(Montreal) Different emulsifiers added to foods found on supermarket shelves could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, warns a new French study.

This finding is part of the much broader context of health risks associated with the consumption of ultra-processed foods, explained an expert from the Montreal Clinical Research Institute.

“It’s not just diabetes,” said Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret. “There are things around ultra-processed foods and cardiovascular disease, or around ultra-processed foods and obesity, or even ultra-processed foods and cancer.”

“In my opinion, this points to one of the components of this great soup of ultra-processed foods. »

French researchers analyzed data from some 105,000 participants in the NutriNet-Santé study. They asked their subjects to respond – every six months, for a maximum follow-up of 14 years – to dietary questionnaires relating specifically to their consumption of this type of additive.

Just over a thousand cases of type 2 diabetes occurred during the follow-up period. The researchers took into account well-known risk factors for this disease, such as weight, family history, physical inactivity and smoking, in their analysis.

They found an association between the consumption of emulsifiers such as carrageenans, tripotassium phosphate, acetyl tartaric acid esters of monoglycerides and diglycerides of fatty acids, sodium citrate, guar gum, gum arabic and xanthan gum, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

This increase ranged from 3% to 15%, depending on the type of emulsifier and the quantity consumed.

“It would indeed seem that when we eat fast food, when we eat a poor quality diet, all these bacteria seem to be capable of being negative,” he stressed.

The situation could be particularly difficult in what are called “food deserts,” he added, namely those areas where residents have difficulty accessing quality food.

If the only store within a reasonable walk is a convenience store that sells chips, soda and cookies, “it all adds up, it combines, and it makes a bit of a toxic cocktail,” the doctor said Rabasa-Lhoret.

“But if we had to send a message to the population, it would be that we should not demonize ultra-processed elements, but we should certainly not make them a daily intake either,” he stressed.

Ultra-processed foods provide half of our daily calorie intake, according to the Heart organization 

The findings of this study were published online by the medical journal The Lancet Diabetes