Anyone who knows me has heard my various rants about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Maybe Pink Floyd being my favorite band of all time causes me to distrust powerful companies and government.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

Or it could be because the FDA has been caught with its proverbial pants down numerous times. Take into consideration this recent article that blew the lid off of FDA corruption and scandal. Or this incident. Or this one. Orrr… ok, I think you get the picture.

A couple more points about the FDA before we continue:

  1. They don’t conduct any scientific tests/studies themselves. Companies conduct research on their product and present it to the FDA for review. What the who-what-huh? Ever heard of funding bias?
  2. They deny a product ONLY if it’s proven to have a drastic negative impact on health, e.g. causes cancer or heart disease, kills people, etc., or if the benefits of the product don’t outweigh the risks. They don’t seem to care if something causes digestive issues, inflammation, affects your immune system, causes weight gain…I could go on and on…

What’s my point with all this? Just because something is approved by the FDA doesn’t mean it’s safe and/or good for you.

Which leads me to a possible issue with an extremely common food additive: Emulsifiers.

What are emulsifiers?

There are a lot of emulsifiers out there and they’re in a lot of products. They’re usually named something weird like: polysorbate 20 or ceteareth 20.

Tube on the left is an emulsion; tube on the right is not.
Tube on the left is an emulsion; tube on the right is not.

Emulsifiers are substances that create an emulsion (a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally non-mixable or unblendable) possible. Oil and water are perfect examples of ingredients that normally don’t blend.

For example:

  • Salad dressing, which has oil, water, and/or vinegar in it, normally would separate. However, most salad dressings stays all nice and blended because of #emulsifiers.
  • Ice cream and chocolate would normally not be so creamy or solid. The creamier the ice cream/chocolate, most likely the more emulsifiers.
  • Mayonnaise would normally separate on its own. Since that’s not pretty to Americans, emulsifiers are added.

So basically, without looking at every ingredient in a processed food, you can ask yourself, “Would this product normally mix together like that in nature?”

There are also emulsifiers naturally present in foods, such as lecithin in egg yolk.

Products that contain emulsifiers

  • Bread
  • Processed meats
  • Beauty Products (although they’re not usually ingested…)
  • Vitamins
  • Vaccines
  • Margarine
  • Toothpaste
  • Cough Drops
  • Non-Dairy Creamer
  • Laxatives
  • Some Cheese Products such as cottage cheese and cream cheese.  Basically any cheese that’s altered a bit, e.g. Kraft singles (a.k.a. “American Processed Cheese Food”), Velveeta, etc.
  • Antacids

Whew. That’s a long list and it doesn’t even cover it all. So why do you care?

Emulsifiers cause obesity and gut inflammation in mice.

Recently a very interesting study came out supporting what I just ranted about. Emulsifiers, which are used in most processed foods (and approved by the FDA since the 70’s) were found to:

  • Thin the protective mucus in the intestine, allowing bad bacteria to “munch” through the lining.
  • Cause gut dysbiosis by decreasing anti-inflammatory bacteria and increasing inflammatory bacteria.
  • Cause obesity.
  • Raise blood sugar levels.
  • Trigger chronic colitis in mice with compromised immune systems.
  • Increase gut inflammation in healthy mice.


Poor, whittle, fat mouse...
Poor, whittle, fat mouse…

Study controversy

Dosage Arguments

Some folks are trying to discredit the study by claiming the dosage given to the mice was too high.  And I get it! It’s good to question studies results!

HOWEVER, in my sneaky investigations I uncovered that most of the groups and people attacking the study are “supported” by companies such as Coca Cola, Hershey, Kraft Foods, Monsanto, McDonald’s, etc. ALL of these companies have millions to lose if emulsifiers are found to cause obesity and inflammation.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

Additionally they claim that it is impossible for a human, who is eating a balanced diet of course, could consume the amount given to the mice. I’m sorry, but I have to laugh at that one.  Americans are FAMOUS for eating mostly processed foods and not eating a balanced diet.

The researchers claimed the mice were given doses, “seeking to model the broad consumption of the numerous emulsifiers that are incorporated into almost all processed foods.”

Emulsifiers Used

Unfortunately they only tested two types of emulsifiers (polysorbate-80 and carboxymethylcellulose), so the information is limited to only those two types.

Not conducted on humans

This study was conducted on mice, so take that with a grain of salt. We have no way of knowing at this point if the same reaction will happen in humans. Hopefully the results of this study will lead to more testing on some poor college students looking to earn a buck.

poor student

So What Does This Mean?

No, I don’t think everyone should grab pitchforks and torches and march to the White House demanding to make emulsifiers illegal. I’m not Food Babe (sorry, not sorry Food Babe), ok people?

And I don’t believe this study proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that emulsifiers are bad for you. This is a new study and, to my knowledge, hasn’t been challenged or recreated in other studies yet.

However, the results could support the argument that we shouldn’t be eating so many processed friggen’ foods! Let’s be honest folks, you’re not dumb. You know in your weak heart of hearts that processed food is questionable.

However, I know they be tasty, so eating them occasionally won’t kill ya. Everything in moderation!


This info could also be helpful to people who suffer from gastrointestinal distress. They might want to consider cutting down the amount of processed foods consumed or cut them out altogether. If you are one of these people, start cooking for yourself, shop the perimeter of the store (where all the veggies, fruits, and meats are), and see if you notice an improvement in your symptoms.

!!!Spoiler Alert!!!


This study also raises some interesting questions such as: What if the whole anti-gluten/gluten intolerance/gluten allergy problem could be  caused by emulsifiers as opposed to gluten (bread contains emulsifiers)? If that were the case, we could all eat pasta and bread again if the stinky emulsifiers were taken out.

And the people rejoiced…

What if the drastic increase in Crohn’s, Colitis, Celiac, and IBS could be attributed to these emulsifiers?  Interesting stuff!

What have we learned?

  1. Don’t blindly trust the FDA.
  2. Emulsifiers were found to cause obesity and gut inflammation in mice. However the study is new and was only conducted in mice.
  3. Emulsifiers are in a lot of processed foods and products.
  4. Processed foods may have negative impacts on your health beyond just making you sick.
  5. If you so choose, you can avoid emulsifiers by eating a diet made up mostly of whole foods, i.e. veggies, fruits, seeds, meats, poultry, fish, and oils.  WHICH YOU SHOULD BE DOING ANYWAY DAGNABBIT.

Gratuitous Rant Time

And finally, what I’ve learned is that our aesthetic-obsessed culture is really harshin’ my mellow man…

Our need for things to look pretty and perfect is ruining our food. We want our salad dressing blended, our honey clear, our fruit waxed to a blinding shine and free of bug bites, and our meat without bones or a face.

This need is causing two issues:

  1. We miss out on a lot of key nutrients when we “clean up” our natural foods. Then we try to compensate by popping vitamin supplements.
  2. Companies add bizarre and/or potentially dangerous ingredients and filter out nutrients in order to get our lame-o selves to purchase their “pretty” products.

So please, just stop the insanity and stop fighting nature! Eat ugly food!!!!

End rant.

So there’s the information, do with it as you wish.  If you have any questions, please head to my Contact page and shoot me an email!



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