Health warning as common foods including bread that have been linked to diabetes

2 min read

New research shows that certain additives found in common ultra-processed foods could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Emulsifiers, a group of ‘E numbers’, are often found in certain products such as cakes, ice cream, mayonnaise and even bread.

Over 100,000 adults’ diets were monitored by scientists from The French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and found those who consumed a lot of emulsifiers were up to 15 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Co-authors Dr Mathilde Touvier, research director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, and Dr Bernard Srour, an epidemiologist at research institute INRAE, said: “These findings… cannot be used on their own to establish a causal relationship.

“However, our results represent key elements to enrich the debate on re-evaluating the regulations around the use of additives in the food industry, in order to better protect consumers.”

But critics have dismissed the academic paper as merely observational and heavily flawed.

They argue that dozens of other factors could have influenced the findings, which were published in a journal owned by The Lancet.

The study, which involved 104,000 French adults, asked participants about their dietary habits – including their average daily intake of different groups of emulsifiers – personal medical history and physical activity level.

Over an average follow-up period of seven years, 1,056 volunteers were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

After considering other risk factors such as obesity and smoking, researchers found a link between seven groups of emulsifiers and type 2 diabetes.

Every 500mg of tripotassium phosphate (E340), found in sliced ham, canned soups and cake mixes, consumed daily was associated with a 15 percent increased risk.

Increased risks were also observed with guar gum (E412) and xanthan gum (E415), which are present in cottage cheese, salad dressings and sauces.

However, critic Dr Sarah Berry, a nutritional sciences expert at King’s College London, said: “This type of large-scale epidemiological study is a vital part of the scientific process. However, these studies cannot prove that emulsifiers cause type 2 diabetes. Because products that contain emulsifiers often contain a multitude of other ingredients, disentangling the effects of each compound is challenging.”

Meanwhile, Dr Duane Mellor, a dietitian at Aston University, pointed out: “What this paper does not fully consider is the difference in how the human body might process and manage emulsifiers.”

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