Dark side of desire

A common food additive found in chocolates and candies may affect "the functioning of the intestine.

Published: 25th February 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th February 2017 02:11 PM   |  A+A-

Chocolate | AFP

Express News Service

Who can resist the temptations of the dark, milk, caramel or nutty chocolates? It’s a treat for the young ones, a gesture of love for the beloved and a delight for the elders.

The pleasures of the delicious-looking chocolate candies melting in your mouth are huge and so are its side effects. It’s sinful not without a cause.
It’s not unknown that high-on-calorie chocolates cause tooth decay, cavities and even pimples and acne. 

However, a recent study has added to the menace of our very own dark desire. Chocolates, candies, chewing gums are all processed food items, which contain added additives for preservation sake.

For long, titanium oxide is being used as common additives for processed food items. It may be behind significantly reducing the ability of small intestine cells to absorb nutrients and block pathogens (bacterium, virus, or other microorganism), a new study has warned.

“There have been a lot of research on how titanium oxide nano particles affect microvilli, but the focus of this study was on how nano particles alter intestinal functions. We found that processed food, including chocolates, reduces the ability of the small intestine cells to absorb nutrients and block pathogens,” said Gretchen Mahler, a professor at the Binghamton University in the US.

Titanuim oxide is used in chocolates to give it a smooth texture; in donuts for the colour; and in skimmed milks for a brighter and opaque appearance. Chewing gums, mayonnaise and twinkies, all contain the oxide. 

Sandhya Pandey, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, said, “India restricts the use of the oxide in chewing gum and bubble gum at not more than 1 per cent and to powdered concentrate mixes for fruit beverage drinks not to exceed 100 mg/kg. There should be correct labelling of the permissible percentage and used percentage, which is mostly missing.”

It is also an active ingredient in mineral-based sunscreens for pigmentation to block ultraviolet light. However, it can enter the digestive system through toothpastes, as titanium dioxide is used to create abrasion needed for cleaning.

Titanium oxide is an inert and insoluble material that is commonly used for white pigmentation in paints, paper and plastics. In the food industry, it is used as a colouring agent. It is also used in cosmetics in high concentration as a skin brightening and whitening agent.

The American Cancer Society has listed titanium oxide as one among the five most carcinogenic substances on the planet. It is considered to cause asthma, cancer, kidney disease, alzheimer’s and fertility loss. 

Pandey added, “It is advisable to avoid quick food items. Home-cooked food with a combination of protein and carbohydrates is a must. Eating on time and drinking eight to ten glasses of water also goes a long way.”


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