Study Finds Food Emulsifiers Linked to Higher Prostate Cancer Risk

A large propective cohort study, which included the health data of 92,000 adults of the French NutriNet-Sante cohort, has linked individuals consuming ultra-processed foods containing emulsifiers have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

What are emulsifiers?

Emulsifiers are additives that blend ingredients that don’t naturally mix, such as oil and water, and are found in many processed foods. They can be synthetic or naturally occurring, with plant and animal-based sources. Hydrocolloids, like locust bean gum, carrageenan, pectin, and starch, play a crucial role in enhancing the texture, flavor, and shelf life of food products. The absence of emulsifiers results in less desirable food textures. For example, in yogurt, if you opened it up and saw a layer of fat before reaching the creaminess of the product, is not as desirable. Emulsifiers also reduce food stickiness, ensuring a smooth texture and consistent flavor, like in ice cream.

Emulsifiers are commonly found in a wide range of processed and packaged foods, including mayonnaise, margarine, meats, ice cream, salad dressings, chocolate, peanut butter, shelf-stable frostings, cookies, crackers, creamy sauces, breads, baked goods, and ice cream.

While there are legitimate reasons why food companies use emulsifiers, unfortunately, foods containing added-in emulsifiers are commonly used staples within the Western dietary pattern.

Study details

Researchers with this study wanted to know what effect emulsifiers might be having on the health of the population. To test these effects, the researchers used the French Nutritional Epidemiology Research team who analyzed data from the French NutriNet-Sante cohort.  Of the 92,000 adult participants in the study, the average age was 45 years old and 79% were woman. 

To gather data, each participant provided at least three days of recording all food and beverages they consumed. Then, to identify which foods the participants consumed from their dietary records contained emulsifiers, the researchers matched them against food databases. 

The study was conducted between 2009 and 2021. During this period of time, 2604 participants were diagnosed with cancer. 

What the researchers discovered after averaging the follow-up, participants who had higher consumptions of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids had an increased association of risk for cancers overall. Men in this study had a 46% higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Women who had a higher consumption of carrageenan intakes were found to have a 32% higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Limitations of the study

Like all scientific studies, none are without flaws or shortcomings.  This study’s limitations included an under-representation of men, no causational proof, and the use of three-day dietary records which depend on the reliability and accuracy of study participants recording. However, these findings do coincide with other scientific bodies of evidence pointing a finger at the possibility of ultra-processed and emulsifiers having a link to cancer risk.

In conclusion

Researchers with this study admitted that more studies throughout the world are needed to show replication of these findings. If new studies also come to the same conclusion that emulsifiers are linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer for men, then the food industry should re-evaluate the use of additives like emulsifiers in our food supply.


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911. 





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