Health & Wellness

Emulsifiers in Processed Foods Linked to Elevated Cardiovascular Disease Risk



Cutting-edge studies from top-notch French researchers have uncovered that emulsifiers, which are often found in heavily processed foods, could be linked to a heightened risk of heart disease. Given the sheer volume of products these substances sneak into worldwide, this revelation could pack a serious punch for public health.

Understanding Emulsifiers

Emulsifiers are additives used to maintain consistency and extend the shelf life of numerous food products by preventing oils and water from separating. Typical foods containing emulsifiers include:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Margarine
  • Ice cream
  • Salad dressings
  • Peanut and other nut butters
  • Cookies
  • Sauces
  • Baked goods 

MedPage Today notes that these additives can be found in over half of industrially processed foods. Common emulsifiers include lecithin, xanthan gum, pectin, and starches.

Key Findings

95,000 adults, with a majority of them being women, who averaged around 43.1 years old. Here’s what the researchers found:

  • Firstly, there seems to be a link between munching down on emulsifiers and an increased likelihood of dealing with coronary heart disease.
  • Secondly, those participants who frequently consumed “E number” additives – which are basically different types of emulsifiers, exhibited heightened tendencies towards cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
  • Last but not least, specific emulsifiers like total celluloses (ranging from E460 to E468) and carboxymethylcellulose (dubbed as E466), appear to have stronger ties with CVD risks.

However, it’s important not to jump the gun here. The scientists highlight that their findings don’t necessarily mean consuming emulsifiers directly leads to CVD. These findings underscore possible health risks tied to certain food products and suggest that there might be a need for stricter food regulations down the line.

Growing Public Health Implications

Although the associations identified in the study were moderate in magnitude, the widespread consumption of these additives in ultra-processed foods amplifies their potential health impact. Key points made by the researchers include:

  • A call for stricter food laws to safeguard consumers.
  • Encouraging reduced consumption of ultra-processed foods, aligning with the advice of several public health authorities worldwide.
  • An urgent need for more extensive research, with replication of their results in large-scale, diverse population studies.

Limitations of the Study

While the vast sample size lends credibility to the findings, certain limitations exist:

  • A majority of participants (79%) were female.
  • The group was predominantly well-educated.
  • The study didn’t account for emulsifiers in non-labeled foods, like bakery items, which participants might not have reported accurately.

Consumer Awareness and Action

As consumers become increasingly aware of the potential health risks associated with ultra-processed foods and their additives, many are seeking alternative dietary choices that prioritize health and wellness. It is essential for individuals to:

  • Read product labels diligently to understand the components and additives present.
  • Opt for fresh produce, lean proteins, and whole grains over packaged foods.
  • Educate themselves about the most common emulsifiers and their associated “E numbers.”
  • Support and advocate for clearer labeling practices, ensuring that manufacturers list all additives transparently.

The Role of the Food Industry

It’s undeniable that the food industry plays a pivotal role in this issue. For meaningful change to occur, corporations and manufacturers must:

  • Reassess the necessity of certain additives in their products.
  • Explore natural and less controversial alternatives to emulsifiers.
  • Commit to transparency by ensuring that all ingredients, especially additives, are clearly mentioned on the packaging.
  • Invest in research and development to create healthier processed food options without compromising taste and shelf life.


Dr. Bernard Srour, a lead researcher and Nutritional Epidemiology scientist at Université Sorbonne Paris Nord, has stated that their findings could potentially lead to a reassessment of regulations concerning food additive usage within the food industry.

Both studies converge on a significant point: the pervasive presence of emulsifiers in ultra-processed foods may have broader health implications than previously recognized. As researchers and health authorities continue to delve into this topic, consumers are advised to remain informed and cautious about their food choices, prioritizing whole and minimally processed items when possible.

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