A very common additive, E415, which serves as a thickener could be digested by certain bacteria in our microbiota. The health implications are still unknown at this time.
Xanthan gum, or E415, is an additive present in many industrial foods in which it serves as a thickener. It is a long branched chain composed of four: the mannose, glucuronic and pyruvic acid. It is considered non-hazardous to health because it is not metabolized by the human body. However, indicates that xanthan gum has an effect, not on our cells, but on the of our intestinal. This additive has only been present in the so-called Western diet – where ultra-processed foods have an important place – for about fifty years. A blink of an eye in terms of evolution, yet intestinal bacteria have developed able to break down xanthan gum and digest it.
An additive digested by intestinal bacteria
One ofin question belongs to the family of Ruminococcaceae. Its “xanthanophage” activity was brought to light by two researchers from the University of Michigan in the United States during a series of experiments carried out on human samples, then bioinformatics analyses. ” Bacteria that can digest xanthan gum have been isolated from the gut microbiota of a surprisingly large number of people in industrialized countries », explains Sabina Leanti La Rosa, one of the researchers who participated in the project.
A second bacterium Bacteroides intestinaliscapable of digesting the additive was isolated from a single sample. The latter could digest the remains of xanthan gum after the first bacteria attacked thewhole. Does this affect our health? It still seems too early to tell. According to Sabina Leanti La Rosa: “ Based on this study, we cannot conclude if and how xanthan gum affects our health. But we can say that this additive affects the intestinal microbiota of people who ingest it through food. »
Authorized for a long time, xanthan gum has been re-evaluated by theEuropean Food Safety Authority () in 2017. that xanthan gum is not dangerous to health, although it may produce laxative effects in some people. Already at that time it was mentioned that the additive ” could be partially fermented during its passage through the by the action of the intestinal microbiota “. The study conducted at the University of Michigan confirms this. E415 is not the first additive suspected of altering the intestinal flora; and could be involved in inflammatory problems in the gut.