Food Preservative can be harmful

Food preservatives are substances added to food to prevent spoilage and maintain its nutritional quality. They also help to control the growth of bacteria and increase the shelf life of foods.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that a common preservative used in various food products such as beer, sausages and cheese may negatively interact with the human gut microbiome.

The study raises concerns over whether preservatives, meant to eliminate pathogens in food, could potentially damage the natural balance of internal bacteria in our bodies.

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“Nisin is, in essence, an antibiotic that has been added to our food for a long time, but how it might impact our gut microbes is not well studied,” says microbiologist Zhenrun Zhang, from the University of Chicago.

“Even though it might be very effective in preventing food contamination, it might also have a greater impact on our human gut microbes.”

Belonging to a category of preservatives called lantibiotics, nisin is a protein that contains unusual amino acids that affect microbial function without harming animals directly. Zhang and his colleagues used genetic databases to create six nisin-like substances, which they tested in the lab against both harmful and beneficial bacteria from the human gut.

Although each lantibiotic produced different outcomes, they all affected both dangerous bacteria (pathogens) and microbes that help maintain a healthy gut (commensal bacteria).

While we cannot yet claim that food preservatives are harmful to our stomachs, this research demonstrates that these chemicals can interfere with the healthy gut microbiome in ways that we may not have expected.

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“This study is one of the first to show that gut commensals are susceptible to lantibiotics, and are sometimes more sensitive than pathogens,” says Zhang.

“With the levels of lantibiotics currently present in food, it’s very probable that they might impact our gut health as well.”

Over the years, traditional food preservatives like salt or alcohol have been replaced by more sophisticated ingredients to extend the shelf life of food. These additives prevent the spread of bacteria and mold, which can spoil the food.

Recent research indicates that the way we process and treat our food may not be good for our health. Therefore, it is important to examine the balance of good and bad bacteria in our food more closely.

It is worth noting that nisin-like lantibiotics are naturally produced by the human gut. However, it is unclear whether the increased quantities provided by processed foods are indirectly causing harm.

“It seems that lantibiotics and lantibiotic-producing bacteria are not always good for health, so we are looking for ways to counter the potential bad influence while taking advantage of their more beneficial antimicrobial properties,” says Zhang.

This news is a creative derivative product from articles published in famous peer-reviewed journals and Govt reports:

1. Zhang, Z. J., Wu, C., Moreira, R., Dorantes, D., Pappas, T., Sundararajan, A., … & van der Donk, W. A. (2024). Activity of Gut-Derived Nisin-like Lantibiotics against Human Gut Pathogens and Commensals. ACS Chemical Biology.
2. Heilbronner, S.; Krismer, B.; Brötz-Oesterhelt, H.; Peschel, A. The microbiome-shaping roles of bacteriocins. Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 2021, 19, 726– 739
3. Verma, A.; Banerjee, R.; Dwivedi, H. P.; Juneja, V. K. Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology, 2nd ed.; Batt, C. A.; Tortorello, M. L., Eds.; Academic Press, 2014; Vol. 3.
4. Deisinger, J. P.; Arts, M.; Kotsogianni, I.; Puls, J. S.; Grein, F.; Ortiz-López, F. J.; Martin, N. I.; Müller, A.; Genilloud, O.; Schneider, T. Dual targeting of the class V lanthipeptide antibiotic cacaoidin. iScience 2023, 26, 106394
5. Tracanna, V.; de Jong, A.; Medema, M. H.; Kuipers, O. P. Mining prokaryotes for antimicrobial compounds: from diversity to function. FEMS Microbiol. Rev. 2017, 41, 417– 429
6. Shin, J. M., Gwak, J. W., Kamarajan, P., Fenno, J. C., Rickard, A. H., & Kapila, Y. L. (2016). Biomedical applications of nisin. Journal of applied microbiology, 120(6), 1449-1465.

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