Binghamton University found that when nanoparticles of titanium dioxide were exposed to the small intestine cells, the cells’ ability to absorb nutrients and block pathogens were drastically decreased. The founding holds importance on daily life, as the substance can be found in from gum to bread.

The exposure lasted over four hours, and the amount exposed to small intestine cells were equal to the titanium dioxide in one meal.

Meanwhile acute exposure of titanium dioxide did not have a drastic effect on cells; a chronic exposure definitely decreased the absorption property of the intestine cells. Microvilli, the cells that have this property, diminished. Consequently, the intestinal barrier weakened with fewer microvilli. This also resulted in the slowing down of the metabolism and lack of absorption of iron, zinc, and fatty acids. While the enzyme functions didn’t work properly, there were signals of inflammation.

This research is very vital for humans as Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Gretchen Mahler, one of the authors of the paper, also says:

“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time–don’t worry, it won’t kill you!–but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them”

Regardless, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled titanium dioxide as a safe additive. As a result, the food industry, especially processed foods and candy are filled with titanium dioxide. It is added to chocolate to create the smooth texture; it is in donut to make the rich color. Sometime, it can be found in skimmed milk too, to make it look brighter and more opaque.

The material is added to create a white pigmentation in paints, paper, and plastics too. Titanium dioxide can also be found in sunscreens as it has properties of blocking the UV-light. Another way that the titanium dioxide can enter the body is through toothpaste, as the chemical is used as a cleaning ingredient.

Companies like Dunkin Donuts started to take the risks seriously and stopped using titanium dioxide nanoparticles. With more awareness and pressure from advocacy groups, titanium dioxide can be stopped from entering our daily life.

[via Eurekalert]

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