Titanium Dioxide & Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Titanium Dioxide & Inflammatory Bowel Disease
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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?

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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 components in meat, that degrade into carbon monoxide; or, some of the carcinogens created by cooking muscle; or, added to processed meats intentionally; 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 may even 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 disease, for example.

But, one potential risk factor that I’d 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 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.

Who cares, 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 three 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, and then here’s after you add the titanium dioxide they use in food. Nothing. No inflammation. Maybe they got some 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 “transporters” of inflammatory substances—like the endotoxins from the inside of our gut into the gut wall. Kind of a “Trojan horse mechanism.”

What happens in a petri dish, though, may not happen in a person. 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. Eighteen patients with active Crohn’s; nine stayed on their regular diet; and nine 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, seven out of the nine 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 they had microparticles in them, too.

But, that complicates things, right? Because just cutting down on meat alone is considered one of the most powerful Crohn’s interventions. So, maybe that’s why they got better. Maybe avoiding 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—they both improved the same, regardless of their microparticle intake, which is consistent with this study, that did not find that Crohn’s patients were eating significantly more white processed foods (like crispy shell chewing gums, marshmallows, powdered doughnuts, etc.).

So, where does that leave us? Well, maybe “high concentrations of dietary microparticles should not be completely ruled out as a potential contributor[s] to intestinal inflammation”—but there’s just not much evidence suggesting it’s harmful.

If you look at the most concentrated sources, though, out of nearly a hundred products tested, none of them are particularly health-promoting. So, if you want another excuse to avoid Hostess donuts, well then, there you go.

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

Image thanks to Benjah-bmm27 via Wikimedia and Marshmallow Hindi

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 components in meat, that degrade into carbon monoxide; or, some of the carcinogens created by cooking muscle; or, added to processed meats intentionally; 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 may even 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 disease, for example.

But, one potential risk factor that I’d 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 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.

Who cares, 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 three 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, and then here’s after you add the titanium dioxide they use in food. Nothing. No inflammation. Maybe they got some 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 “transporters” of inflammatory substances—like the endotoxins from the inside of our gut into the gut wall. Kind of a “Trojan horse mechanism.”

What happens in a petri dish, though, may not happen in a person. 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. Eighteen patients with active Crohn’s; nine stayed on their regular diet; and nine 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, seven out of the nine 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 they had microparticles in them, too.

But, that complicates things, right? Because just cutting down on meat alone is considered one of the most powerful Crohn’s interventions. So, maybe that’s why they got better. Maybe avoiding 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—they both improved the same, regardless of their microparticle intake, which is consistent with this study, that did not find that Crohn’s patients were eating significantly more white processed foods (like crispy shell chewing gums, marshmallows, powdered doughnuts, etc.).

So, where does that leave us? Well, maybe “high concentrations of dietary microparticles should not be completely ruled out as a potential contributor[s] to intestinal inflammation”—but there’s just not much evidence suggesting it’s harmful.

If you look at the most concentrated sources, though, out of nearly a hundred products tested, none of them are particularly health-promoting. So, if you want another excuse to avoid Hostess donuts, well then, there you go.

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

Image thanks to Benjah-bmm27 via Wikimedia and Marshmallow Hindi

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 troublesome compounds 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 Endotoxemia.

My other videos on food additives include:

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Should We Avoid Titanium Dioxide?

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

41 responses to “Titanium Dioxide & Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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    1. 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).




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      1. 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.




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    1. Dinorah,
      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




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  1. 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?




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      1. 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?




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      2. Sorry Fidel, but eating non food is not acceptable in this house. Breathing it, sucking up ones anus, nostrils ….pick your orifice….All are off limits for this crap in my temple o soul.




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  2. 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.




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    1. 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.




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  3. 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.




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  4. 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




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    1. 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.




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  5. 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




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  6. 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.




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    1. 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.




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    2. 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.




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  7. 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




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  8. 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.




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    1. 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.




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  9. 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.




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

    Thanks!

    Dean




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    1. Thankfully it doesn’t look like absorption on titanium dioxide from sunscreen is a problem – see PMID
      20156837.

      Dean




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  11. 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.




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  12. Hello,

    I have ulcerative colitis, and ran across this article today:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170719100521.htm

    Here’s the kicker. I use a toothpaste that contains titanium dioxide, and am curious as to the possibility that continued inflammation in my colon, as well as sores in my mouth (a wonderful side-effect of ulcerative colitis) may be due to my continued use of said toothpaste. I have cut back on processed foods, and have not eaten any meat or dairy products for 2 weeks in an attempt at healing my body, but have had a couple of nasty flare-ups during that time.

    Many thanks for your wonderful and informative site and books!

    Tim




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