Health Topics

  1. #
  2. A
  3. B
  4. C
  5. D
  6. E
  7. F
  8. G
  9. H
  10. I
  11. J
  12. K
  13. L
  14. M
  15. N
  16. O
  17. P
  18. Q
  19. R
  20. S
  21. T
  22. U
  23. V
  24. W
  25. X
  26. Y
  27. Z
Browse All Topics

Titanium Dioxide & Inflammatory Bowel Disease

People eating conventional diets may ingest a trillion microparticles of the food whitening additive titanium dioxide every day. What implication might this have for inflammation in the gut?

February 22, 2013 |
GD Star Rating


Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

J. J. Powell, V. Thoree, L. C. Pele. Dietary microparticles and their impact on tolerance and immune responsiveness of the gastrointestinal tract. Br. J. Nutr. 2007 98 - Suppl - 1(NA):S59 - 63

M. Butler, J. J. Boyle, J. J. Powell, R. J. Playford, S. Ghosh. Dietary microparticles implicated in Crohn's disease can impair macrophage phagocytic activity and act as adjuvants in the presence of bacterial stimuli. Inflamm. Res. 2007 56(9):353 - 361

V. Andersen, A. Olsen, F. Carbonnel, A. Tjonneland, U. Vogel. Diet and risk of inflammatory bowel disease. Dig Liver Dis 2012 44(3):185 - 194

A. Weir, P. Westerhoff, L. Fabricius, K. Hristovski, N. von Goetz. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles in food and personal care products. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012 46(4):2242 - 2250

J. J. Powell, N. Faria, E. Thomas-McKay, L. C. Pele. Origin and fate of dietary nanoparticles and microparticles in the gastrointestinal tract. J. Autoimmun. 2010 34(3):J226 - 33

J. C. Schneider. Can microparticles contribute to inflammatory bowel disease: Innocuous or inflammatory? Exp. Biol. Med. (Maywood) 2007 232(1):1 - 2

A. M. Gatti. Biocompatibility of micro- and nano-particles in the colon. Part II. Biomaterials 2004 25(3):385 - 392

J. J. Powell, R. S. Harvey, P. Ashwood, R. Wolstencroft, M. E. Gershwin, R. P. Thompson. Immune potentiation of ultrafine dietary particles in normal subjects and patients with inflammatory bowel disease. J. Autoimmun. 2000 14(1):99 - 105

M. C. Lomer, R. S. Harvey, S. M. Evans, R. P. Thompson, J. J. Powell. Efficacy and tolerability of a low microparticle diet in a double blind, randomized, pilot study in Crohn's disease. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2001 13(2):101 - 106

M. C. E. Lomer, C. Hutchinson, S. Volkert, S. M. Greenfield, A. Catterall, R. P. H. Thompson, J. J. Powell. Dietary sources of inorganic microparticles and their intake in healthy subjects and patients with Crohn's disease. Br. J. Nutr. 2004 92(6):947 - 955

M. C. E. Lomer, R. P. H. Thompson, J. J. Powell. Fine and ultrafine particles of the diet: Influence on the mucosal immune response and association with Crohn's disease. Proc Nutr Soc 2002 61(1):123 - 130

M. C. E. Lomer, S. L. Grainger, R. Ede, A. P. Catterall, S. M. Greenfield, R. E. Cowan, F. R. Vicary, A. P. Jenkins, H. Fidler, R. S. Harvey, R. Ellis, A. McNair, C. C. Ainley, R. P. H. Thompson, J. J. Powell. Lack of efficacy of a reduced microparticle diet in a multi-centred trial of patients with active Crohn's disease. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2005 17(3):377 - 384


