Obesity and Diabetes Risk Linked to Common Food Ingredient
The combined results from a small-scale randomized human trial and studies in mice suggest that consuming propionate, a common food ingredient that is used widely to prevent mold, increases levels of hormones that are linked with diabetes and obesity. The research, headed by a team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that in mice, exposure to low doses of propionate activated the sympathetic nervous system, triggered the production of fasting hormones, leading to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. Tests showed that animals gradually put on weight when chronically exposed to a propionate dose equivalent to that used for preserving food, while a small study in human volunteers indicated that propionate may disrupt metabolic processes and lead to hyperinsulinemia. The investigators say their findings have important public health implications, given that there are no particular limitations on the use of propionate under its FDA-approved labeling.