The impact of dietary emulsifiers on gut microbiota and gut barrier function

A recent study (Chassaing, et al.) showed that two dietary emulsifiers — carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80 — induced gut microbiota alteration and gut barrier dysfunction in mice, resulting in weight gain, low-grade inflammation, and metabolic disorders. While it is unlikely that emulsifiers in processed foods are uniquely responsible for the human pandemic of obesity and inflammatory diseases, we cannot rule out the idea that ingesting combinations of similar compounds could contribute to low-grade inflammation and worse metabolic health in those who may be predisposed to metabolic disease.


Cani PD. (2015) Dietary emulsifiers — sweepers of the gut lining? Nature Reviews Endocrinology 11(6), pp. 319-320. doi:10.1038/nrendo.2015.59

Chassaing B, et al. (2015) Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Nature 519 (7541), pp. 92-96. doi:10.1038/nature14232


See this article for a discussion of potential mechanisms:

Cani PD & Everard A. (2015) Keeping gut lining at bay: Impact of emulsifiers. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 26(6), pp. 273–274 doi:10.1016/j.tem.2015.03.009



Patrice D. Cani
Patrice D. Cani
Professor Patrice D. Cani is researcher from the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS), group leader in the Metabolism and Nutrition research group at the Louvain Drug Research Institute (LDRI) from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Brussels, Belgium, and WELBIO (Walloon Excellence in Lifesciences and BIOtechnology) investigator. He is currently member of several international associations, he is member of the Alumni College from the Royal Belgian Academy of Sciences, and he has been elected in the board of directors of the LDRI (UCL). Patrice D. Cani has a M.Sc. in Nutrition and another M.Sc. in health Sciences, he is registered dietitian and PhD in Biomedical Sciences. His main research interests are the investigation of the role of the gut microbiota in the development of metabolic disorders, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and low grade inflammation. More specifically, he is investigating the interactions between the gut microbiota, the host and specific biological systems such as the endocannabinoid system and the innate immune system in the context of obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic inflammation. Prof Cani is author and co-author of more than 110 scientific research papers published in peer-reviewed international journals, conferences and book chapters.