Image thanks to Benjah-bmm27 via Wikimedia Commons


The latest review on diet and the risk of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, suggests that of all dietary factors, animal protein from meat and fish was found most associated with a higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease. They think it might be the blood in meat which is degraded to carbon monoxide, or some of the toxins created by cooking muscle or added to processed meats, and then of course there's the arachidonic acid, the pro-inflammatory omega 6s, and meat contains huge amounts of certain bacteria that have been linked to inflammation, the antibiotics in meat could be mucking with people's intestinal flora. Who knows, either way, " A diet high in animal protein, may be associated with not only increased risk of getting inflammatory bowel disease in the first place but relapsing back if you already have it, consistent with the data I presented last year that even just a semi-vegetarian diet was highly effective in preventing relapses in Crohn's, for example. But one potential risk factor that I never heard of was micro or nanoparticles. Foodstuffs in developed countries contain increasing quantities of microparticles such as titanium dioxide, used by the millions of tons as a whitening/brightening pigment mostly to make white-colored paint, but also used as a food additive to make white-colored food. So much so that people eating conventional diets may be ingesting a trillion particles of titanium dioxide every day. Why care, though? Well a few years ago researchers found evidence of micro and nanoparticles in all 18 out of 18 samples of diseased colons they looked at—either colon cancer or inflammatory bowel, but none in the 3 healthy colons they looked at from folks who died in a car accident or from a heart attack. That's a tiny sample but it got people thinking, and more importantly putting it to the test. They took intestinal biopsies from people and added some titanium dioxide to see if it would cause inflammation. Here's the level of secretion of an inflammatory cytokine at baseline in the biopsy specimen, and here's after you add the titanium dioxide they use in food. Nothing. No inflammation. Maybe they got like dead tissue or something? So they tried adding a little or a lot of bacterial endotoxin. All right that worked. That got an inflammatory response. Before declaring the food additive safe though, they tried one last thing. What if you combined these together, the titanium dioxide and a little bit of endotoxin mixed together. Presumably you'd still be down here somewhere but instead got this. So their thinking was that while titanium dioxide itself is inert, nontoxic in the gut, it may act as a "transporters of inflammatory substances like the endotoxins from the inside of your gut into the gut wall. kind of a ‘Trojan horse’ mechanism. What happens in a petri dish may not happen in a person, though. How are you going to test the theory in people though—you can't go around trying to give people inflammation. So they took people actively suffering from Crohn's took microparticles out of their diet and saw if they got better.  18 patients with active Crohn’s; 9 stayed on their regular diet; 9 were placed on a low microparticle diet, and within a month those on the low microparticle diet had a significant decrease in disease severity and by the end 7 of the 9 were in remission, whereas none were in remission in the regular diet group. In addition to removing things they expected to contain titanium dioxide--coffee whitener, white cheese, powdered sugar--they also removed processed meats and fish, fearing that there were microparticles in them too, but that complicates things, because just cutting down on meat alone is one of the most powerful Crohn's interventions so maybe that's why they got better and the titanium dioxide had nothing to do with it, and indeed a larger trial in which both groups were told to cut down on processed meat and seafood found no difference between the two groups, which is consistent with this study that did not find that Crohn’s patients were eating significantly more white foods—like the crispy shell chewing gums, marshmallows, powdered doughnuts. So where are we now? Well high concentrations of dietary microparticles should not be completely ruled out as potential contributors to intestinal inflammation, but there's just not that much evidence suggesting they’re harmful. If you look at the most concentrated sources, though, out of nearly 100 products tested none of them are any good for you so if you want another excuse to avoid Hostess donuts well then there you go.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Jonathan Hodgson.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Here's the link to the video I refer to on treating Crohn's: Dietary Treatment of Crohn’s Disease.

For more on that list of concerning compounds they noted in animal products, see Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens for the heterocyclic amines, Chicken, Eggs, and Inflammation for arachidonic acid, Meat Additives to Diminish Toxicity for heme iron, Yersinia in Pork for the inflammation-linked bacteria, and Lowering Dietary Antibiotic Intake on some of the drugs fed to animals. I'd also add to that list The Inflammatory Meat Molecule Neu5Gc and Dead Meat Bacteria Endotoxins.

Other videos on food additives include:

I've got a new video on carrageenan coming soon as well.

For more context, please refer to the following associated blog post: Should We Avoid Titanium Dioxide?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Ellen Reid

    Hey Dr. Greger, Which article has the pretty chart shown at about 5:20?

    • WholeFoodChomper

      Based on where the graphic “flies out” from, I’m going to presume that you can probably find it in: J. C. Schneider. Can microparticles contribute to inflammatory bowel disease: Innocuous or inflammatory? Exp. Biol. Med. (Maywood) 2007 232(1):1 – 2 (mentioned in the Sources Cited section).

      • Ellen Reid

        Sadly, no, I looked and it’s not that one. I can’t seem to find the chart in any of the articles – but I might have missed it. It’s definitely not in the Schneider piece, tho. Thanks anyway! :-)
        It’s not really important, I was just curious.

        • WholeFoodChomper

          Curiosity is a good thing! ;-)

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      I’ve added it into the supplementary info section above just for you!

      • Ellen Reid

        Thanks so much. Tic Tacs are practically like kale.

  • Dinorah

    Hey doc, thanks for wealth of info! What’s a coffee or tea whitener??

    • Coacervate

      I’m picking your from Aust/NZ? Down here we put milk in coffee. But before immigrating from USA we used “non-dairy” whiteners because you know, they were healthier than actual milk. It is a dried slurry of caseinate (so much for the non-dairy lie), saturated fats, emulsifiers, soy, silica gel and of course white paint. Mmmmm

  • Fidel Castrati

    This is good to hear and hopefully true since many vegans have been able to enjoy the tasty Daiya cheese which has titanium dioxide in it.

  • Coacervate

    The larger message is the lack of principle and values in the food industry. It should go without saying that non-food should not be added to food. And yet we must say it. I know there will be exceptions that some will feel are important. Regardless I am opposed to being forced to analyze labels to decipher the weird crap the food industry does. Would you care for a little silica gel with your titania?

    BTW/ titantia is a photoelectric semiconductor substance. Of course there is not that much sunshine in the colon so I guess it is OK to eat this crap right?

