Sue's Blog

Preservatives must change the microbiome


Recent media reports (1,2) about earlier cancer occurrence have pointed to microbiome changes and have suggested ultra-processed food as a cause. But none so far have pinpointed a possible role for anti-microbial food preservatives.

Regulators do not require testing of the effects of such food additives on the microbiome. If you swallow a chemical designed to kill bacteria in food, one might expect it to kill bacteria in your gut too, with consequences. It is not just antibiotics that alter the microbiome. Yet published research is minimal.

Take this summary for example (3):

Of the 14 cancers studied, eight affected the digestive tract, with the increases not explained by improved screening. Instead, the researchers posit this “dramatic” rise in incidence may be explained by excessive alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, obesity, smoking, reduced physical activity and a diet rich in highly processed foods and sugary drinks. Diet affects the gut microbiome whose influence extends to not only gut health but also conditions as diverse as cancer, eczema, diabetes and depression.

There is good research emerging about the effect of some food additives on the microbiome (4) but very little focused on the common preservatives increasingly used by the food industry.

Members of the Food Intolerance Network avoid 50 additives including all these preservatives, many for over 30 years. Are we healthier I wonder? Some of our 20,000 members say so (5).

200-203 sorbic acid, potassium & calcium sorbates
210-213 benzoic acid, sodium, potassium & calcium benzoates
220-228 sulphur dioxide, all sulphites, bisulphites, metabisulphites
249-252 all nitrates & nitrites
280-283 propionic acid, sodium, potassium & calcium propionates, cultured dextrose  or cultured anything,  or fermented wheat, fermented wheat flour

There is clearly something wrong with our food regulation system when it remains wilfully blind to such obvious problems without requiring far better research before continuing to approve anti-microbial preservatives (6).





4. See references for emulsifiers in this blog