Are food additives safe – a case with titanium dioxide?

Are food additives safe – a case with titanium dioxide?

Food additives are substances added to food during processing to maintain their freshness, taste, texture, or appearance. The question; are food additives safe? has been often by the consumer for health concerns.

Are food additives safe
Food colourants

Titanium dioxide; a widely used food additive was once considered as an inactive ingredient in human food which is non-absorbable in the human gut and therefore not harmful. The additive was known to be an insoluble compound which shows no significant absorption or tissue storage when ingested in food. However, evidence from recent research studies suggests that this additive may pose potential harm when ingested in large quantities. You may at one point or the other ask; are food additives safe for human health? The following negative effects were discovered when titanium dioxide was fed to laboratory animals in a recent study.

Alteration of gut bacterial activity

When bacteria break down food substances in the colon, an intermediate product such as short-chain fatty acid is useful in regulating immune system function and reduces inflammatory bowel disease. The short-chain fatty acids are critical inducers of immune substance for protecting mice from disease development. It was found that rats with doses of titanium dioxide had

  1.   A significant reduction in the production of the metabolite short-chain fatty acid which means reduced immune protection.
  2.   An increase in trimethylamine; another bacterial product linked with the development of atherosclerosis

Going by the formation of biofilm in the colon; are food additives safe?

Titanium dioxide supports the attachment of biofilm on the surface of the colon and can affect the organization of the gut bacteria and thus its function. This distortion in the gut bacterial system may cause colorectal cancer.

Alteration in the epithelial function of the colon

Titanium dioxide was found to weaken mucus production of the colon thereby disrupting the gut homeostasis; increases gut permeability to harmful bacterial and substances thereby increases the risk for disease.

Allows colon infiltration

Titanium dioxide exposes the colon to permeability and promotes inflammation of the gut environment. Inflammatory environment correlated with a decrease in the innate immune cells in the colon.

Insight from the study

Findings from the study suggest that the intake of titanium dioxide is associated with small changes in bacterial integrity. Therefore, intake may not intensely reshape the human colon microbial population. This observation is further established in the fact that the doses of titanium dioxide used in the mice studies often far exceed the amount of titanium dioxide consumed by humans. However, doses of titanium dioxide over a long period could have a more intense impact.

Call to action

While research findings indicate that a considerable amount of titanium dioxide is needed to cause significant changes in the colon microflora and subsequent toxicity. This revelation is a pointer to the fact that you as an individual can control the amount of the substance that you ingest. Titanium dioxide is used in processed food such as mayonnaise, salad dressings, cake icing, candies, icing, and chewing gums and many confectioneries.

Dessert ingredients; high in food additives


Coming back to the question; are food additives safe for human health? I would like to reiterate the healthy eating recommendation; processed foods usually high in sugar and fat are to be eaten in moderation. Such foods are not to be eaten in replacement of good mixed meal. They are not to be used as substitutes when there is a limited amount of money for food. You will be doing yourself a great deal of good by following this recommendation. This way you will be able to minimize the amount of titanium dioxide that you ingest and therefore reduce your risk for the diseases associated with this substance. The following tips can help you to be in control of your intake of this additive:

  1.   Read labels when buying processed foods and get acquainted with the level of preservatives, additives that are present in the food. This knowledge will help you to know the amount of the substances you will be taking in per portion of the food and if you were to eat the food for many days in a week. Read more about the safe levels of food additives here.
  2.   Use processed foods in combination with fresh foods, thereby minimizing the level of preservatives and additives as well as complementing the nutrients.
  3.   Deliberately reduce the amount of processed foods intake by reducing the serving size and frequency of intake
  4.   Where possible use the homemade version of processed foods. For example, you can make a nice and creamy mayonnaise at home, which can be stored in the fridge for use for one and a half weeks. What could be more fulfilling, you will be able to control your ingredients and work in the desired flavour. To make mayonnaise at home follow these simple steps.


Egg (at room temperature)2 extra-large
Vegetable oil2½ cups
Ground mustard seed1 tsp
Salt1 tsp
White vinegar or malt vinegar1 tbsp
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Food processor

1 tbsp

1 medium-size


Break the eggs and place into the food processor, add the ground mustard, salt, and your choice of vinegar. Turn on the food processor and process thoroughly, for about 50 seconds, until well combined. It will be slightly yellow at this time. While the blender is running, slowly add in the oil until the mixture is emulsified and thick. Ensure the oil is slowly added (up to 2 minutes total pouring time) to make room for a creamy mayonnaise. While the food processor is still running, add the lemon juice until well combined. The lemon juice in combination with the previously added vinegar imparts an excellent flavour into the mayonnaise.

Homemade mayonnaise
Homemade mayonnaise; no food additive


Note: This recipe makes 3 cups of mayonnaise and can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week. If you are not comfortable using raw egg as is the case with many people, you may use pasteurized eggs.


Research evidence suggests that the spleen, liver, and kidney are the organs where titanium dioxide may concentrate and constitute a high risk leading to the initiation of diseases and physiological changes in various organs. As a result of the recent revelations, the toxicological re-evaluation of titanium dioxide safety as food colour or additive needs to be urgently addressed. Hence, the answer to the curious question; are food additives safe? The onus is on you as an individual to be discreet in the consumption of products with titanium dioxide.

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