    • Fidel Castrati

      Hopefully eating it isn’t in fact a problem. Breathing it could very well be trouble.

      • Georgia

        Please speak more on the matter of inhalation exposure to nano particles in personal care products. People are off-gassing this horrid stuff. Would Dr. Greger know of research studies? Are there any protective foods once one has been exposed?

  • MikeZP

    Does desiccated coconut are also whitewashed?

  • Shaunti

    Thank you for this video. I have Crohns Disease and my doctor put me on a vegan diet last year and I have been doing much better. This is another reason why I should NOT go back to eating meat or processed foods.

    • JackZ

      You have a good doctor — keep him/her! I’ve seen several stories where doctors actively resist vegan diets and insist on surgery and other invasive “treatments” for Crohn’s Disease.

  • Osher Bachrach

    Thank you, Dr. Greger!

  • Leafy Cafe

    Any info on Kaolin acting in a similar way as Titanium Dioxide? It must surely be a nano-particle and it is used in sooo many things food, including spraying on organic veggies.

  • disqus_KUPcRLuhg8

    Thank you, Dr. Greger. I saw horseradish sauce listed in the video, Titanium Dioxide & Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I searched the site to find more about it to no avail. Please advise. With appreciation, RMM

  • Trina Steele

    Hello Dr.Greger what is your opinion on supplementing with digestive enzymes? Thank-you

    • Toxins

      Unless specifically recommended by your doctor, I would advise against it. If you want a supplement for increased fecal bulking and bowel health then taking psyllium husk is a harmless option.

  • LynnCS

    So glad I have lost my desire (mostly) for prepared food. I am a pretty good “cook” so find it pretty easy to prepare some dandy dishes from scratch using only “from the ground or tree” foods. Now to find the best quality “organic” local and freshly picked produce. I have been toying with the Starch based diet, although find it harder to digest than the all produce all the time diet. I had some problems with that too, but feel it is cleaner. No telling where those grains and beans have been. My fave is sweet potatoes in a soup with onion, celery and cabbage. No whiteners there, but still, I can improve. So now that I am avoiding all these listed, bad actors, why do I still get so sick? How do I get that consistent good digestion? (You know what I mean.) Am I still suffering from all the years of bad additives? Been mostly vegetarian since 1980. That doesn’t mean I’ve been perfect, but I think it has helped me avoid a lot of the problems. Now that I’ve taken this post off track, I think I need to search your archives for some help. Thanks, Lynn

  • Linda

    I was a vegan eating unprocessed organic foods for seven years when I acquired Ulcerative Colitis. I had my first symptoms after received the MMR vaccine. I am achieving remission by implementing the gaps protocol and eating LOTS of animal fats from grassfed good quality meats. A big adjustment for me, an exvegan.

    • Linda

      I cannot eat the high fiber vegan diet any longer without provoking bloody mucusy diarrhea. I cannot eat raw vegetables either. I think cutting out sugar and grains and eating lots of fats like high quality pastured butter, and coconut oils has helped my gut heal tremendously. Along with gelatin in bone broths. I have also lost fifty pounds since May 2012 eating this way.

    • lelo

      I don’t know how much research you’ve done but your vegan diet wasn’t the cause of your Ulcerative colitis. If thats what your saying? Just one place to get more info on it is

    • Dr. J. M.

      If I go OFF my vegan diet I get colitis…. Sudden changes can cause your symptoms, but I doubt a long-term vegan (properly proportioned) is the cause of your symptoms. The GAPS diet would be better called the “suicide diet”. It consists mostly of items known to promote disease and death.

  • sun

    diagnosed with CD, i have stopped taking all the dairy products, since then i have made lot of progress in the GUT “no pain” . can i replace with Almond MIlk from Dairy milk . please suggest

    thanks Dr Micheal greger , you are doing great Job , helping us

  • Evelyn

    I have two titanium hips, do I need to worry about this leeching into my system? I already have elevated cobalt and have just had 2nd blood test to see if it’s worse & if chromium is elevated.

    • Dr. J.M.

      It’s not the titanium per se, it’s the physical form, the microparticles, that are touted to cause the problems. But if you watch the video carefully, there’s not much evidence to consider them harmful. Just don’t eat a huge amount of them. And don’t worry about your hips.

  • Nicole

    I am really looking forward to your video on carrageenan. We are a vegan family and I have seen it in a couple of products we buy. The Cornucopia Institute recommends staying away from it and I would love to see what you think.

  • Dean Pomerleau

    Dr. Greger,
    Are the small titanium dioxide particles in sunscreens a potential problem? Are they small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream?



    • Dean Pomerleau

      Thankfully it doesn’t look like absorption on titanium dioxide from sunscreen is a problem – see PMID


  • Martha

    Titanium Dioxide is often added to Vitamins and supplements–I stopped taking Jarrow B complex because I noticed in contained titanium dioxide. I’ve stopped many supplements, but I’m essentially vegetarian and have to get B-12 from a supplement.