FRANCE/CANADA – Recent research conducted by a team from the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) in France and McMaster University in Canada has shed light on a potential link between the food additive E551, also known as silicon dioxide, and an increased risk of coeliac disease.

Coeliac disease, an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten consumption, is becoming more prevalent worldwide, prompting investigations into potential environmental factors contributing to its rise.

According to Very Well Health, coeliac disease affects about 1.4% of the global population, but only 0.7% are diagnosed, indicating that approximately half of the people with coeliac disease worldwide are undiagnosed.

E551, commonly utilized as an anti-caking agent in a wide range of dry and powdered foods, including soups, spices, infant formula, and instant coffee, serves to maintain food texture and stability by preventing clumping.

Despite its widespread use, E551’s presence in processed foods is often undisclosed on packaging, as it functions as a processing aid in food manufacturing processes.

The study aimed to assess the impact of chronic exposure to E551 on the intestinal immune system and oral tolerance to dietary proteins, a crucial process that maintains immune tolerance to ingested proteins and prevents inflammatory reactions.

Using mice as experimental models, researchers exposed the animals to E551 daily for three months and observed diminished oral tolerance to dietary proteins, accompanied by heightened intestinal inflammation.

Further investigation revealed that E551 exposure led to a reduction in the number of intestinal immune cells responsible for producing anti-inflammatory compounds, exacerbating gut reactivity. In mice expressing the coeliac disease risk gene, chronic exposure to E551 exacerbated inflammation markers associated with the disease, suggesting a potential role in the development of coeliac disease in genetically susceptible individuals.

The findings highlighted the need for further research into the safety and potential health impacts of food additives like E551, particularly in light of their widespread use and potential implications for individuals with autoimmune conditions like coeliac disease. 

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