Don’t be ashamed if you’ve done this more times than you’d like to admit—it might not be your fault. Yes, a stressful day at the office can make it difficult to stop after a single scoop, but new research reveals that, more than anything else, consuming emulsifiers—additives that aid the texture and extend shelf life of many processed foods—may increase the likelihood you’ll overeat and derail your hard-earned weight loss wins.
Natural emulsifiers, such as soy and egg lecithin aren’t of concern, according to the group of scientists who recently published their findings in the journal Nature. It’s the synthetic, commercial varieties we need to be wary of. Why? They found evidence that two commonly used, synthetic emulsifiers, carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate-80 (P80), may mess up the balance of "good" gut bacteria in our intestinal tract, which can lead to obesity-related conditions like metabolic syndrome and diabetes. It gets worse: Their animal research also revealed that consuming even small amounts of CMC and P80—far less than what’s permitted in commercially-prepared foods—may cause a surge in appetite and lead to weight gain and fat storage.
Sure, ice cream is caloric, but that’s not the problem. Sugary, fatty treats can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. When you combine high sugar and fat counts with the belt-busting effects of these emulsifiers, however, you have a diet-wrecking double-whammy: a high-calorie indulgence you can’t stop eating. The bottom line: Artificial emulsifying agents may not be as harmless as once thought. We’ll have to wait to see what future human testing unveils, but these unsettling findings ensure that we’ll be keeping tabs on this research here at Eat This, Not That!