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Emulsifiers impact colonic length in mice and emulsifier restriction is feasible in people with Crohn’s disease

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Alicia M. Sandall, Selina R. Cox, James O. Lindsay, Andrew T. Gewirtz, Benoit Chassaing, Megan Rossi, Kevin Whelan

Original languageEnglish
Article number2827
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Issue number9
Accepted/In press11 Sep 2020
PublishedSep 2020

King's Authors


There is an association between food additive emulsifiers and the prevalence of Crohn’s disease. This study aimed to investigate: (i) the effect of different classes of emulsifiers on markers of intestinal inflammation in mice and (ii) the feasibility, nutritional adequacy and symptom impact of restricting all emulsifier classes in Crohn’s disease. Mice were exposed to different classes of emulsifiers (carboxymethycellose, polysorbate-80, soy lecithin, gum arabic) in drinking water for 12-weeks, after which markers of inflammation and metabolism were measured. A low emulsifier diet was developed to restrict all classes of emulsifiers and its feasibility measured over 14-days in 20 participants with stable Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease-related symptoms, disease control, body weight and composition, nutrient intake and food-related quality of life (QoL) were measured. All emulsifiers resulted in lower murine colonic length compared with control (mean 9.5 cm (SEM 0.20)), but this only reached significance for polysorbate-80 (8.2 cm (0.34), p = 0.024) and carboxymethylcellulose (8.0 cm (0.35), p = 0.013). All 20 participants completed the feasibility study. The frequency of consuming emulsifier-containing foods decreased by 94.6% (SD 10.3%). Food-related QoL improved between habitual (median 81.5 (IQR 25.0)) and low emulsifier diet (90.0 (24.0), p = 0.028). Crohn’s disease-related symptoms reduced (median 3.0 (IQR 5.3) vs. 1.4 (3.9), p = 0.006), and disease control scores improved (13.5 (IQR 6.0) vs. 15.5 (IQR 3.0), p = 0.026). A range of emulsifiers may influence intestinal inflammation in mice, and dietary restriction of emulsifiers is feasible. Trials investigating the efficacy of a low emulsifier diet in Crohn’s disease are warranted.

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