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  • Emulsifying agents are substances which hold and stabilize liquids that do not normally mix up such as oil and water.
  • Emulsifying agents act as a glue at the biochemical level in our body and keep water and oil together in one single layer.
  • Emulsifying agents are being heavily used and consumed across the globe. Its current market value in 2020 is 3.2 billion dollars.
  • Emulsifiers tend to increase LDL in the body which is also known to be bad cholesterol.
  • Excess intake of emulsifiers tends to increase risk of developing inflammatory reactions in the body.
  • Studies have shown that the environment of the bacterial gut flora is heavily damaged as result of excessive intake of emulsifiers.

We consume emulsifiers almost everyday without even knowing. They are found in many different forms. 

They are found in skin care products like face creams and lotions; and most especially in food products such as margarine or mayonnaise.

Emulsifying agents are the substances which hold and stabilize liquids which do not normally mix up. They act to hold two insoluble liquids together which do not chemically mix. They prevent them from separating. 

As part of our coverage of the different food additives, we did also speak about thickeners; what are they, the different types and their health effects. 
Read the full article here to learn more

Usage and Market size

Emulsifying agents are being heavily used and consumed across the globe. Its current market value in 2020 is 3.2 billion USD.

Nutritionist and food security experts believe that it can even grow to 4 billion USD by the end of 2025.

There are various factors driving its growth and sales in the international food market.

Some of the key factors for emulsifiers’ market growth:

  • An increase in the demand for higher quality processed food products. 
  • Emulsifiers enhance the volume and shelf life of products, as well as their appearance. 
  • COVID-19 influenced consumers and manufacturers alike to pay more attention toward the quality of the processed food products they consume. Emulsifiers are commonly used to replace other less healthy food additives. 

Types of Emulsifying Agents

Emulsifying agents are classified into two major categories on the basis of their origin: 

1- Natural agents 

These are basically derived from a plant or an animal source.

Examples are: egg yolk, gelatin, acacia, agar and pectin.

2- Synthetic agents

These are agents which are prepared in a controlled laboratory environment. 

Examples are: Alkali soap, sulfated alcohol and cetrimide.

How is it harmful to the body?

Excess intake of emulsifiers might lead to metabolic syndrome.

There are multiple factors which play a role in the development of key features of metabolic syndrome. 

The following are the health risks of increased emulsifiers intake:

  • Increased risk of systemic and chronic diseases 

In experiments it was well established that mice suffer from metabolic syndrome if fed with greater quantities of dietary emulsifiers. 

Individuals who consume high quantities of emulsifiers in their daily diet could have poor blood sugar control. 

Emulsifiers tend to increase LDL in the body which is also known to be bad cholesterol.

  • Gut inflammation 

Inflammation is a normal protective reaction in the body but sometimes it can progress to chronic phases which is very detrimental to the overall health of body. 

Excess intake of emulsifiers tends to increase risk of developing inflammatory reactions.

Experiments on mice have shown that inflammatory reactions developed on the ones given emulsifiers compared to the control group.

It can co-occur with different diseases of the gut like irritable bowel syndrome.

It can also lead to fatigue, pain and major organ failures. 

  • Gut bacterial flora

Different species of bacteria live in the human body and are collectively called normal microbiota. 

These are helpful in degrading different food items in our gut.

They also help in activating the immune system of the body.

Their key function is to help in the digestion of important minerals through the gut. 

Studies have shown that the environment of the bacterial flora gut is heavily damaged as result of excessive intake of emulsifiers

Read full article here.

  • Colorectal cancer 

Experimental studies on mice by Atlanta group have been carried out.

On the basis of their obtained results they have postulated that if emulsifiers are taken in excess amounts over a long period of time, it can lead to colonic cancer. 

Read full article here.

Excess intake and its impact on physiological functions

Experiments have been carried out by scientists to study the effects of emulsifiers on mice on the basis of their gender and overall outcomes. 

Stats and results have shown that consumption of dietary emulsifiers by mice has introduced some behavioral changes and brought in anxiety-like symptoms. 

In this study, scientists fed mice with different emulsifiers and tried to examine their effects on the mice behavior, gut and brain. 

“It was found that after following a diet high in emulsifiers, changes in behavioral patterns, social patterns and anxiety-like patterns were observed”

Examples of food items with emulsifiers content

The following are daily used food items which contain plenty of emulsifiers as their key ingredient. 

  •  Egg Yolk

In mayonnaise, egg yolk is a key ingredient which keeps the oil intact and in harmony with water by not allowing them to separate. Egg yolk is known to have lots of emulsifier in order to keep mixture together.

  • Ice cream

One of the widely known preparation but complex emulsions is ice cream.

Many people do not know its basic ingredients, which are homogenous mixture of air, fat globules, sugar and ice crystals. In absence of evenly distributed air, ice cream would not be a soft fluffy recipe but would be a solid block.

It is important for products like ice cream that emulsifiers must be part of their biochemical make-up because emulsifiers ensure a fine mixture of insoluble products at their own cost.

  • Milk

Milk and its products are an essential part of our daily balanced food intake. Almost everyone consumes either milk or its products like cheese and yogurt. 

Milk is an emulsion mixture of water, butterfat and solid protein as ingredients. Milk fat is an emulsifier which keeps other units together. 

  • Others

There are some other food items in our daily life which also contain plenty of emulsifying agents as a main ingredient.

Most are part of our daily intake. Examples are:

  • Processed meat
  • Bread
  • Baked products 
  • Mayonnaise 
  • Creamy sauces
  • Chocolates

Understanding the emulsifiers 

Many of the food items we eat nowadays contain emulsifiers to make sure oil holds up with water.

They act as a glue in order for these products to be produced in the form desired.

With its increasing demand, emulsifier usage has been increasing across the globe.

However, along with its ability to make food better, some of the cons include increasing LDL (a type of bad cholesterol), increases risk of developing inflammatory reactions in the body and it also damages bacterial floral gut when taken excessively.

That is why it is also important to watch your diet and overall intake of emulsifiers especially if you are opting for low cholesterol diet for those with cardiovascular and also inflammatory problems.

“Anything taken excessively is bad for our health so it is good to understand what is good for us especially when it comes maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”