With cases of diabetes around the world growing quickly over the past several years, researchers are looking at what we consume to see whether it might have something to do with the large uptick in cases of both diabetes and obesity.
Researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health have discovered that a common preservative called propionate could possibly be a culprit. Propionate, or calcium propionate, is used to prevent mold from growing on foods. On food packaging, it is listed as E282.
Foods that include propionate
Foods that commonly include the preservative propionate are:
- Baked goods
- Processed meats
- Animal feeds
- Artificial flavorings
The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that when humans and mice were exposed to propionate, their metabolic systems had significant reactions, leading to insulin resistance, an overabundance of insulin, high blood sugar, and weight gain.
Propionate on its own is a natural short-chain fatty acid that helps prevent the growth of mold. The FDA has approved the substance as safe for use, so currently food manufacturers can use the additive without limits.
While consuming propionate from time to time might not cause issues, regular consumption could greatly disrupt the metabolic process and cause many health problems, even leading to full-blown type 2 diabetes.
Causes for uptick in diabetes and obesity
Researcher Amir Tirosh said, “The dramatic increase in the incidence of obesity and diabetes over the past 50 years suggests the involvement of contributing environmental and dietary factors. One such factor that warrants attention is the ingredients in common foods. We are exposed to hundreds of these chemicals on a daily basis, and most have not been tested in detail for their potential long-term metabolic effects.”
If propionate is proven to be harmful, perhaps a safer alternative for a food preservative can be found. In addition, if you are at risk for diabetes, it is beneficial to steer away from processed foods that require preservatives and eat more fresh, natural foods on a daily basis.