Titanium dioxide is an additive used in cosmetics, medicines, and some foods. This substance is stored in the body, weakens the immune system, attacks the gut microbiota and can cause cancer.
Titanium dioxide is a widely used additive, a white-colored pigment that is used to color all kinds of products, especially food, cosmetics and medicines. As a result of scientific evidence that links it to damage to the body, since January 1, 2020 it is banned in food products in France and in May 2021 the European Commission has proposed to ban it to EU countries. But we do not need to wait for Europe to make a decision.
- Update: Finally, the European Union banned their inclusion in food products as of August 7, 2022.
Titanium dioxide is found in products such as:
- Tablets, gum and cough drops and by extension in tablets with a smooth white surface.
- Medicines: tablets that have soft coatings.
- Sweets, chocolate, cookies
- Cheese and light sauces
- Dietary supplements, such as magnesium or calcium pills.
- Toothpastes, sunscreens, and other cosmetics: The tiny particles of titanium dioxide in sunscreens serve as mineral light protection filters that reflect UV radiation so they don’t damage the skin.
- Oil paints and white wall paints: As a white pigment, titanium dioxide has a very high covering power.
- Other products, such as plastics, textiles, etc.
Since titanium dioxide is so common in candy, desserts, chewing gum and other sweets, children consume two to four times more titanium dioxide than adults.
TITANIUM DIOXIDE: E171 AND CI 77891
In the case of pharmaceuticals and food supplements, “titanium dioxide” is usually specifically indicated on the packaging or instruction leaflet.
In the food sector, however, the list of ingredients does not necessarily include the words “titanium dioxide”, but is under the code E171. In cosmetics the code CI 77891 is used and in paints, with PW6 “Pigment White 6”.
NANOPARTICLES ARE DANGEROUS
According to studies, titanium dioxide in the form of nanoparticles is especially dangerous.
The law requires declaring ingredients in the form of nanoparticles, but it is estimated that between 5-10% by weight of the titanium dioxide particles in E171 are Nano-sized, i.e., less than 100 nanometers (nm). A large part is removed, but another part is able to penetrate into the tissues of the body.
Nanoparticles have different properties than the same substance in a larger particle size and, due to their enlarged surface area, have a much higher biological activity and therefore a more intense effect on the organism.
When used externally, nanoparticles can be introduced into the body through the skin or mucous membranes. Even brushing your teeth briefly could be enough to get an amount of titanium dioxide every day (it’s a very common ingredient in white toothpastes).
A LONG SCIENTIFIC CONTROVERSY
In 2010, Swiss and French scientists discovered that nano titanium dioxide can initiate processes in human cells similar to those of other highly toxic substances, such as asbestos, said Amir Yazdi of the University of Lausanne in the journal PNAS.
Both substances trigger inflammatory reactions and lead to high oxidative stress, which can damage both tissues and genetic material.
Researchers at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) reported in the journal Nature (January 2017) that oral intake of titanium dioxide could favor the development of benign tumors that could develop into malignant tumors.
These researchers mixed titanium dioxide in the rats’ drinking water for 100 days at the doses humans ingest daily of food and cosmetic products.
Previous studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer had shown that inhaling titanium dioxide was carcinogenic. The particles can enter the bloodstream through the lungs and with blood to the liver, spleen, kidneys, heart, and even the brain.
Even four weeks after inhalation, the nanoparticles were still present in the organs in the same amounts as the first day, indicating that the substance accumulates in the body and cannot be easily eliminated.
TITANIUM DIOXIDE DAMAGES THE INTESTINES AND WEAKENS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
A study led by Dr. Gerhard Rogler, a gastroenterologist at the University Hospital Zurich, published by the journal Gut in 2017, was the first to analyze the carcinogenic potential of titanium dioxide when ingested orally.
The researchers found that titanium dioxide is absorbed through the intestine and enters the bloodstream. With blood, the substance reaches all parts of the body.
Regular intake of titanium dioxide is associated with an increased risk of chronic inflammatory bowel processes, increased intestinal permeability, and risk of colon cancer. It may also favor autoimmune diseases, according to the study.
TITANIUM DIOXIDE CAUSES ALTERATIONS IN THE INTESTINAL FLORA
Another study, published at the end of June 2020, warns that titanium dioxide alters the gut microbiota and causes inflammation in the intestines and liver. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts especially point to the danger of nanoparticles.
According to research, in the presence of titanium dioxide, the gut microbiota produces fewer short-chain fatty acids that are important for healthy intestinal mucosa. At the same time, the amount of inflammatory messenger substances (cytokines) increases in the intestine.
IT IS BEST TO AVOID TITANIUM DIOXIDE
Foods containing titanium dioxide are mostly ultra-processed and not among the healthiest foods. The presence of titanium dioxide is one more reason to reject them.
Check the ingredient list of foods, medications, dietary supplements, sweets and cosmetics and replace those containing titanium dioxide with safer alternatives, such as fresh, whole natural foods.
In the case of medications, ask your doctor to prescribe a preparation without titanium dioxide, if possible.
- Bettini S. et al. Food-grade TiO2 impairs intestinal and systemic immune homeostasis, initiates preneoplastic lesions and promotes aberrant crypt development in the rat colon. Scientific Reports.
- Yazdi A. et al. Nanoparticles activate the NLR pyrin domain containing 3 (Nlrp3) inflammasome and cause pulmonary inflammation through release of IL-1α and IL-1β. PNAS.
- Rogler G et al. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles exacerbate DSS-induced colitis: role of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Gut.
- Xiaoqiong Cao el al. Foodborne Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles Induce Stronger Adverse Effects in Obese Mice than Non‐Obese Mice: Gut Microbiota Dysbiosis, Colonic Inflammation, and Proteome Alterations Small.