended dietary intake of the following: 71%  folate (vitamin B9), 84% Manganese, 29% Copper, and 26%  Iron. 1*


 “…The people of Okinawa, Japan, who have the highest percentage of centenarians on earth, eat a diet rich in soybean-based products…”3*

Soybeans come in different forms. It can be consumed whole after cooking, known as edamame. It can be eaten in processed form such as soy milk and tofu, and after fermentation such as in soy sauce and miso paste.  In Japan, where life expectancy is the highest in the world, soybeans are a staple in the diet. “…The higher life expectancy of Japanese people is mainly due to fewer deaths from ischemic heart disease and cancers, particularly breast and prostate cancer. This low mortality is mainly attributable to a low rate of obesity, low consumption of red meat, and high consumption of fish and plant foods such as soybeans and tea…”3*

Soybeans also contain high levels of antioxidants called isoflavones. These isoflavones are phytoestrogens that can mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, which can be beneficial for women going through menopause.  “…A large study of 403 postmenopausal women found that taking soy isoflavones for two years, in addition to calcium and vitamin D, significantly reduced the loss of bone density that occurs during menopause…” Soybeans and the antioxidants they contain may also help reduce heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol. (1,3)*

In one cup of cooked soybeans, you will find 10.3 grams of fiber, 28.6 grams of protein and the recommended dietary intake of the following: 71% Manganese, 49% Iron, 42%  phosphorus, 41% Vitamin K, 29%  riboflavin, and 23% folate.1*

Black Beans

Like other beans, black beans are a great source of fiber, protein, and folate. They are a staple food in Central and South America and are often served with rice, to create a complete protein.1* .

One cup of cooked black beans contains approximately: 15 grams of fiber, 15.2 grams of protein and the recommended daily intake of the following: 64% folate (Vitamin B9), 38% manganese, 28% Thiamine (Vitamin B1), 20% Iron.1*

Black beans, like all legumes and beans, have a lower glycemic index compared to many other high carb foods, which may also help reduce the spike in blood sugar that occurs after eating a meal, which may help reduce the risk of diabetes and weight gain.1*


A great source of vegetarian protein, lentils can be added to soups and stews, made into patties for a delicious vegetarian burger, and have a number of great health benefits! (1,2)*

In one cup of cooked lentils you’ll find: 15.6 grams of fiber, 17.9 grams of protein, and the RDI of the following: 90% folate (vitamin B9), 49% manganese, 29% copper, 22% thiamine (Vitamin B1).1*

Similar to chickpeas, lentils can help reduce blood sugar compared to other foods. A study of more than 3,000 people found that those who had the highest intake of lentils, as well as other legumes, had the lowest rates of diabetes. These benefits are likely due to the positive effect lentils and other legumes have on the gut such as promoting friendly bacteria growth and slowing the rate that the stomach empties which helps with digestion and prevents spikes in blood sugar.  1*

“…Lentil sprouts may also help heart health by reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol and increasing “good” HDL cholesterol…”1*


Peas are a great source of fiber and protein. You can find pea protein in a lot of plant-based food items and protein drinks, which we covered in our blog about protein supplements, dated February 11, 2022. Pea protein continues to pop up as a great protein alternative including in dog food. In a study of 23 overweight people with elevated cholesterol levels, eating 1.8 ounces of pea flour per day for 28 days, compared to eating wheat flour, significantly reduced insulin resistance and belly fat. Other studies have shown consuming pea flour and pea fiber helps reduce the increase in insulin and blood sugar after a meal, reducing blood triglycerides and increasing feelings of fullness. 1*

One cup of cooked peas contain: 8.8 grams of fiber, 8.2 grams of protein, and the recommended daily intake of the following: 24%  folate, 22% Manganese, 48%  Vitamin K, 30% Vitamin B1.1*

There are lots of beans and legumes beyond what we covered here today for you to add to your daily menu. Recipes are bountiful online so if you haven’t been adding plenty of beans and legumes to your diet, start today!  Not only are they healthier than animal protein, but they are so much more cost-effective! And most importantly they are so good for promoting friendly bacteria growth in the gut. Additionally, growing legumes and beans are better for the environment than animal products, which is the main contributor to methane gas being released into the atmosphere. There’s never ‘bean’ a better time to add legumes and beans to your diet. (1,4)*

Healthiest wishes,